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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Falafel — the search continues

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

49 comments Add your comment

kevin

August 4th, 2010
1:54 pm

The falafel sandwich at Star Provisions is unbelievable–not authentic perhaps, but the best falafel sandwich I have ever had.

Mary

August 4th, 2010
2:08 pm

They offer two types of sauces on the falafel at Falafel King – get both on it! makes it really good. I skip the lettuce and tomato all together.

Adam

August 4th, 2010
2:52 pm

http://www.cafesababa.net/ Cafe Sababa Mediterranean Grill has excellent falafel, at least the platter. Have not had the sandwich yet.

Max

August 4th, 2010
2:52 pm

Cafe Agora’s is very good.

Jim

August 4th, 2010
3:26 pm

I know a place to stay away from: Venus on Jones Bridge.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Falafel — the search continues http://bit.ly/bRsHqC [...]

Minjenah

August 4th, 2010
3:45 pm

I like the Mediterreanean Bakery in Tucker for flalfel but only if it is freshly made.
http://www.mediterranean-bakery.com/

donkey200

August 4th, 2010
3:49 pm

The Olive Bistro in Vinings has great falafel. Garlicky – yum!!

Eli Z

August 4th, 2010
4:02 pm

Cafe Posh on Roswell in Fountain Oaks shopping center and Al’s Cafe Agora on E. Paces in Buckhead.

Food Fan

August 4th, 2010
4:20 pm

Second the Cafe Sababa – great food, reasonable prices, nice owner. Everything I’ve had there has been great, falalfel included.

Food Fan

August 4th, 2010
4:21 pm

And John, if you work around Perimeter mall (like me) you can easily get to Sababa on a lunch break. I do it all the time. Up on North Shallowford right before you hit Peachtree Industrial.

Robert

August 4th, 2010
5:20 pm

Please don’t use the words “spit-warmed” when referring to food. Thank you.

Christina

August 4th, 2010
6:04 pm

Really, Robert? Oh yes, and by all means please don’t say “breast” or “buns” either…

Jeff

August 4th, 2010
6:13 pm

Another vote for Pita Palace—definitely the most authentic falafel in Atlanta in terms of toppings—get it with a little bit of spicy!

Hungry Gringo

August 4th, 2010
7:08 pm

Mediterranean Grill next to Piedmont Park. I must have spent $500 there my last two years at Tech.

FM Fats

August 4th, 2010
7:12 pm

I have fond memories of Mamoun’s on McDougal Street in NYC. The Mediterranean Grill on N. Decatur is decent.

Ashley

August 4th, 2010
8:42 pm

Ali Baba’s has the best falafel in the city. The location in L5P is now open all day, and I believe the Broad Street location is still open for lunch. They falafel are a good size, nice and crispy on the outside, and soft and velvety on the inside. They’re never even close to greasy, and fold into a wrap quite nicely.

Lynn

August 4th, 2010
10:58 pm

Thank you, John K, and everyone else for your falafel suggestions. My daughter and I have been looking in Atlanta for the second best falafel in the world since having one in Le Marais district in Paris in the summer of 2008.

Starr

August 5th, 2010
8:51 am

What about Ali Baba’s on Broad Street downtown? It’s my favorite place for a work-week lunch, largely because of their large, dense falafel.

Steve E.

August 5th, 2010
11:33 am

Mediterranean Fresh 4 U across from Peidmont Hospital has tremendous falafel. And their tabbouleh is the best I’ve had – very fresh and herbal.

Foodie

August 5th, 2010
1:29 pm

Cafe Sababa has the best falafel I have ever tasted. Lots of parsley, garlic, chickpeas and just the right contrast between the thick, crunchy exterior and the soft, moist interior. I often can’t stop thinking about it as well as many of the other wonderful dishes (especially the lamb burger and tilapia platter)all day long.

GreekBoy

August 5th, 2010
1:31 pm

I agree with Adam & Food Fan. You must try a falafel at Cafe Sababa. http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/9/1523375/restaurant/Atlanta/Cafe-Sababa-Dunwoody

ted

August 5th, 2010
2:10 pm

Olive Bistro across from City Hall East.

Zack

August 5th, 2010
2:49 pm

Mediterranean Bakery on Chamblee Tucker Rd in the Big Lots shopping square. Easily the best falafel sandwich in town. They make them fresh to order and they’re superb.

Zack

August 5th, 2010
2:50 pm

And btw, don’t confuse it with Mediterranean Grill, that’s completely different. Mediterranean Grill is mall food court quality.

Stedman Graham

August 5th, 2010
3:19 pm

Winfrey’s is great

Richard

August 5th, 2010
4:33 pm

Sababa has great falafels. They are cooked to order, come out hot, and just the right consistency and flavor

John Kessler

August 5th, 2010
5:55 pm

Looks like I’m going to be busy. Thanks for all the suggestions!

bronwyn sellers

August 5th, 2010
9:24 pm

i am surprised no one mentioned mezza restaurant on lavista in tucker. i think they have the BEST falafal!i also recommend going at lunch and getting the deluxe vegetarian sampler or the deluxe platter! best muhammara, hummus deluxe and kibbi balls.

