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Israeli-Style Falafel

a_and_w Feb 14, 2007 02:38 PM

Does anyone know of any places that serve Israeli-style falafel, preferably on the west side? By Israeli-style, I mean that they include lots of different salads, cole slaws, fried eggplant, and (sometimes) french fries on your sandwich. If you're familiar with Azuri Cafe in NYC, that's what I have in mind...

  1. wilafur Feb 14, 2007 02:43 PM

    would lebanese be similar? if so, maybe try out sunnin in westwood.

    1. k
      kevin Feb 14, 2007 02:46 PM

      not really i think amer's in the valley is pretty close.

      1. a_and_w Feb 14, 2007 03:17 PM

        Thanks to you both for the responses. Amer's does appear to be what I'm looking for. Sunnin does not, but sounds fantastic nonetheless. I will be trying both!

        1. k
          kevin Feb 14, 2007 03:19 PM

          you can also go to Nigala and order a souped up falafel there. they have a wide range of salads only problem is they'll charge additional and it's not AYCE.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kevin
            a_and_w Feb 14, 2007 03:22 PM

            Thanks -- I'm happy paying extra if the salads are good. Where is Nigala located?

          2. d
            ddyouandme Feb 14, 2007 03:33 PM

            My Israeli friends really like Habayit on Pico near Bundy. I can't say if it's authentic, but I'm sure they can add the things you want if they aren't customary. I'm also a fan of Haifa on Pico near Robertson, but i don't think that's really what you describe either.

            Definitely go to Sunin, though - it's incredible. The hummus is some of the best I've ever had.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ddyouandme
              a_and_w Feb 14, 2007 03:51 PM

              Habayit sounds right, and I will definitely try Sunin -- I'm a huge hummus fan.

              1. re: ddyouandme
                westsidegal Feb 14, 2007 05:06 PM

                if you go to sunnin, i'd recommend that you don't have the falafal sandwich unless it is ok for you to have a sandwich where:
                1) the falafal is made ahead of time and reheated in a microwave next to the fryer (soggy falafal)
                and
                2) the sandwich is assembled by wrapping a huge white, cold, pita bread around the soggy falafal and tahini and fillings. this whole thing is then wrapped in foil and heated on the grill. the bread turns into a soggy, goopy, paste-like mess.

              2. j
                jlq3d3 Feb 14, 2007 05:08 PM

                It is Nagila, not Nigala, if its the place on Pico you are thinking of. Nagila is on the north side of Pico east of beverwill. It is a Pizza restaurant with other Israeli food including falafel.

                Haifa is also on pico further east.
                You can also try Wholesome Pita on melrose near La Brea.

                2 Replies
                1. re: jlq3d3
                  omotosando Feb 14, 2007 08:27 PM

                  Just ate at Nagila. Falafel horrible. Hummus mediocre. Had a bite of companion's lamb schwarma. Tasted a lot better than my horrible falafel, so I ended up with plate envy. Won't be returning (oh well, it was cheap).

                  1. re: omotosando
                    tony michaels Feb 15, 2007 01:12 PM

                    Now I know what not to Have a(t) Nagila. (Sorry, could not help myself).

                2. e
                  epop Feb 14, 2007 08:15 PM

                  not one of these is worthy of being called a great representative of felafel, imho.

                  1. j
                    jlq3d3 Feb 14, 2007 08:55 PM

                    I agree, I do not like Nagila's falafel. I do however like their pizza and Israeli salads.

                    1. Skunk2Racer Feb 14, 2007 09:11 PM

                      How About Falafel King? 3rd Street promande Santa Monica

                      1. j
                        jlq3d3 Feb 14, 2007 09:24 PM

                        Falafel King is pretty good.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jlq3d3
                          hrhboo Feb 15, 2007 08:27 AM

                          I am Middle-Eastern and second (third?) the Falafel King rec. It isn't flash or fancy but it tastes remarkably similar to the falafel I'm used to eating back home. The fastfood atmosphere can be off-putting, but falafel is street food after all.

                        2. e
                          epop Feb 15, 2007 07:37 AM

                          again, this is felafel for people that never had a true felafel, made at home or at a
                          great place in the middle east. one acid test is to see how one feels after eating it; you should feel light and great, like you ate something healthy, not an atom bomb.

