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falafel?

  • d

I was in Israel last month, and I'm craving the falafel I had there. We just moved to San Francisco... any suggestions for falafel stands?

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  1. o
    oakland veggie girl

    There is a very good falafel in Berkley, on Solano. Maybe someone else knows the name, but it is on the corner, in the back of a small shop selling Middle Eastern / Indian groceries with a few tables. Coming from The Alameda, you'd go down Solano, maybe about eight blocks or so and it would be on your near corner (if you look on every corner, you definitely can't miss it).

    If you want to stay closer to home, there's not too bad falafel on 24th, between Valencia and Bartlett (on the Cafe Boheme side), and they also have excellent, if slightly expensive, Turkish coffee there too.

    11 Replies
    1. re: oakland veggie girl

      The one on Solano (in Albany, not Berkeley) is called Sophia Cafe, and it is good. It's run by Israelis (closed on Saturdays).

      Also, for other East Bay falafels, Holy Land on College at Ashby in Elmwood (and a branch near Grand Lake in Oakland) is really good. Also closed Saturdays. Besides the delicious falafel sandwich, which is served in pita with abundant tahini and cabbage and onions (or you can get a falafel plate with a couple of salads), the Yemenite Malawah is to die for. It's like a cross between a pancake and a croissant, but the subtle sweetness of the dough is offset by the tomato-garlic "salsa" and the green chimichurri-like homemade hot sauce it's served with. Yum!

      Good luck...

      1. re: Alexandra
        r
        Robert Lauriston

        I think oakland veggie girl's talking about Zand's, also on a corner, also makes very good falafels.

        I wasn't wild about the food at Sophia. Holy Land's still my favorite.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          o
          oakland veggie girl

          zand's is the place i was referring to; thank you robert. very good. but oy, how could i forget about holy land. glad someone's on the ball!

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I also love Holy Land. I was heartbroken when my daughter graduated from preschool and took me out of that neighborhood.

          2. re: Alexandra

            I thnk Holy Land is better (and much fresher) than any falafel I've had in San Francisco. The mint lemonade alone is worth the drive over the bridge, and the pickled veggies are so good.

            Truly Med's schwarma's better than their falafel.

            1. re: Alexandra

              I second Sophia Cafe. I live in the neighborhood and have found the staff friendly and the atmosphere inviting. In too many instances the Zand owner's businesslike manner comes across as cold and her employees seem melancholy.

              1. re: bunnysitter

                The people at Zand are always friendly to us and I much prefer their falafels to Sophia Cafe's.

                1. re: bunnysitter

                  I went into Zand to buy some (very good) yogurt and the employee did indeed seem melancholy.

                  I've noticed that the cafe next to Cafe Raj lower down on Solano sells sandwiches, including falafel, has anyone tried it?

                  1. re: Glencora

                    Eunice Gourmet? If that's it the only thing I get there is the Latest Scoop gelato.

                  2. re: bunnysitter

                    http://www.zandpastry.com/

                    The site has an old Oakland Tribune review that tells the story of owner Moniar Attar (her married name was Zand). After running a pastry shop in Iran for over a decade, in 1979 the government demanded all woman in the shop to veil themselves. Attar refused and the shop was closed by the officials. She decided to move her family to the United States where she opened Zand in 1988.

                    Anyway, I've always found them helpful if not chatty.

                    I wonder if the new place on Solano, Saffron gourmet will sell falafel.

                2. re: oakland veggie girl

                  Are you thinking of Zand's? Mrs. Zand is Persian but has lots of Israeli canned goods and quite tasty Persian food. Plus falafel. On the other hand, the Jerusalem Organic at Solano and the Alameda is run by an very sweet Arab guy from Jerusalem. I'm not one of the falafel cognosenti, but most of his food is very good. And then there is the Sophia Cafe, run by Israelis, kosher as far as I can tell.

                3. r
                  Robert Lauriston

                  Just Like Home at 1924 Irving near 20th Av.

