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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Jerusalem Bakery

baklavaI’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:

shwarmaYou 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):

za'atarThis 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:

condimentsI 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?

falafelAppearances 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.

34 comments Add your comment

Reds

November 23rd, 2009
10:14 am

Haven’t tried it, but looks delicious!!! Will definitely have to put this on the “to eat” list. I’ve been hitting up Mediterranean Grill mostly… their hummus is pretty much drool-worthy. The Za’atar looks wonderful.

Hungry Gringo

November 23rd, 2009
10:59 am

Mediterranean Grill at either location takes the cake for delicious and inexpensive falafel and gyros, and their baba ganouj is the best in the city. My roommate and I spent over $300 at the Midtown location EACH our last year at Tech (and that’s not an exaggeration… their customer rewards card tracks how much you’ve spent).

Bruce

November 23rd, 2009
11:20 am

As an occasional special Alon’s at Perimeter also sells a very good falafel.

Mo

November 23rd, 2009
11:42 am

If you want fabulous falafel try OU4U at 1155 Hammond Dr. Roasted veggies are a garlic lovers dream. But most of all, the owners make some of the best authentic food in town. And don’t miss the shakshooka dip. Mmmmm.

Dave

November 23rd, 2009
11:58 am

Aladdin’s on Roswell Road has great falafel. Hovan, in the Perimeter Mall Food Court, is a great place to grab a quick bite and their falafel pita is very good as well. Are there any great places to get falafel in Decatur?

dave

November 23rd, 2009
12:01 pm

jerusalem bakery is awesome. Only been to the one in Marietta, but they have meat and cheese pies, cherry pies, potato pies, and they are all delicious, albeit a bit expensive.

Slowmo

November 23rd, 2009
12:59 pm

Where is the beef sourced from?

F-105 Thunderchief

November 23rd, 2009
1:02 pm

Matt

November 23rd, 2009
1:08 pm

Slowmo, you are in idiot. That question only applies to GROUND BEEF!!

Matt

November 23rd, 2009
1:09 pm

Wait!! I am AN idiot as well, as I cannot spell.

Dunwoody Don

November 23rd, 2009
1:32 pm

I just lunched on the falafel sandwich at Perimeter Mall’s Hovan Gourmet. A sign near the counter proclaims it the “Best in Town” – I can’t dispute that, not having visited any of the other places. This one was mighty good, however. A decent meal by itself for $6.

John Kessler

November 23rd, 2009
1:47 pm

Matt: :) I managed to misspell Hellmann’s throughout an article on mayonnaise.
Mo: Great rec! I thought shakshooka was a dish of shirred eggs in sauce. It’s a dip? What’s in it?
Hungry Gringo: I really like Med Grill’s soups.

Alabama Jack

November 23rd, 2009
4:25 pm

Best grocery hummus I’ve found is at Publix and also Super Target. Several flavors, in flat dish with red rimmed top. Can’t remember the brand name, but the roasted garlic and the jalapeno are both awesome. At the deli counter.

RCS

November 23rd, 2009
5:47 pm

Kameel’s Cafe – Mall at Peachtree Center. Good stuff!

Mo

November 23rd, 2009
5:52 pm

“Shakshooka” describes a whole class of egg and vegetable dishes of the North African Jewish kitchen. Potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, or other cooked vegetables can also be used.
3 parts tomatoes to 2 parts sweet peppers to 1 part onions
Oil, tomato paste,garlic, Salt and pepper

The above can be simmer slowly uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add enough tomato sauce to “marry” everything together, while keeping the entire consistency very thick.
At this point, the shakshooka can be served alone or over rice or make wells in the sauce and cook eggs.

Craig

November 23rd, 2009
9:59 pm

Alabama Jack, perhaps you can talk Mr. Keesler into doing a “30 Grocery Stores in 30 Days”. Restaurants need all the support they can get right now. Keep eating in and buying pre-made preservative filled goods and you will be ready when it’s time for you to go.

I’d say to JK you need to consider doing a 365 in 365, there are still plenty of outstanding establishments you have yet to visit.