                          btw, i've had Azuri many times + agree with you that it is excellent, a far cut above every one of the million felafel places in NYC. the same goes for here. Go to Azuri or Najib on Graham in Williamsburg. (sorry the post keeps duplicating the paragraph below!)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: epop
                            t
                            Tabetai yo Feb 16, 2007 08:26 AM

                            Azuri rocks. Wish we had something like that in San Francisco.
                            On a slightly related topic, I just had kibbeh yesterday for the first time--the stuffed kind. That was GOOD.

                          2. e
                            epop Feb 15, 2007 07:45 AM

                            this from a post last year: Then you should definitely pick Falafel Palace. Cruise up Reseda Blvd., eat, then keep going north, get on the 118 and go West out to Moorpark that way.

                            Afterwards, post here and let us know how they measured up.

                            Permalink | Report | Reply
                            ladelfa Aug 22, 2006

                            re: ladelfa
                            what makes their's great? just curious... i will head up there, but can't for about 10 days. i believe this is the place someone mentioned as well

                            Permalink | Report | Reply
                            epop Aug 23, 2006

                            re: epop
                            I mentioned it in an earlier post, but they're an interesting choice for pita due to the shear variety of toppings for your falafel/pita sandwich. Also, the food there is very, very fresh....cooked to order and seasoned well and tasty. They must have like 25 different toppings from marinated/roasted eggplant, babaganoush, guacamole, different cheeses, roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, the list goes on and on. Also convenient on Reseda Blvd which is close to the 101 and 118 Fwys.

                            | Permalink | Report | Reply
                            davinagr Aug 24, 2006

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: epop
                              a_and_w Feb 15, 2007 10:48 AM

                              Wow...Falafel Place sounds like the real deal!

                              1. re: a_and_w
                                truefoodie Feb 15, 2007 10:58 AM

                                We've been frequenting this place for over a decade. Great. Sam (the Owner) has catered a few of my parties - his wife does all the cooking... I bring him my own platters and bowls or the food comes in yucky tins -- other than that he deliveres the goods fresh and ready to go...and at a very fair price.
                                The falafal there is great and for parties he has done lamb stew, a salmon cooked in banana leaves, dolmas to die for and a variety of other yummies not on their regular menu.
                                If you are just grabbing lunch or something get the eggplant poppers - they are greasy but sooo yum!

                                1. re: a_and_w
                                  Snackish Feb 21, 2007 09:25 AM

                                  They usually have at least 3 different kinds of eggplant toppings that are all delish. The falafel is more green on the inside than brown or tan and has a nice crisp crust. It doesn't taste of cinnamon as so many falafels do.

                                  They also have a bar full of all kinds of pickles - usually 3 kinds of cabbage, peppers, etc.

                                  1. re: Snackish
                                    e
                                    epop Mar 10, 2007 11:28 AM

                                    very average falafel, truly disappointed

                                    1. re: epop
                                      a_and_w Mar 12, 2007 12:18 PM

                                      Epop, do you mean Falafel Palace? If so, that's unfortunate. Have you tried Habayit on Pico? Not the best collection of salads, but the falafel and hummus are tasty. Reminds me a bit of Hoomos Aslii or Chickpea in NYC.

                                      1. re: a_and_w
                                        e
                                        epop Mar 12, 2007 03:27 PM

                                        i don't like those places in nyc, btw. yes, felafel palace. not sure where to try next

                              2. PaulF Feb 15, 2007 09:00 AM

                                I can't tell from this thread if we're talking about a certain type of falafel or a certain type of falafel sandwich.

                                Are the Israeli falafels different or is the ingredients on the sandwich different ("I mean that they include lots of different salads, cole slaws, fried eggplant, and (sometimes) french fries on your sandwich").

                                I'd be very curious to try a type of falalfel that is different than the type I'm used to ...

                                Sham, in Santa Monica, happens to make falafels that are different than any I've ever had elsewhere, btw, but they are Syrian I think, not Israeli.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: PaulF
                                  a_and_w Feb 15, 2007 10:58 AM

                                  Paul, to clarify, the description "Israeli style" seems to mean different things to different people. Some take it as a reference to the falafel itself, which tends to be made with chick peas, in contrast to fava beans for Arabic falafel. But I've seen both kinds served at "Israeli-style" joints, so I rely more on the salads and toppings they put on the sandwich to distinguish the styles. Israeli places usually have cucumber-tomato salad, several types of cole slaw, and fried eggplant, among others. Also, the hummus tends to have less lemon and tahini.

                                  1. re: a_and_w
                                    hrhboo Feb 15, 2007 11:47 AM

                                    Arabic falafel is usually made with chickpeas

                                    1. re: a_and_w
                                      PaulF Feb 15, 2007 01:06 PM

                                      Interesting.

