Our tour of Lakeland establishments that offer healthy food choices continues with a visit to Cafe Roti, an Indian-Pakistani restaurant at 116 S. Tennessee Ave.

Dr. Saqib B. Khan, founder and owner of Café Roti, opened his restaurant in 2003 at first in North Lakeland near Lakeland Regional Health hospital. The critical care, pain medicine, and anesthesiology practicing physician is passionate about food, particularly Indian-Pakistani cuisine.

A native of Pakistan, Khan says that his wife cooks great meals at home, and years ago he thought: “Why should I be the only one enjoying this food?” He made up his mind to open a restaurant to share his gastronomical experience with his staff, colleagues, and the general public.

Café Roti, named after a type of round flat Indian-Pakistani bread cooked on a griddle, became increasingly popular and needed more space. In August 2018 it moved to a spacious and elegant facility in downtown Lakeland.

The restaurant offers a selection of wholesome appetizers, lunch, and dinner entrees made from scratch: seafood, chicken, vegetables, several classic Indian lentil dishes, Mango Lassi (a yogurt drink), and soups. Some notable entrees are: Chicken Tikka, Vegetable Curry, Grilled Seafood, Lahori Fish, and Dhal Makhani. Several menu items cater to vegetarians, namely Vegetarian Mix Platter, Mango Salad, Mixed Vegetables, Vegetable Samosa, and more.

Café Roti’s Indian-Pakistani-inspired delicious cuisine relies on a wide variety of herbs and spices. Various combinations of them lend every dish its own distinct flavor, which in many cases can be referred to as umami, the term used to describe a deeply complex, satisfying, earthy, or brothy flavor.

When ordering, patrons can choose from a range of 10 in-house-prepared sauces to go with their entrée. For example:

  • Spinach: spinach, broccoli, ginger, and garlic
  • Korma: sweetened onion with nuts and raisins
  • Karahi: Garlic, ginger, cumin, and turmeric
  • Jalfrezi:  a medly of onion, bell pepper, and tomato. 

Novices to healthy eating are often amazed to discover the magic a pinch of ginger, curry, cinnamon, garlic, or other herbs and spices perform on food.  Like an artist, using the full spectrum of his/her color palette, the cook can take advantage a vast array of flavors, alone or in unlimited combinations of herbs and spices, to transform even a humble dish into a scrumptious culinary event.

Unlike artificial food colors and sweeteners, and other unhealthy additives, herbs and spices come from Mother Nature. These flavor celebrities are also packed with health-promoting compounds that enhance the nutritional value of the food.

When you dine at Café Roti you can enjoy traveling to faraway India and Pakistan without leaving Lakeland – bon appétit!


Judy E. Buss

Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food columnist, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association, nutritional cooking instructor, and speaker.

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