Greg

August 6th, 2010
1:51 pm

It’s funny that someone would conjur up Mamoun’s, I had my first falafel at Mamoun’s in New Haven CT – I have to echo FM Fats sentiment since I too like the falafel at the Mediterranean Grill on N. Decatur.

MissV

August 6th, 2010
3:39 pm

I don’t feel qualified to rate the “best in the city,” but if you work in or are staying in the Peachtree Center area of downtown, Kameel’s (a few storefronts past Moes/Subway) is, to me, the gem of the Peachtree Center Food Court. The pita is huge and stretchy and has a great flavor – I crave it often. I love the falafel and turkey schwarma, and they have tahini, hot sauce, lettuce, tomato, cabbage slaw and tabouli for garnish. Comes with a side of veggies or potatoes – for $6-ish, and I can never quite finish my wrap.

Souffle Chef

August 6th, 2010
4:39 pm

Mediterranean Bakery on the square in Lawrenceville. Fantastic. The owner is Palestinian and it was recommended me to me by someone from Lebanon. Don’t miss his hummus.

Souffle Chef

August 6th, 2010
4:41 pm

I was wrong! So sorry! The name of it is Uptown Cafe in Lawrenceville. UPTOWN CAFE – LAWRENCEVILLE!! ;-)

Souffle Chef

August 6th, 2010
4:47 pm

For a delicious take-out falafel, go to Leon’s International Groceries on Pleasantdale. Very fresh. And their pastries are delightful as well.

Gabrielle

August 7th, 2010
11:34 am

Try Basil Wraps in Marietta, on Canton Road. Really good, very affordable, and it’s family owned/operated, with service to match. Very friendly place with delicious falafel, hummus, and all the usual Middle Eastern specialties (they sell hookahs too!).

Mel

August 7th, 2010
2:55 pm

I second Gabrielle’s suggestion of Basil Wraps in Marietta. The food is great and you won’t meet nicer, more neighborly folks than the owners.

DD

August 8th, 2010
2:59 pm

Everything is wonderful at Cafe Sababa. My son’s favorite falafel is on Ben Yehuda St. in Israel. His second is at Cafe Sababa.

brian

August 11th, 2010
12:30 pm

Pita Palace is EXCELLENT, Falafael King is ok but a tad to gooey and very garlic-ey, Med Grill is so-so (but their meat based sandwiches are excellent). But I will say the one that gets me dreaming of falafel more than any other is the Thursday special at Alons. I think they make thier own pita, as well. I find in many instances the use of standard/stale pita takes away from what could be a great meal. For example, Med. Grill has great fillings (see above) but the cardboard texture of the pita sometimes takes away from the enjoyment.

burton

August 11th, 2010
12:43 pm

the falafel place on rue de temple in the marais? worth the airfare.

Kristie

August 11th, 2010
1:19 pm

Ditto Uptown Cafe in Downtown Lawrenceville. Best of everything mediterranean. The hummus will have you singing out of the restaurant and the Kufta kabobs are heaven!

Lou

August 11th, 2010
1:32 pm

Cafe Lily in Decatur has a wonderful falafel appetizer.

amuch

August 11th, 2010
1:59 pm

Cafe Posh and Star Provisions. No contest. The falafel itself is awesome, and they each have some of the best pita I’ve had outside of Tel Aviv!

Michelle

August 11th, 2010
2:13 pm

Cafe Agora is the best I’ve ever had! Bright green–you know it’s going to be good!

alan

August 11th, 2010
5:35 pm

Another vote for Pita Palace. Closest to real Israeli falafal. There salads in the falafal are great too, add the hot sauce and I’m back in tel aviv. Olive Bistro is good too, but it’s a restaurant not like a falafal stand.

Marcy Mussman

August 12th, 2010
10:56 am

Uptown Cafe in Lawrenceville, Ga. has GREAT falafal – it is worth the drive!!!!
Everything else is great also!

Dezman

August 16th, 2010
9:45 pm

Posh Cafe on Thursdays and Brookhaven Bistro on Wednesdays. Absolute best in town. Both have fresh pita. Both add marinated/grilled eggplant which is a nice touch. And the falafel themselves are delightfully fluffy and herb-green on the inside.

Dezman

August 16th, 2010
9:47 pm

“Spit-warmed!” Couldn’t stop laughing when I read that!

Roger Bell

August 17th, 2010
3:15 pm

I’ve never had good falafel in Atlanta. The best I’ve ever had was at The Pita House in Greenville, SC. The place is family run. They also bake their own pita bread (also the best I’ve ever had), and make homemade lemonade. I eat there almost every time I visit friends there.

[...] the advice of readers responding to my recent falafel post, I checked out two places nearby. Cafe Posh in Sandy Springs is a bright, clean, upscale coffee [...]