Roti Boti
27-09 21st Street, Astoria

Roti Boti is this little hole-in-the-wall place on busy 21st street in Astoria, frequented by cab drivers and mainly people of Indian/Pakistani descent. We always walk by it, but until last weekend, we have been a little intimidated to try it out. We recently read an interview of Ali (owner/chef of amazing Kebab Cafe) from the great local blog Joey in Astoria. Ali recommends Roti Boti – but only at 3 am. But hey, a recommendation is a recommendation, and we certainly did not want to wait until the middle of the night for our adventure.

Roti Boti is in the middle of a major expansion, but is still open for business. There is currently sawdust, exposed fixtures and unpainted walls in the “dining room”, but no one seems to mind with the huge portions, and 50-inch plasma tv already mounted on the wall. We ordered at the counter by pointing to the dishes we desired, from the large selection of trays that have been slow cooked all day. There were also many kebabs and samosa-type pastries. Spud, Mr. Headphones, and myself gorged ourselves on 2 orders of chicken byranni and giant naan, ginger chicken on the bone, chicken tandoori, chick peas in a dark smoky sauce, and some chicken and potato samosas. Everything was flavorful and satisfying. There is no atmosphere and the service is a little confusing for first-timers, but this place is obviously all about the food. We all return because it is so convenient and inexpensive, and it may be quite nice once the renovations are finished.

Afterwards, we went to another previously intimidating establishment four blocks west. Hellgate Social is on a rundown stretch of Astoria Blvd between 12th and 14th street. There is a small red neon sign announcing its location, but it seems as if the door does not exist. Once you push on a metal handle on the black wall, you enter into a beautiful oasis. It is a transcendent experience as the inside of the bar is very spacious with modern chic decor, low lighting and an outside walled-in patio. The drinks were interesting and moderately priced and the clientèle was locals, and thankfully not trendy Manhattanites. Another great find in our hood.

Fortunately, we have been very pleased once we have conquered our fears in Astoria and will look for more off-the-beaten-path joints.