Momof2Girls

November 24th, 2009
9:20 am

I have to second the recommendation for OU4U. Their falafel is the best I’ve ever eaten! They have many other choices as well, and I haven’t had something from there that I haven’t loved.

Piso Mojado

November 24th, 2009
9:24 am

Try the veal. It’s the best in town.

Reds

November 24th, 2009
9:51 am

Alabama jack — Sabra. :) And you can get it in big containers at BJ’s and Costco. It’s like 4 containers in one for $6. You can also get single servings at Walmart.

Craig — I agree, and I make my own hummus a lot, without the preservatives, but I know that I can’t afford to support restuarants at every meal, and it’s not always feasible to make my own. I’ll take what I can get when it’s good!

reservoirDAWG

November 24th, 2009
10:19 am

Craig, chill out. Not everyone eats out every meal. Some of us can actually cook.

Yoisele

November 24th, 2009
2:19 pm

Without question, hands-down, Pita Palace serves the best falafel and schwarma in metro Atlanta. The food tastes great, the meat is of the highest quality (is strictly kosher), and the salads and condiments are self-serve, just like in the Middle East. In addition, they serve a pita sandwich called Pargiot (which I believe is cornished hen) that is to die for. One note – when the guy behind the counter asks if you want your sandwich spicy, be very, very careful.

babs

November 24th, 2009
4:05 pm

stop picking on each other. i am going to try a few when I can. end of subject of eating out or not? everyone is trying to help restauranteurs. good info here.

John Kessler

November 24th, 2009
4:39 pm

Mo: That sounds soooooo good…

baylor keese

November 25th, 2009
1:08 am

Pita Palace, Pita Palace, Pita Palace. Briarcliff & LaVista….

tantalize me

November 25th, 2009
9:24 am

My husband and I drive to the Marietta location sometimes just to buy their pita – its fluffy and we think some of the best in town. We still love the felafel at Mezza becuase it’s has a little more seasoning. Mediterranean Bakery (not grill) at Chamblee-Tucker has excellent shwarma and is much much better than Med Grill. Sorry but I see Med Grill as a few steps above fast food.

tantalize me

November 25th, 2009
9:27 am

At OU4U try the eggplant pita sandwich. It’s fried eggplant in a pita with hard boiled egg, hummus and salad. It’s excellent and very authentic Israeli.

Thomas SENOR

November 25th, 2009
10:09 am

Eat at Pappi’s, it’s near your house!

Thomas SENOR

November 25th, 2009
10:10 am

Enter your comments here

John Kessler

November 25th, 2009
10:41 am

tantalize: I know that sandwich! It’s called sabich, right? I ate one in Israel and have dreamed of having another ever since. As I recall, it also has a weird, wonderful condiment on it that tastes a bit like Indian mango pickle. I am so there…

Kate

November 25th, 2009
1:37 pm

Hey JK – thanks for doing this review. I stopped at The Jerusalem Bakery in Alpharetta this past week and had a delicious piece of baklava. It was deliciously crunchy as you described. I saw the za’atar and wanted to try it- now I will go back real soon.

They need to do more advertising!

Pam

November 25th, 2009
6:28 pm

Jerusalem Bakery is fabulous and the pistachio baklava is a real treat. Try the Jerusalem Platter – it’s got the chicken and beef shwarma and all of the fabulous sides. It’s nice to hear both Arabic and Hebrew too and the staff is super friendly and really nice.

Leonard

November 26th, 2009
3:26 am

The orange mango pickle condiment from Israel mentioned by John Kessler is called ambah (pardon the spelling). It is great on schwerma.

allison

December 2nd, 2009
4:51 pm

I have to agree that OU 4 U has the best falafel I’ve ever had. I have loved everything I have tried there. They catered a meeting for me recently and people are still talking about how great the food was!

Nita

December 3rd, 2009
7:44 pm

OU 4 U not only has the best falafel it has delicious soups made fresh everyday as well as a vegetable sandwich that is literally to die for. Try it!