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Falafel Drive-in San Jose

After hearing about Falafel Drive-in on the board, elsewhere and from people I've talked to in SJ, recurring phrases were "San Jose institution" "best falafel in the world" "can't miss spot" "there since 1966" etc... It's even listed as #2 on tripadvisor.com for San Jose (that is my go-to site for hotels but I don't trust it on restos) I was curious about whether I would "get" what the regulars see in the place... this kind of hyperbole can lead to disappointment for an outsider.

So I picked up lunch there for group. I like this place! It's got some of the key ingredients that make local hole-in-the-wall institutions a blast... the "well-worn" location, the either especially personable or surly (in this case personable) staff, and most importantly, the "twist" that makes it unique, in this case the sweet red "secret sauce" on the falafels, baba gahnouj and hummus.

But, really, I hated the sauce. This seems to be part of what makes this place what it is, but, basically to me it was like baba ghanouj with ketchup. Didn't do it for me at all.

I tried the gyro, falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj and pita chips.

I'd say yes, the falafel were on par with the best I've had... they looked overcooked but in fact were wonderfully crispy outisde/moist inside. Indeed, this is excellent falafel.

The baba gahnouj itself was excellent, with a deep and rich smokiness. Hummus was pretty good.

I thought the pita chips were pretty much inedible. Coated with a very, very thick layer of spices (maybe za'atar?), almost black. Did not like them at all. The pitas which came with were also very much nothing special, so I was kind of missing a decent delivery vehicle for the very good hummus/baba... major bummer...

I'd go back for sure, with a better idea now on what to order. And, hold the sauce...

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  1. Great report. I never knew about this institution!!

    Here's the contact info for those interested:
    2301 Stevens Creek Blvd.
    San Jose
    (408) 294-7886

    1. they are also known for their banana milkshake.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hhc

        Exactly. The banana shakes are good and as a sworn carnivore, I was shocked by how tasty these falafels were and how much I liked them.

        1. re: Porthos

          The best falafel (much better than Falafel Drie-In) is at:
          www.holylandrestaurant.com/menu.html (510) 272-0535 677 Rand Avenue Oakland, CA 94610
          Big balls, loaded with sesame seeds, done from inside, not pigeon peas inside 60c/each

      2. Huh, the chile sauce should have been hot, not just sweet. They make it themselves, so maybe they got a batch of mostly sweet chiles. I thought hot sauce on falafels was weird at first, but I've gotten quite used to it.

        Until I had falafels here, I thought they were just nasty hard balls, suitable only for vegetarians who believe in suffering for their food. Now I'm a convert. Yum. Falafel's (they really spell it with the superfluous apostrophe) is one of our regular places. My only complaint is that the pita bread falls apart into a soggy mess unless you eat it very fast. But I still like to add extra tahini even though it hastens the decompostion process.

        We took a visiting friend here once. When we got there, we all exclaimed, "Wow, look at the line!" Except what he meant was "Look at the long line!" and what we meant was "Look at the short line!" By the time we finished our lunch, he conceded we were right.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Karen_Schaffer

          This place rocks! Because I hate it when the pita falls apart (and it ALWAYS does!) and makes such a mess, I've started ordering the falafel salad. Much cleaner and with more falafels.

        2. the red sauce is typically very hot... i adore the falafal and nothing else has compared to theirs. it was a regular lunch spot when I worked in SJ. I do like their pita chips... often picking them up for take out for dinner parties to put with homemade hummus I have made. I don't know about much else on the menu since all I have ever gotten were those two items.

          1. My sister can always tell when her husband, our dad (RIP) or my wife and I have lunch there without her. It's a great "hole-in-the-wall" place.