I’m starting with dessert first in this blog post because this square of honey-soaked pistachio baklava ($1.49) was:
a) incredibly delicious; and,
b) photographed reasonably well.
See those layers of phyllo? They collapse in crisp snaps as you bite through, like a little jackhammer.
Where am I? At Jerusalem Bakery in Alpharetta, where I have come in search of falafel that some think is the best in the metro area.
This spot is a branch of the original Jerusalem Bakery in Marietta, which sells Palestinian pastries and fresh pita breads both wholesale and retail from a small counter.
The Alpharetta location has a pastry counter, a nice selection of groceries and dry goods, and a quick-service deli counter where you can order all kinds of Middle Eastern specialties (falafel, shawarma, hummus) and pizzas.
Before we get to the falafel, let me show you the shawarma spits:
You can kind of see that they offer both chicken and beef — nice looking whole pieces of seasoned meat stacked up and ready to be shaved into a pliant pita.
I promise we’ll get to the falafel soon enough, but first I ask you feast your eyes on this za’atar pie ($2.49):
This bubbly, crusty discus comes slathered with green olive oil and the Middle Eastern spice mixture known as za’atar — fresh thyme, sesame seeds, salt and sumac (a coarse powder ground from a purple berry that tastes bright and lemony). The sesame seeds are so impeccably fresh that it makes me realize how often they are rancid elsewhere.
All right, now on to the falafel ($4.95). But, wait, let me first show you the all the salads and condiments you can ask to have rolled up into your sandwich:
I know, it’s not a great picture, but you get the idea. This is the real deal, with pickled cabbage, half-sour spears, roasted peppers, olives, a fantastic green chile sauce — all the condiments that would be served on a falafel ordered in Palestine or Israel.
The guy behind the counter fries the falafel balls to order, and then assembles your sandwich as you point and choose.
One interesting side note: in other restaurants, the pita is either split and stuffed or rolled around the falafel. Here it’s both. The counter guy carefully peels back the side of one large, floppy pita and inserts the falafel balls inside. He then encloses them like peas in a pod and puts the garnishes on top before rolling the whole thing up like a burrito.
It is a great sandwich, with all kinds of cold, crunchy textures, drippy sauces and still-hot falafel. The falafel balls themselves are bright green with herbs and leave a welcome glow of cumin behind. They taste wonderful. I only wish they had been a little crunchier and cakier in texture.
Would you like to see the sandwich? I was afraid of that. Here is my picture of it in cross section. Worst picture ever?
Appearances aside, have you tried this falafel? Is there any better in town? I’ve liked those at Pita Palace and Falafel King. I definitely need to try that place in the Perimeter Mall food court that I hear is terrific.