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It’s been a rough year or so for David Nagar, co-owner of Teddy’s Roti Shop. The tiny Trinidadian take out, which serves a killer roti and buss-up-shut, had been searching for a permanent home ever since his landlord refused to renew his lease back in the fall of 2007. Nagar first tried to relocate to Silver Spring, across from the Metro station, but that place was a bust. Now he’s found a home at 7304 Georgia Ave NW—-not far, in fact, from the spot where Teddy’s spent the first 14 years of its life.
I stopped by his new place on Inauguration Day for a quiet lunch, but once Nagar recognized me from our previous conversations, that was out of the question. He was still angry about the things that I let other people say about him. He was angry that I didn’t return his three phone calls. (I told him I never got his three calls.) He was lobbying me to come back the next day, when he wasn’t as busy, so he could presumably take me to task for other matters. I stood there and mostly listened. Arguing with Nagar would only delay my lunch.
Whatever you think about Nagar, the guy knows how to make a terrific flatbread. I ordered the beef buss-up-shut; the curry stew, with its generous portions of channa and meaty chunks of beef, came in a separate container from the twisted and gnarled paratha bread (which gives buss-up-shut its name, since it resembles a busted-up shirt). I greedily broke off pieces of the flaky wheat bread, made rich with (the horror!) Crisco, and scooped up one bite after another after another until I could eat no more of the stew. Its flavors were almost impossible to parse, an earthy, satisfying mix of curry spices that was not spicy at all. Nagar’s little plastic container of hot sauce, spiked with tamarind, provided the heat. Just a touch of that stuff and your mouth went nuclear.
My dining companion ordered the boneless chicken roti, and it was the equal of the buss-up-shut. The light curry flavors seemed identical to those in my buss-up-shut; the semi-dry chunks of chicken breast and the chickpea-based roti, with its slight vegetal flavor, provided most of the contrast. I washed down this gut-busting lunch with Teddy’s homemade ginger-pineapple drink, which was the perfect counterpoint to the hearty meal—-fruity, spicy, and sweet.
All in all, it was a meal worth getting fussed at.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery