- Tim Apr 8, 2005 12:17 PM
I posted awhile back a query about the best falafel in Center City
I've now been to Maoz on South Street, food cart at 16th and JFK, and Mama's Vegetarian on 20th St, a block south of Market....
the winner is......Mama's Vegetarian
good falafel in a nice wrap, with as many toppings as you like (I choose hummus,cabbage,tomato,spicy sauce, and tahini), served by nice guys, I think its a fairly new place
now the next question:
What is Center City's best place for a gyro?
I think you need to try Bitar's and Magic Carpet, and the Vegetarian stand at Reading Terminal Market before you declare a city-wide winner.
I don't think I've ever had really good Gyro in Philly, but I suspect RTM has some decent places.
The falafel at the cart just south of market on 17th St is very good. The cabbage is nice and juicy and the falafel themselves are moist as well. I don't have much in philly to compare it with though. The owner is friendly. $3.50 for a regualr. Thanks for the heads up on Mama's, I noticed that place the other day and wondered about it.
Don't just lurk. Posts like these are useful. I don't bother with the PA chowhound site much because every third freaking post is about l'angolo, django, pif, tre scalini, or other south philly italian places.
I went to Mama's for a falafel today, and compared to Bitar's, it was much more moist, flavorful, and delicious. I think the fact that Mama's fries the falafel, and Bitar's grills theirs has a lot to do with it. I agree that Mama's is the best in the city, and that's where I'll go when I get the craving.
If you head to University City, Rami's ("The Falafel Expert") makes a very good rendition. Very soft and tasty. His truck is right next to Clark Park (?) on 40th Street (near Izzy & Zoe's).
The truck that parks on 38th Street is good, too, though not as good as Rami's.
Both incredibly cheap (actually, all falafel is very inexpensive) and worth searching out if you are on Penn's campus.
Clark Park is around 43rd and Baltimore. Rami's is parked at 40th and Locust. For a couple of days I couldn't find him (I admit that I may be addicted to his falafel) and thought he might have moved to another location. But the next day he said he had been at a relative's wedding, and that he'd always be at 40th and Locust.
Could the better taste and texture be attributable to the oil used for the frying?
I wonder sometimes how often the oil is changed at these kind of food vendor's kitchens, or for that matter, at restaurants.
Most places, if asked as to the kind of oil used, will reply, "vegetable oil."
I won't get into the health aspects and the harmful aspects of particular kinds of oils, but if the wrong kind of oil is used, and/or overused, you could be eating nasty food. On the other hand, if good and fresh oil is used, your food can be heavenly.
I would be interested to know how often these trucks and street vendors change their oil, and what kind is used.
If I can't get to these kinds of places, I buy a mix for felafel at the store (I have a favorite brand, far better than some of the other brands), and feel good that I can choose the kind of oil I use for the frying. (I always had an experience of the now defunct Sabra producting the "perfect" felafel sandwich, albeit with very "unperfect" service.)
And to the comment about how inexpensive are the components of a felafel sandwich, a big yes. Chick peas are dirt cheap. The most expensive part of the sandwich is the labor cost to assemble all the ingredients. The cost of Maoz' small sandwich is adequate for me. Can't see spending $5 to $6+ for a felafel sandwich, unless it is an extraordinary one.
I know next to nothing about falafel but I did try Maccabeam at 128 South 12th (near Sansom) and it was mighty, mighty tasty.