                  Truly Mediterranean at 3109 16th St. near Valencia.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I second Truly Med. On Tuesday's and Fridays they do Schwermas as well - MMMMM!

                    There is another one located in North Beach, though I've only heard it falls a tad short of the Mission location.

                    1. re: Dennis S
                      r
                      Robert Lauriston

                      Truly Mediterranean has schawerma every day. At the 16th St. branch, on Tuesdays and Fridays it's chicken with yogurt sauce, other days it's a mix of lamb and beef with tahini sauce. At the other branches, both are available every day.

                      1. re: Dennis S

                        In the two and a half years this topic was dormant, the North Beach and Berkeley branches closed.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Just Like Home is the vilest Middle Eastern food I've ever encountered.

                        1. re: Poot
                          r
                          Robert Lauriston

                          I've never had anything there but plain falafels, which were great.

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          What about Sunrise Deli out near Just Like Home? I really like their falafels.

                          Sunrise Deli & Cafe
                          2115 Irving St
                          San Francisco
                          415.664.8210

                          Link: http://www.google.com/local?hl=en&amp...

                        3. I just finished off a falafel from Oasis Grill in the financial district (Sacramento and Drumm). Their is done in the lavash-wrap style: well-spiced falafel with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber relish, tahini and hummus (and harissa if you specify "spicy"), wrapped in lavash and warmed on the grill for a minute.

                          1. Sabra Grill's is outstanding. Very fresh and flavorful. On Grant near Bush.

                            1. My very favorite is in Palo Alto, on California. Mediterranean Wraps. The falafel is excellent, as is the schwarma and anything else you could want. And the wrap with falafel is HUGE! Get it w/ roasted eggplant. Yum...I miss working in PA because I never go there anymore, but it's definitely worth a visit if you're at all nearby.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: wlw18

                                I agree! Mediterranean Wraps has the best falafel I’ve tried in the Bay Area. It’s moist and perfectly spiced. Plus the owners are super friendly. Definitely worth a trip!

                                1. re: Lee

                                  Mediterranean Wraps has a good falafel indeed, but it's not what I think of as Israeli style - all chick pea, not fava, and cumin-y seasoning. At least this is the style that places that self-identify as Israeli (e.g. Cafe Jaffa in Boston) serve.

                                  For that style, the best I've found in the Silicon Valley area is Cafe 220. I'd love to know of more choices for that specific style either in Silicon Valley or San Francisco, since a lot of falafel here tends toward the fava side of the spectrum.

                                  Michael

                                  -----
                                  Cafe 220
                                  220 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                  Mediterranean Wraps
                                  433 N California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                2. re: wlw18

                                  I got a lamb shawerma and eggplant wrap at Mediterranean Wraps yesterday. It was good (my favorite is still Truly Med. in SF) but the sample falafel they gave me was so good I went back today to get more. Best I've had. Better than Sunrise Deli's.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    This was on University? I was at the California Ave. location last week and got a lamb shawerma wrap -- didn't see eggplant offered. Their babaganoush is great, though, a slight chunky version. And I agree, their falafel is the best. Why is the pita so bad, I wonder? It was whole wheat and quite dry. (And free, like the falafel and the hot sauce.)

                                    1. re: Glencora

                                      California. The lamb and eggplant wrap was on the specials board.

                                      The pita I had were fine. Looked like white, didn't think to order whole wheat (which I prefer).

                                      1. re: Glencora

                                        Agree about the falafel. The owner/manager guy does himself a great service giving out the free balls every once in a while. I'm now addicted to the falafel, and usually I'm a schwarma guy. 50/50 for me now what I'll order.

                                        One day he also gave me free tea - I love the strong sweet tea they serve there. I had a business meeting recently where I recommended it and we sat out in the back with teas and treats.

