photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Roll N Roaster
The next time you pass any fast food place, walk inside and ask for a bottle of champagne, a cup of melted cheese, and a free thin-crust pizza. You will, most likely, be escorted from the building. But there’s a place where you can fulfill all these desires. A place where melted cheese is as plentiful as tap water and everyone gets a free pizza after spending $40. It’s called Roll N Roaster, and it’s somewhere you should have on your to-visit list alongside iconic spots like P.J. Clarke’s and Peter Luger.
Roll N Roaster is a fast food place in Sheepshead Bay that specializes in roast beef sandwiches, and it’s been open since 1971. It’s sort of like if the original Arby’s went rogue and started exhibiting a reckless amount of personality, and you get the impression that it hasn’t really changed in the past 40+ years. If you live nearby, there’s a good chance you have fond memories of deep-fried childhood meals here, and if you’ve never heard of this place, you should map out a route and head over one weekend for a quick lunch before hitting the beach.
From the outside, Roll N Roaster looks like something you’d find on a road trip through the American Southwest sometime during the Carter administration. It’s a big building with striped yellow awnings and several American flags flying from the roof, and when you walk in you’ll find a massive dining space with bright yellow tables, wood-paneled walls, and heavy glass light fixtures that wouldn’t feel out of place in a bachelor’s home in the year 1975. At the back, there’s usually a small crowd - whether it’s lunch or 1am - either staring up at a large menu or waiting for their food.
If you’re sufficiently observant, it should only take you a few seconds to realize that the roast beef sandwich is a must-order. It comes on a big roll dipped in gravy for $6.45, and for 50 cents extra, you can get it topped with melted cheese the texture of a microwaved G.I. Joe. Do this, or face shame, ridicule, and years of crippling regret. You should also get some cheese on your fries - which are the ovular cottage-style ones you find at a place like JG melon - as well as an additional side of cheese for your creamy corn fritters. (Cheese, if you hadn’t noticed, is an essential part of the Roll N Roaster experience.) To facilitate digestion, add a big lemonade or a strawberry milkshake - or, if you recently collected all the loose change hidden throughout your house, go for a bottle of Moet. We aren’t sure why, but they sell that here - and it’s one of the many reasons why we’re emotionally attached to this place.
Unless you have a phobia of a shiny melted cheese or your life-coach-slash-interior-designer recently told you to avoid all places with mustard-yellow color schemes, you’re going to have a good time at Roll N Roaster. This place serves some of the best fast food in the city, along with beers for $2.95 - $3.50 and $60 bottles of champagne. Factor in the decor that makes you feel like you tripped into a wormhole and fell out on the other side of 1980, and you have a New York City classic where you can have an experience you never knew you needed.
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Roll-N-Roaster Roast Beef N Cheez
There’s one non-optional order at Roll N Roaster, and it’s this roast beef sandwich topped with cheese. It’s a wonderful combination of gravy, thinly-sliced beef, and salty cheese that doesn’t really taste like cheese (but is excellent nonetheless). Sure the bun is a little too big and occasionally kind of dry, but that’s why cheese and gravy were invented.
Without the cheese, barbecue sauce, and onion rings, this would be a pretty average burger. Fortunately, it has all those things - and that’s why it’s our number two sandwich here.
Roll-N-Grilled Grilled Chicken
If you order this, we’ll be slightly disappointed in you. But as long as you do the right thing and add cheese, you’ll have a perfectly fine chicken sandwich
At Roll N Roaster, the fries are shaped like thumbprints or flattened jelly beans - and it’s important that you order them with cheese. If you don’t, it’s a red flag that you don’t know what you’re doing and shouldn’t be trusted.
You would never guess that the wings are some of the best things here. But they’re incredibly crispy, the meat nearly falls off the bone when you bite into them, and the hot sauce on the side is thick and tangy. You absolutely want an order for the table.
Golden Fried Shrimp Cup
What is this? Long John Silver’s? No, It’s Roll N Roaster. And for some reason, they make some very good and perfectly fried shrimp here.
How do you make these corn fritters? We still have no idea. They’re crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, and they should be served in every fast food place in America. Dip them in a side of cheese.
One of the very rare things we don’t really care for at Roll N Roaster, these mozzarella sticks just aren’t as salty, crunchy, or stretchy as we like. Skip them with no regrets.
You can buy a pizza here for $4.95, or you can spend over $40, and you’ll just get one for free. And, surprisingly, it’s pretty good pizza. The crust is crisp and incredibly thin, and the tomato sauce has a nice sweetness to it.
Picture the last time you dreamt of a milkshake. It was probably thick, creamy, and everything your subconscious ever wanted a milkshake to be. That’s exactly what this one is, only twice as large. There are three flavors to choose from (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry), and we’re partial to strawberry.
Does Roll N Roaster hold a minority stake in Moët Chandon? Is the owner a francophile or a French expatriate? We doubt it. But for some reason, they offer $60 bottles of Moët here, and the novelty of drinking a bottle of champagne in a fast-food place is absolutely worth it.