                                      In my case, I rarely order falafel in a sandwich, I like it on a plate. So it would not have occurred to me.

                                      For what it's worth, there is an Israeli place on Westwood Boulevard in the same neighborhood as a lot of other Middle Eastern places. Is is Shamshiri? I can't remember the name. But it's close to a few other Middle East/hoimmos places and the place I'm thinking of has that less lemon and tahini hommos.

                                      Maybe someone else can help with the name - they might have the falafel sandwich you seek.

                                      1. re: PaulF
                                        a_and_w Feb 15, 2007 02:23 PM

                                        Oh, you should see it in the plates too. If you ever get to NYC, try Azuri, the place I mentioned in the OP. They guy who runs it is a jerk, but his falafel plates are works of art, dabbed as they are with literally dozens of fresh, colorful salads. Also, his hummus, which is studded with some herb (parsley?) is so creamy and savory...now I'm salivating.

                                        Anyway, I'd love more info on the Westwood Blvd place, if anyone has it, as that may fairly near me.

                                        1. re: a_and_w
                                          PaulF Feb 15, 2007 02:46 PM

                                          Well, even at Falafel King, you can order falafel balls on a plate with your choice of numerous salads including cucumber, tomato and onion, several types of eggplant, hommos, green salad, there's gotta be a dozen sides there. They aren't all salads, though. They have things like grape leaves and so on.

                                          I would think that you could approximate your NY experience there.

                                          1. re: PaulF
                                            a_and_w Feb 16, 2007 11:23 AM

                                            Didn't mean to make this a NY vs. LA thing -- it's really more and Israeli thing. I guess I'm not explaining it well.

                                            1. re: a_and_w
                                              PaulF Feb 16, 2007 01:26 PM

                                              It seems toi me you're looking for certain side dishes with your falafel, not a certain type of falafel.

                                              Or better stated, you're looking for certain ingredients on your falafel sandwich, not a certain type of falafel in the sandwich.

                                              1. re: PaulF
                                                a_and_w Feb 16, 2007 02:39 PM

                                                Precisely! Certain very specific ingredients...

                                          2. re: a_and_w
                                            PaulF Feb 15, 2007 02:47 PM

                                            Shamshiri is Persian, btw, I looked it up. So either there's a different place I'm thinking of or I'm just confused.

                                      2. re: PaulF
                                        a_and_w Apr 9, 2007 03:11 PM

                                        Finally tried the Arabic falafel and hummus at Sham -- both were excellent. The hummus was particularly tasty, even better than Sunnin, imo. Many thanks to PaulF for the rec!

                                        1. re: a_and_w
                                          PaulF Apr 10, 2007 10:09 AM

                                          Cool.

                                          It's nice of you to respond to a rec after you've tried a place -- a nice touch.

                                          Sham is an interesting little place.

                                          Do you also like Persian food? I enjoy Tajrish in Marina Del Rey once in a while. Again, it's a little bit different. They have hommus, but no falafel.

                                          Here is their web page. There is a link to their menu:

                                          http://www.tajrishrestaurant.net/fmi/...

                                      3. j
                                        jlq3d3 Feb 15, 2007 12:16 PM

                                        Both Israeli and Arabic Falalfels are usually made with chickpeas. I believe fava bean falafel is more common just in Egypt, although it is found in other places too.

                                        1. a_and_w Feb 15, 2007 01:08 PM

                                          I stand corrected re the fava beans comment, but this just underscores why I've given up trying to distinguish styles of falafel based on the balls themselves.

                                          1. l
                                            ladelfa Feb 16, 2007 08:15 AM

                                            I still stand by my recommendation of Falafel Palace. Pita Kitchen next to the newstand on Ventura Blvd at Van Nuys (if memory serves) has also been consistently good.

                                            I've read some good things about Hungry Pocket Falafel House on Pico across from Santa Monica College, but I haven't been yet. I'm planning on going real soon, though. Apparently they do all-you-can-eat falafel on Mondays and Wednesdays. Don't know if it's in the Israeli mode or otherwise.

                                            BTW, falafel was traditionally made only from fava beans, but many of the Ashkenazi Jews who settled in Israel had a hereditary inability to digest fava beans (this is called "favism"), so they switched to garbanzos.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: ladelfa
                                              a
                                              anothernotch Mar 12, 2007 12:21 PM

                                              Agreed. Pita Kitchen makes good falafel. Also, Carnival on Woodman between Ventura and Moorpark is a good option.

