Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Jan 7, 2005 04:44 AM

Amsterdam falafel... so so

  • f

Been there recently... the experience was so so.

There are 3 crucial elements in falafel: the falafel balls, the tahini sauce and the pita. The salad bar is of secondary importance.

The falafel balls were OK, but nothing to write home about.

The tahini sauce, which is a crucial ingredient to falafel, was plain awful. Since raw tahini is very expensive, many restuarants use various substitutes. Some places mix with flour. The sauce in Amsterdam didn't taste like real tahini. And it was sweet instead of sour. Only god knows what they use.

The pita was yet another disappointment. It was thin and hard and small, so it broke quickly. Good pitas for falafel are large and thick and soft.

The salad bar looked nice but the stuff we tried didn't shine.

Conclusion: If you must have falafel, go.
If you want a good one, keep looking.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I recommend Jerusalem (Palestinian restaurant) in Bailey's for good felafel. And it is cheap ($2.88). While you are at it....there is a good middle eastern grocery in the same strip mall (Mount of Olives).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Foodgeek

      I don't have a problem with the falafel or tahini at Amsterdam, but I do agree about the pita. It is too small and is breaking apart just with falafel in it, before you put in any toppings.

      What's more, they got rid of the red baskets, so there's no way to "manage" your toppings; you have to put all the toppings on the very top instead of removing some falafel and layering it. So you end up with a few bites of all toppings and then all falafel.

      The execution is so close to greatness for me; I wish they didn't skimp. I realize the small pita and lack of baskets are ways to minimize topping usage, and it's sad...I would pay extra for a big soft pita full of toppings, in a basket to manage things.

      1. re: Dave

        They seem to have made a few changes since they opened.... and not for the better. The baskets being gone is a pain, for the reasons you stated. More importantly some of the toppings seem to have declined in quality (the tahini wasn't sweet before), though that seems to vary from visit to visit. I'm much less enthusiastic about the place now than when they first opened.

        1. re: Spade

          Agreed. I enjoyed it the first time I went (they had the baskets then and I don't remember noticing a sweet taste to the tahini). Too bad.

          I agree with an earlier comment SteveS made--the best felafel I've had in DC (they've really got the bread part down!) is at Breadline.


          1. re: Smokey

            I should emphasize that the pita and lack of basket work together to produce frustration. The pita is very "tight" - there's no room for any toppings except perilously positioned on top, wheras usually in this sort of place you can place toppings in the pita, alongside the falafel - so the lack of a basket to manage layering is even more frustrating. Why have this amazing toppings bar if you can barely use it? Bah.

    2. I agree. But it is a convenient and cheap alternative for Adams Morgan, so I'm glad it's there. Do not go out of your way for this.

      1. I have to disagree on your pita rule. Thick, pillow-like pitas are for mom & pop gyro joints that specialize in hamburgers & fries.

        2 Replies
        1. re: microwave15
          Falafel Guru

          No, I am not referring to the gyro type of bread.

          I am referring to well made pitas. Zaytinya and Lebanese Taverna make decent ones.

          1. re: Falafel Guru

            My jaw dropped when I saw they were using the same crappy pita brand that Giant sells.

        2. I completely disagree about the falafel balls -- I think they're excellent and fresh, and the most important component as you say. Certainly Amsterdam Falafel is well above average, even if Breadline or Ajax (which I haven't yet been to) is better.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Reece

            i also disagree with some of the complaints on Amsterdam. I think the atmosphere is awesome and really caters to their late-night crowd. The falafel balls are not greasy and are tasty to me. I do agree that they should invest in a better pita company, or make their own, but the toppings to me are important, because honostly, what is a falafel without tahina, hummus, cabbage, babbaganouj (sp?) etc. And the toppings they provide are tasty and various. It's a fun experience over-all and I do recommend it.

          2. Next time try the new Taste of Jerusalem place on Columbia, just up from 18th Street. Same concept, better execution.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hamster

              Absolutely. I've been meaning to write about Old City Cafe (sometimes referred to as "Old City Cafe of Jerusalem") for several months now. It is far superior to Amsterdam -- not only is the falafel and pita bread (freshly baked, it tastes like) and "salad bar" fresher and tastier than Amsterdam's, they also offer other main dishes, the best among them being kifta kabob and chicken kabob. Don't miss the cheese and spinach pies either. Amsterdam is definitely the trendier, hipper place to go, but for those devoted to food over atmosphere, Old City Cafe is not to be missed. They could use the business too -- stuck over on Columbia, not many people know about it. Another bonus over Amsterdam: lots and lots of seating.