                                        ( California ave --- there isn't one on university, last time I checked. The spot that was Andale for so long turned into Med Wraps for a while and is now Steam. )

                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Since my last post in this thread from three years ago, we now have fantastic Israeli-style falafel at Falafel Stop in Sunnyvale (on Sunnyvale-Saratoga just south of Fremont). The sandwich features their golden all-chickpea falafel, a great mix of vegetables, tahini, and a little red and green hot sauce, all served in fresh homemade pita. Just wonderfully delicious, and such a remarkable change from the recent past!

                                        Michael

                                        1. re: mdg

                                          I love the pickles and the red/green sauce at Falafel Stop! I also like that I can pretty much eat it with my hands without it falling apart on me.

                                          1. re: kclb

                                            I love their pita bread. Plus they give a free falafel ball to everyone in line! Take that Mediterranean Wraps!

                                            Takes at least one time to figure out the ordering inside though.

                                    2. Anyone tried the Falafel King in LA? near UCLA area? I was there sometime ago and really liked their deep fried potato pieces which were sliced very thinly and battered and deep fried.

                                      Was wondering if anyone know of a place which makes the same kind of potatoes in the bay area, preferrably San Francisco.

                                      Thanks

                                      1. A Lebanese friend recommended Falafel Drive Inn (in Santa Clara?) highly, but I've never been. Any reports?

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: Windy
                                          c
                                          Caitlin McGrath

                                          I haven't been there since I was a kid (it's been around a looong time), but here's an old report from Gordon Wing.

                                          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                          1. re: Windy

                                            I use to go there for lunch at least couple times a month. The falafel were really well done and the pita bread sandwiches were great. Never had the milk shakes or drinks (coffee and tea myself).

                                            We use to buy a dozen or so of the falafels to munch on the way back to the office. If I remmeber correctly they were four for a quarter. That is why we had not problem getting someone to go.

                                            Will have to take a drive down soon.

                                            1. re: Windy
                                              j
                                              Judith Hurley

                                              We haven't been lately, but I think it lives up to its reputation as the best falafel on this continent, and I'm willing to include New York in that declaration (which is huge for me : - )

                                              1. re: Judith Hurley

                                                That's good enough for me.

                                                1. re: Judith Hurley

                                                  Just an addendum: I moved from the South Bay to San Francisco 9 years ago and was introduced to FDI about a year before I moved up. I've spent years holding FDI as my paragon of falafel. Even though I like Truly Mediterranean and their lavash-style falafel, I've had a ritual where I travel to FDI about once a month to get my fix.

                                                  Three weeks ago I went to NYC for the first time and a friend turned me on to Chickpea around 8th/Broadway at St. Mark's Place. Amazing pita falafel which unfortunately doesn't have the hot sauce from FDI that I love, but they make their pita's from scratch! Warm, soft, and tasty. Their falafel sandwiches are smaller than FDI's, but they also cheaper. One sandwich and their fresh lemonade on a 90deg day in the middle of the afternoon is one of the best pick-me-ups I've had.

                                                  1. re: Eric

                                                    I'm a NYC transplant and I have to say, I have not yet found a falafel here that I truly enjoy. I've been to Holy Land, but like all the others, the falafel is just not the same as say Chickpea (...mm... how I miss it so...). I have come to believe that the real culprit is the pita. Whats the deal with all the ridiculously thin pita around here?

                                                2. re: Windy

                                                  I went to Santa Clara way back when and this place is the best i've been to in the US.

                                                  Awesome gyros, fantastic falafels!!!!

                                                  Falafel Drive
                                                  2301 Stevens Creek Blvd., SJ
                                                  408.294.7886

                                                3. In SF (in order of preference):

                                                  1. Drumm Liquor near Drumm and Market.

                                                  2. Baladie on Kearny near Bush.

                                                  3. There's a Sephardic place a couple of doors down from Davids Deli on Geary that is good and cheap.

                                                  1. We sometimes get our Friday lunch at work from this place, Athena Grill in Santa Clara.

                                                    Their food is fresher and less greasy than other place I've been to (including Falafel Drive-In, not "Inn" :p).

                                                    Their menu is online at the link below.

