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West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

Spicing up Iowan Cuisine

Hot & Roll, a food truck turned restaurant, serves up sizzling takes on fusion Mediterranean dishes, and switches up Iowa’s menu as one of the only Pakistani restaurants in the state.
Brightening+the+dark+storefront%2C+where+Hot+%26+Rolls+sign+should+be%2C+an+array+of+lightbulbs+illuminate+the+night+sky.+On+March+26%2C+I+ventured+into+this+dimly+lit+building+to+try+new+Mediterranean+Flavors.+
Colin Wehrle
Brightening the dark storefront, where Hot & Roll’s sign should be, an array of lightbulbs illuminate the night sky. On March 26, I ventured into this dimly lit building to try new Mediterranean Flavors.

Although there were no signs on the exterior of the dingy gray building, the potent aroma of tang and spice told me I was in the right place. I was greeted with a smile and a large laminated menu, which contained a multitude of foreign dishes that were

more complex than my usual Big Mac with fries, and would introduce my palate to a new world of flavor.

After perusing the menu, I ordered three traditional Mediterranean dishes, the Gyro Combo, Chicken Kebab Naan Combo, Ful with pita, and two drinks — the mango smoothie and milk tea. Once I ordered, I sat at a large table covered with a white tablecloth and a plastic sheet. It was dead silent, and the only semi-audible noise came from the back of the kitchen, where pans were clashing against each other. The room was dimly lit with fluorescent lights, masking the stains on the wall, but providing just enough light to see exposed wires protruding from the ceiling.  Aside from the cook, I was the only person in the restaurant, providing an eerie yet calming ambiance that I would bask in for the 45 minutes I waited for my food.

Unfortunately, due to the long wait, I had to take my food to go. However, while it may seem like the food would’ve diminished in quality, it was piping hot and maintained a refined flavor and texture. First, I tried the popular Gyro Combo, priced at $11.99. The initial bite of savory lamb, cushiony pita, and creamy tzatziki sauce was nothing less than euphoric. Paired with fries and roasted vegetables, the flavors combined to develop a delicious final product. Being one of their most popular dishes, it exceeded my expectations, and was a wonderful introduction to what this modest Mediterranean restaurant had to offer. 

After devouring the gyro, I tasted the Chicken Kebab Naan Combo, priced at $12.99, which contained chicken and roasted vegetables skewered onto a sharp stick paired with fries and naan, a Mediterranean flatbread. It was decent, slightly disappointing after the blockbuster gyro, however, it was a hearty meal nonetheless. It had the perfect chicken-to-vegetable

ratio, even seasoning, and fluffy naan, but failed to provide an experience as special as the gyro.

Coming off two excellent dishes, I was prepared to try the third and last, the Ful, or Egyptian fava beans, paired with warm pita bread for $6.99. And lamentably, although the other two dishes were great, I could hardly choke this down. It gave off a gut-wrenching stench that couldn’t be cleared from my nose, and didn’t taste any better. The texture was mushy, and while the pita bread was fine, my tongue couldn’t bear the spice and potentness of the squelchy brown slop scooped into it. 

After that regrettable final experience, I washed down the aftertaste with the mango smoothie, priced at $5.99. While I would’ve liked to try the milk tea, they informed me right before I paid they didn’t have any milk, which could’ve been why some of the sauce that came with the Ful was sour. Although I couldn’t try the milk tea, the mango smoothie was delicious. Cool and crisp, it was a refreshing solution to the appetizing meal. 

 

With highs and lows, overall I had a positive experience at Hot & Roll. If you’re looking for a place where the food is hot, the service is lukewarm, and the infrastructure is questionable, check out their enticing menu and introduce yourself to the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. Just don’t expect a crowd – unless you count the tumbleweeds rolling past the window.

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