                                              1. re: ladelfa
                                                l
                                                ladelfa Mar 22, 2007 07:38 AM

                                                Went to Hungry Pocket about a week ago. This won't satisfy you in terms of having a wide selection of salads and condiments, but I will say this: the falafels, by themselves, are very flavorful. Not as herby as I usually like, but somehow slightly tangy, well balanced in terms of salt and onion, properly cooked (not pasty or anything like that).

                                                The guy running the joint is friendly too. He explained to us how the all-you-can-eat thing works: your first falafel sandwich is $3.45 (regular price). If you can finish that and can eat a second, third, or more, then you pay $6.25. He'll keep making them (to order) and you'll keep eatin' them. I didn't inquire whether one could forgo the lettuce and tomato and just get falafels and pita. My dining companion and I both ate only one, and then I ordered two falafel balls ala carte (50 cents each) just to evaluate in isolation.

                                                I read above your reply about Falafel Palace (Northridge) having only "very average falafel" -- I'd be curious to hear what you think about the falafel here. But again: where Falafel Palace shines is in their assortment of salads, and there's not much of that at Hungry Pocket.

                                                1. re: ladelfa
                                                  a_and_w Mar 22, 2007 09:50 AM

                                                  I live fairly near Hungry Pocket and will check it out. Whose reply are you referring to? I haven't yet tried Falafel Palace...I think it was epop who was dissatisfied. I've been impressed with Falafel King, even though it wasn't Israeli style, and quite satisfied with Habayit even though it didn't have the diversity of salads I wanted. In fact, I think I'll hit Habayit or Hungry Pocket today for lunch...yum.

                                                  1. re: a_and_w
                                                    e
                                                    epop Mar 23, 2007 05:20 PM

                                                    I was dissatisfied with the felafel b/c i've had much better.
                                                    i don't care if it is israeli style-- we're talking freshness, cleanliness and how one feels after eating it.
                                                    take a look at felafel king, a close look. the felafel is like the place, average. i've yet to try one in LA that is ok. i don't blame LA. NYC only has 2 places, for ex. people flock to paris and there are long lines at a place unworthy...

                                                  2. re: ladelfa
                                                    l
                                                    ladelfa Mar 30, 2007 12:18 PM

                                                    Two more reports from the falafelquest:

                                                    Top Falafel, Coldwater Cyn (at Victory, I think) in North Hollywood, behind Numero Uno pizza. This was pretty decent falafel, if not quite so tasty on its own as Hungry Pocket (see above). The combo, about $6, came with hummus and eggplant ganoush, a couple pitas, assorted pickles, lettuce, tomato and about six balls of falafel. I was starving and rushed, so I wolfed it down; I'll have to go again to do a more contemplative appraisal. But it's certainly worth another visit.

                                                    Papa Joe's, Colorado Blvd in Glendale, between the mall and the on/offramp to the 5 fwy. I'd driven past this place a bunch of times and never gotten to stop until last week. Their sign touts shwarma, kabobs, and falafel, but seriously, they need to take falafel off the sign. This wasn't the absolute worst falafel I've ever had, in that it wasn't microwaved into rubbery inedibility, but it was certainly in the bottom three or four. Crumbly inside, with oil soaking into the outer quarter-inch, it tasted like it was a powered mix from a box hastily stirred up with cold water back in the kitchen right after I'd ordered. Five or six meyer-lemon-sized balls with an odd doughnutty flavor -- I choked down about three and a half of them. In fairness, the combo came with fairly decent hummus, and the little chopped cumber-tomato-dill salad the lady cobbled together was also pretty tasty. But come on, if you've got falafel in big letters on the outside of your restaurant, you need to actually make the paste ahead of time -- from scratch -- and you need to keep (or at least bring) your deep fryer up to the right temperature when someone orders it.

                                                2. j
                                                  jencounter Feb 16, 2007 08:43 AM

                                                  Also on Reseda Blvd at Nordhoff is Pita Pocket which is Israeli and yes, you can have french fries or rice on your falafel. They also have amazing laffa.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: jencounter
                                                    r
                                                    robgue Feb 16, 2007 10:11 PM

                                                    awesome. it has french fries. i'd consider that more authentic israeli. i lived off of these in haifa and jerusalem one summer. i'll have to check it out.

