Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
Roti, located on W. Adams St., is one of many restaurants located in the perimeter around the Sears—er, I mean, Willis Tower. But with Adams blocked off for construction, it's easy to miss Roti—or so you'd think. When I got in there, way past the lunch rush, it was still paaaacked. That's always a good sign. Plus their logo has an "ō." You know, the ō with the line over it that I had to learn how to type just nōw?
When you first walk in, you're struck by the menu structure, which to me, looks a lot like Chipotle, except it's Mediterranean food. Pick a base (sandwich, salad, or plate), pick a meat (they serve falafel and roasted vegetables too), and then you pick your toppings.
The falafel platter ($7.50) comes with four falafel, golden rice, and your choice of a few sides. The falafel, as Nick reviewed, starts with a crispy lattice-like layer of fried chickpeas on the outside and has an unusually soft and velvety interior that I've never seen in falafel before, possibly due to a very fine chickpea grind. The cucumber and tomato salad is very fresh and is a welcome addition to the fried chickpeas, though the pearls of Israeli couscous had a harder bite to them than I would have liked.
The Mediterranean Chopped Chicken Salad ($7.50) is one of their "house specialties," featuring mixed greens, chopped chicken shawarma, cucumber and tomato salad, couscous, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. The lemony vinaigrette is fairly sweet, but overall, I just wasn't feeling it. The ratio of spring greens to chicken was off (too many greens) and there wasn't enough other stuff to make the salad exciting. If the chicken has any noticeable char on it at all, the vinaigrette cancels it out, rendering the chicken gray and soft.
The steak shawarma ($6.50), however, is a different beast. As you can see, it's a messy endeavor that falls apart quickly. But the steak sports an impressive char that adds both character to the dominant flavors of curry and cumin, plus a crunchy texture. With all the flavors and elements of choice at Roti, I can see why it's a hit with my coworkers these days.
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.