                                                    Hong.

                                                    Link: http://www.athenagrill.com/

                                                    1. Gyro King – 25 Grove St. (between Larkin & Hyde)across from the library.

                                                      14 Replies
                                                      1. re: Sharon S.

                                                        Gyro King is reportedly now Sahara. Same or similar menu.

                                                        1. re: Sharon S.

                                                          I prefer Gyro King (still using that name) to Truly Med and the others in the area I've tried, and it's right on the MUNI line.

                                                          1. re: ChowHoundGal

                                                            Have you been there since they changed to Sahara? Or are you saying that they're still called Gyro King?

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              They're still called Gyro King. 25 Grove St.; 415.621-8313

                                                              1. re: ChowHoundGal

                                                                I'm surprised they haven't been sued, wasn't that place in Lower Pac Heights off Divisadero forced to change their name by the Burger King lawyers?

                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                  I doubt it. After all there is still the Shanghai Dumpling King and my favorite the Pho King.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Shanghai Dumpling King
                                                                  3319 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                  Pho King
                                                                  638 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                                                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                    Odd, you'd think BK would want the publicity that came from associating themselves with something as awesome as Pho King.
                                                                    Also, to be slightly useful to the OP, but Berkeley-centric I used to think Sunrise Delil had the best falafel in Berkeley, but Chick-o-Pea has recently taken the crown. Also, I was reminded on my way into work today that there is nothing wrong with Oasis Grill's falafel. And to reiterate what some people have said here I have not found a great pita in the Bay Area yet. Most falafel joints seem to prefer lavash, but I don't mind at all.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Pho King
                                                                    638 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                                                                    Oasis Grill
                                                                    2114 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                                    1. re: ...tm...

                                                                      Oh man, I was walking past Oasis Grill a couple of weeks ago and they were passing out fresh hot samples. Easily the best falafel I have ever had! I wasn't sure if it was just because I was so hungry, but I'll be back to try them again.

                                                                      1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                        I walked past there at 12:30 today and was shocked by how long the line was. Must have been 30-40 people. Are they handing out Benjamins with their food, or is it really that good?

                                                                        1. re: Jeff

                                                                          Finally got to try Oasis Grill yesterday. The falafels were as good as I remembered. The Kefka Shawarma was tasty too, but quite a but smaller than those at Simply Med and Sunrise Deli.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Oasis Grill
                                                                          2114 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                                          1. re: Jeff

                                                                            It is possible that the Mosque behind the store just finished services.

                                                                        2. re: ...tm...

                                                                          I prefer the lavosh. less wrap, more filling ratio.

                                                                          1. re: ...tm...

                                                                            long-time devotee of Falafel Drive-In, just tried Sunrise Deli (in the Sunset) for the first time. I agree about the pita - some of the Greek places in the South Bay have what I would like for pita. As far as the falafel balls themselves - I still put FDI #1, the hot sauce just takes it over the top. I enjoyed the pickled turnip and the seasoning at Sunrise, coming in 2d to FDI is no disgrace.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Falafel Drive-in
                                                                            2301 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

                                                                            Sunrise Deli & Cafe
                                                                            2115 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                                            1. re: misterb

                                                                              Come up to Med Wraps on California Street in PA. Superior to FDI in my opinion. Snappier crust, deeper taste, fresher veg, hotter hot sauce.

                                                              2. The owner of Small World deli in downtown Napa is from Haifa and makes an excellent falafel, fried to order, with beautifully fresh garnishes and sauces.

                                                                Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                1. s
                                                                  Sherman Chan

                                                                  Sunrise Deli in the sunset is my personal favorite. They're pretty popular in the area for falafels, so they move a lot. I always see them fry up like 200 or so at a time.

