Falafel — the search continues
Falafel platter from OU For U
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, the great Minneapolis-based food writer, wrote that she once made the mistake of conducting a search for the best gyros. It didn’t take her long to discover that ribbons of shaved, spit-warmed processed gyro meat wasn’t really a lot different here from there.
But falafel — that’s another story. It seems that no two of these mashed chickpeas balls are at all alike. Some are cakey, other soft almost gooey in the center. Some are green with fresh parsley; others pale, chalky and smacking of dehydrated spices.
Here are some of my favorites around town:
- OU For U: This kosher Israeli spot in Dunwoody serves crispy, spicy falafel. I like the sandwich, but I like this platter better, if only to swipe the falafel through the fine house hummus. Pluses: Generous portion, great cuminy, spicy kick. Minuses: Texture is kind of dense.
- Falafel King: This funny sushi/falafel spot in Emory Village is run by a sweet Korean couple who never forget a customer. Their falafel sandwich, stuffed into a split pita, is a handful of goodness with soft, warm, crunchy and cool all perfectly contrapuntal. Pluses: Low price, warm welcome. Minuses: Only lettuce, tomato and cucumber for garnish.
- Hovan Gourmet: I was once the target of a hilarious letter writing campaign from the fans of this Perimeter Mall food court standard bearer after I neglected to mention them in a print article about falafel. This wrap and schwarma stand does serve a fine Israeli-style falafel — rolled in a pillowy pita with hummus and a number of possible vegetable add ins. Now that my office is across the street, I know this falafel well! Pluses: Love the acidic zing of pickled red cabbage and tabbouleh against the mellow hummus. Minuses: I don’t love the thick pita, which adds more bulk than flavor.
- Jerusalem Bakery: I haven’t yet tried the newer shop in Marietta, but the Alpharetta original makes a falafel worth driving for. The house-baked pitas are huge, glorious, floppy things that the falafelistas split, stuff and roll to create an intricate layering of bread, vibrantly green falafel and vegetables chosen from a bank of choices. Pluses: That pita, the amazing array of pickles and such. Minuses: The falafel themselves, which can be too gooey.
- Pita Palace: This restaurant caters to the kosher crowd near the corner of Lavista Road and Briarcliff Road and serves an exemplary Israeli-style falafel — fried to order, stuffed with all the pickles and veggies you point to and rolled into a tight cylinder. I haven’t been in several years, so I can’t point out the pluses and minuses as well. I guess that means it’s time for another visit.
What did I miss?