Many years ago, I asked a friend if they’d like to go to Taco Bell for lunch. Their response was, “I’m not in the mood for Mexican food.”
I then responded, “I didn’t say ‘Mexican food,’ I said, ‘Taco Bell.’”
That might be a bad comparative example, but when I heard The Hub Roti Café in Jeffersonville (not to be confused with the Frankfort Avenue bar/restaurant called The Hub) was serving roti tacos, I sort of expected a Mexican experience. And then I realized roti is anything but Mexican, rendering the term “tacos” somewhat irrelevant, at least based on what we Americans would traditionally would consider a “taco.”
Roti is a flour-based, Indian flatbread similar to a pita, and at The Hub Roti Café, located at 716 E. 10th St., discs of roti are filled with a wide variety of ingredients to create a unique experience for breakfast or lunch in a cozy cafe environment. Add to that a variety of coffee drinks – including a café mocha called The Dark Knight – plus desserts like pies, cupcakes and something called Coca-Cola cake, and you’ve got a well-rounded café. A small selection of wine and beer is available, as well.
Owned by a pair of transplanted brothers from Atlanta, Sam and Ben Jones, as well as local Malinda Mackenzie, the Hub offers flavor profiles that often defy description. The roti is light, soft and slightly chewy (only slightly), serving mostly as a vehicle for whatever ingredients it holds.
I met my friend Butch for lunch recently, and we each decided to get a pair of tacos so we could compare and contrast. What we got broadened my idea of the term “taco” even farther than it had been stretched previously. Here’s a rundown of our lunch:
The Rogue: This one was stuffed with pulled chicken, garlic mayo, brie cheese, bibb lettuce and cherry tomatoes cut in half. Butch noted that it almost tasted like chicken salad, although we finally agreed it was as if someone combined a chicken gyro with a chicken sandwich. Fresh, clean-tasting and with somewhat subtle flavors, it was a perfect light lunch option.
The Double Threat: Sounding more “threatening” than it actually is, this one is a handful of “crispy pork,” bacon jam, lettuce, cherry tomato halves, roasted garlic mayo and a pickle. And by “crispy pork,” The Hub means “a big slab of pork belly fried until the edges are crispy.” So, basically, this is like a BLT on steroids. Quite tasty and satisfying.
Fancy Cuban: Stuffed with Cuban pulled pork, ham, caramelized onions, truffle mustard and gruyere cheese, this one actually tasted far less like a traditional Cuban sandwich than I had anticipated. The overall flavor is tangy, and the mustard adds an interesting pesto character.
Mr. Orange: Proving yet again that the owners of The Hub are good at naming their dishes, Mr. Orange offered a flavor combo I couldn’t resist when I saw it on the menu: blackened salmon, creamed spinach, tomato confit and balsamic redux. The combo of the spinach and sauces was wonderful, and the perfectly cooked salmon was quite a pairing. This one is messy, because the salmon kept sliding around, and I wound up with the sauce all over my hands. Totally worth it.
There are vegetarian and vegan options, with plenty of highlights for future visits in The Tommy DeVito (stuffed with Italian meats, mozzarella and more); The Full Montague (meatloaf, mashed potatoes and blue cheese dressing); and the Why in the Kale? (zucchini, potato, black bean and kale). The tacos are all priced between $3 and $4.25, which isn’t bad considering the freshness and serving size.
Sides also are available, from tater tots to truffle potato salad, along with four salads, from a kale Caesar to a classic wedge. Breakfast tacos offer classic ingredients such as sausage, egg and cheese, but expand to concoctions like the Smooth Criminal, made with Nutella, bacon and roasted pecans. There’s even a berries and cream taco on the breakfast menu.
The Hub Roti Café is open for breakfast, 7-11 a.m. weekdays, with lunch hours starting at 11 a.m. and continuing through 3 p.m. Lunch continues until 6 p.m. on Saturday, while dinner hours weekdays are 5-9 p.m. The café is closed on Sunday.