                                                                  2115 Irving St. San Francisco, CA 94122. 415-664-8210

                                                                  1. Taboun is very good and it's walking distance from my house. I know the owner and know he uses the freshest ingredients.
                                                                    201 Parnassus Ave

                                                                    I like Holy Land as well

                                                                      1. re: Lori SF

                                                                        There was a positive review of Old Jerusalem's falafels two weeks ago:

                                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367388

                                                                      2. Sunrise Deli is my favorite falafel restaurant in San Francisco. They have a basic youtube video, check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX33Uk...

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: p0ck3taces

                                                                          There's a branch in Berkeley, too. Is the Sunrise Deli in downtown SF connected?

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Sunrise Deli
                                                                          2456 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                                          Sunrise Deli & Cafe
                                                                          2115 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                            the year+ I lived in the Sunset on 19th and Kirkham (a million years ago) the Shawarma or Falafel from Sunrise was a long day default meal.

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              Yes, there are 3 Sunrise branches. Not only did I like the falafel at the Berkeley branch, although skip the avocado, I was impressed with the parsleyness of the tabouli.
                                                                              http://www.sunrisedeli.net/

                                                                          2. Holy Land if you want to eat in, Oasis deli on Telegraph if you want to take home.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mamachef

                                                                              Holy Land falafel with their very authentic and amazingly flavored "zhug" hot sauce, is fabulous. But I especially love their salad combo plate,

                                                                              1. re: escargot3

                                                                                The salad combo is my favorite dish there. If I'm really hungry, I have them add a few falafels to the plate.

                                                                                -----
                                                                                Holy Land Restaurant
                                                                                2965 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                                                            2. I am frankly a little obsessed with Falafel Etc. in Fremont. See my post here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8570...

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: jillyju

                                                                                I like that they use canola oil to fry the falafel. Most places use soy or corn oil.

                                                                              2. My new favorite is Mediterranean Wraps in Palo Alto.

                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  I love med wraps. I finally got hooked on the felafel when they gave me free balls with my schwarma order. I also recommend the tea, which he'll sometimes give a fresh glass of. Addictive like the felafel.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                    Falafel Stop in Sunnyvale is highly regarded by Middle Eastern ex-pats. Its bare bones infrastructure make it feel even more authentic. Nice site baked fluffy pita bread and a generous variety of sides make if far superior to the Falafel Drive In which uses iceberg lettuce and commercial paper thin pita. The falafel balls are firm and crunchy adding substance to the wonderful fillers that build the layers of flavor.

                                                                                    http://www.falafelstop.biz/
                                                                                    1325 Sunnyvale Saratoga Rd
                                                                                    Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                                                                                    1. re: Ken Hoffman

                                                                                      Falafel Stop is definitely my favorite in Silicon Valley. It's Israeli-style all chickpea falafel, rather than the heavily fava bean falafel at Mediterranean Wraps. Both are very good exemplars of their styles, but my personal taste leans toward the Israeli style by a wide margin. Plus Falafel Stop's pita is amazingly good. The sandwich as a whole with bread, falafel, and vegetables is one of the great sandwiches anywhere in the area.

                                                                                      Michael

                                                                                      1. re: Ken Hoffman

                                                                                        Yes the falafel is light and crunchy. The salads and garnishes are also fresh. The only problem is the parking.

                                                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                        They also have good falafel. Unlike Falafel Stop, I think they put parsley into their mix and it's a little heartier. They also have a great Mujadarah.

                                                                                      3. I agree! I love their pita.

                                                                                        Too bad it's so popular, although with the huge population of Israelis and vegetarian Indians in the neighborhood, it's not surprising.

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                            De Anza Blvd in Sunnyvale/Cupertino between Fremont and Homestead. It's bright yellow. Limited parking.

                                                                                            1. re: 512window

                                                                                              What's the name of the place? It's not clear who you're agreeing with.

                                                                                              1. re: 512window

                                                                                                From the cross streets, gotta be Falafel Stop?

                                                                                                1. re: 512window

                                                                                                  Thanks, turns out a bug cropped up Friday that mispositioned replies. I bet you meant to reply to Ken Hoffman or mdg re: Falafel Stop and the bug positioned your post as a reply to the OP instead.