In some ways, falafel is the world’s most perfect food: made from chickpeas, it’s reasonably healthy. Prepared with lots of spices, it’s extremely flavorful. Fried, it’s fun to crunch and eat. And stuck in a pita with veggies and hummus, it’s a complete meal. Read on for our picks of the city’s best falafel restaurants. By Jessica Allen.
Taïm Falafel & Smoothie Bar
Truck Lunch: Falafel Sandwich From Taim Mobile
Taim means “tasty” and “delicious” in Hebrew. The chef/owners of Taim serve a falafel that lives up to the name. Three, actually, all truly terrific: green (parsley, mint, and cilantro), red (red peppers), and harissa (Tunisian spices). At just 300 square feet, including the kitchen, the original West Village location doesn’t encourage lingering (the newer outpost on the Lower East Side is larger), so we usually take our goods to eat in Hudson River Park.
Serving the falafel needs of the Financial District since 1999, Alfanoose offers a lot of food for a buck (or six). Not impressed with the city’s shawarma or falafel, Mouhamad Shami opened this spot to serve authentic Lebanese/Syrian food. In addition to meat pies, kibbeh (similar to a fried dumpling), kabobs, labneh (yogurt), there is falafel, made with cumin, coriander, and other spices, along with parsley, garlic, and onion. To drink, try a strong Arab coffee.
This Greenwich Village stalwart has been serving hordes of hungry NYU students, tourists, revelers, and so many others since 1971. The variety here mixes onions, garlic, and spices with the chickpeas, before the whole things gets deep fried to dark brown. While there are a few tables inside the original location, we prefer to take our pitas to Washington Square Park. Sitting here, munching away as we watch the world go by, makes for a perfect summer evening.
In 2010 the folks at Olympic Pita made a 30-plus-pound ball of chickpeas and spices, in the hopes of entering the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest falafel. Alas, this attempt fell short of the current record holder, a hotel in Jordan where 10 cooks whipped up a 165 pounder. Anyway, this West Side restaurant offers a considerably smaller, very delicious version along with kosher Middle Eastern like shawarma, babaganoush, hummus, and tabulle. It’s closed from Friday evening at sundown through Sunday.
The last time we went to this Mediterranean restaurant in the Flatiron district, we saw Bobby Flay. Here’s where to go if you want your falafel with a side of elegance and possibly fame. Speaking of sides, you should get an order of sumac-and-parsley-covered Phoenician fries, which come with “garlic whip,” similar to mayo, and an extra container of spicy tahini for dipping. At lunch the falafel gets wrapped in a pita with mint, tomato, and little Lebanese pickles. At dinner the chickpea and fava bean dumplings get prepped as an appetizer.
King of Falafel & Shawarma
Falafel is a street food, and King of Falafel & Shawarma serves it on the streets of Queens and Manhattan. The man behind this award-winning endeavor is Freddy Zeidaies, who’ll give you a “yummy” or “yeah, baby” along with your egg-shaped falafel, mixed with parsley, cilantro, onion, and secret spices he gets from Mom. The sandwich comes with onions, lettuce, pickled turnips, tomatoes, and green pickles imported from the West Bank, covered in homemade hot sauce and Tahina sauce (sesame paste sauce).