Undoubtedly, one of the things Brooklyn does best is sandwiches. From gourmet grilled cheese to perfect banh mis and over-the-top subs, you’re never far from a good meal between two slices of bread. Personally, I pride myself on being up on pretty much every sandwich offered around Kings County, so I was doubly impressed when a friend recently introduced me to a sandwich I’d never heard of: Doubles.
A traditional Trinidadian street food, it turns out that Doubles can actually be found at several dozen places around Brooklyn, which is home to about 50,000 Trinidadian-Americans. A Doubles (always plural; you order “one doubles”) consists of two small pieces of turmeric-spiced, fried flat bread filled with curried chickpeas that are similar to the popular Indian dish chana masala. It’s a delicious little snack that is commonly eaten for breakfast, sometimes lunch, or (less likely) dinner. After doing some basic Yelp-ing, I discovered that one stretch of Nostrand Avenue in Bed-Stuy is home to roughly one doubles purveyor per block, which sounded like a pretty good reason for a lunchtime field trip.
First stop: Ali’s Trinidad Roti Shop, (1267 Fulton Avenue, near Nostrand). The doubles at this hole-in-the-wall go for $1.25 each (which, amazingly, seems to be the going rate anywhere in the hood). Ali’s are among the largest I sampled, as they go with the wrap-around method, stuffing the chickpeas in between rolled-up bread, like a taco, rather than the more popular layered sandwich style. Smothered in a sweet tamarind sauce, they are hearty and not-too-spicy, a solid entry-level doubles.
Not content with just one doubles, I made my way down Nostrand to Trini Gul (543 Nostrand Avenue). The sandwich-style doubles here (also $1.25) made for easy street-eating, but were a little disappointing after Ali’s; the bread was limp and lifeless, tasting as if it sat around all morning rather than coming fresh off the stove.
The bread situation was much different across the street at Royal Bakery (618 Nostrand Avenue). I knew immediately upon entering this little bake shop, filled with the scents of fresh coconut rolls and milk biscuits, that this one would win the best bread award. I was right–light and flaky, surrounding a particularly spicy chickpea mixture, this is the doubles for carb-lovers. At an even buck, it’s also the cheapest buy on the block.
Last stop was Gloria’s #3 (764 Nostrand), where I found yet another distinct variety of doubles. While Gloria’s dares to break the bank at $1.50 a pop, these ones are well worth it. The small flatbreads are fried extra-crispy and filled (sandwich style) with a smaller serving of chickpeas than the other shops, but with extra bursts of flavor, as they are cooked in a tamarind sauce and not merely topped with it. If you can handle the heat, I recommend shelling out an extra quarter to top them with super-spicy pepper sauce. While Royal Bakery’s are more substantial, these little guys are the tastiest. If I had to eat four doubles again tomorrow (and I might), they would all be from Gloria’s.