                                                    1. re: robgue
                                                      f
                                                      foodism Feb 16, 2007 10:35 PM

                                                      That isn't necessarily authentically Israeli. French fries are served inside sandwiches from felafel to shawarmas all over the middle east.

                                                      1. re: foodism
                                                        a_and_w Feb 21, 2007 09:16 AM

                                                        Maybe, but in America I've seen fries on falafel and shawarma primarily at Israeli places. Regardless, if Pita Pocket has laffa, I'm there -- thanks for the tip, Jen!

                                                        1. re: a_and_w
                                                          j
                                                          jencounter Feb 22, 2007 04:33 PM

                                                          Sure thing, hope you enjoy.

                                                          The family who runs the place are wonderful people, too. Makes all the difference in the world.

                                                  2. Midlife Feb 16, 2007 11:32 AM

                                                    Any recs in the OC?? [The farther South the better!]

                                                    This is an interesting topic for me as I had falafel on pita in Israel nearly 20 years ago and have never had falafel as good here since. The memory may be fading, but the falafel I remember was softer on the outside than anything I've tried here and there were more other accompaniments than I've ever seen offered here. I remember the shape being sortof UFO-like [convex on both sides]. I'll check out some of these recs next time I'm in LA...... but OC recs would be appreciated.

                                                    1. j
                                                      jlq3d3 Feb 16, 2007 11:31 PM

                                                      According to wikipedia: Only in Israel and outside the Middle East is a Greek-style Pita bread used as a pocket and stuffed with the different ingredients;

                                                      1. a_and_w Mar 9, 2007 09:15 AM

                                                        Tried Habayit, Sunin, and Falafel King recently. Habayit is definitely Israeli, though their selection of salads is virtually non-existent. Since I don't eat cucumbers (i.e., no Israeli salad) the only condiments I got on my sandwich were cole slaw and hummus. Was a little nervous but the sandwich was surprisingly delicious. Cole slaw has no mayo, which is nice, and hummus tastes almost sweet (i.e., not too tangy) which is how I like it. Scratched the itch just fine until I can hit some of the other places mentioned.

                                                        As for Sunin, I tried a falafel sandwich and hummus. Falafel was freshly cooked, and I actually like it when places grill your sandwich to crisp up the pita. Still, as others have noted, the hummus is the real star -- a nice balance of tangy and creamy. I prefer my hummus with less tahini and lemon, but this was a good representative of that style. .

                                                        Finally, I was really impressed with Falafel King. Falafel was freshly cooked, and they had the widest selection of salads (e.g., multiple types of eggplant) thus far. As PaulF advised, I was able to construct a reasonable approximation of what I mentioned in the OP. Have to admit, I really liked the pita chips, too, though they're a little unwieldy on the sandwich. I think platters are the way to go at Falafel King...

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: a_and_w
                                                          E Eto Mar 9, 2007 05:50 PM

                                                          Hey a_and_w, I'm following you around today. I kind of grew up on Falafel King (eating there since I was about 12-13 years old), and they've always made an oversized unwieldy sandwich (especially with all the salad they stuff in there), but I thought they topped it with fried sweet potatoes. Did they switch to pita chips? I do agree that platters there are the better way to go, but those falafel sandwiches hold a special place, especially since I pretty much discovered middle eastern flavors from them when I was in middle school.

                                                          1. re: E Eto
                                                            a_and_w Mar 10, 2007 10:19 AM

                                                            I thought the guy called them pita chips, but now that you mention it, they tasted more like sweet potatoes. Maybe he was asking "chips on your pita?" Delicious either way...

                                                            As a random aside, I really like the avocado option at falafel places in LA. Probably isn't authentic, but I dig it.

                                                        2. a_and_w Mar 23, 2007 12:10 PM

                                                          Hit Habayit again for lunch. Had a falafel sandwich with baba and a turkey shawarma sandwich with hummus. Falafel was again quite tasty, but the shawarma was too greasy and gamy for my taste.

                                                          1. m
                                                            MoiJill May 2, 2007 10:22 AM

                                                            Okay, I LOOOVE AZURI in NYC. Let me tell you, after reading your post, I have decided to find an "Azuri Worthy" falafel in Los Angeles. Well, last night I found a really fresh spot on Pico (across the street from Feldmar Watches on Pico.) It is called: Elat Burger, 9340 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, 310-278-4692. I had the vegetarian plate with Falafel (it cost 11.93). The plate included Israeli salad, hummous, babaganoush and 5 pieces of falafel. Azuri does amazing pickled vegetables and hot sauce and that was the only thing missing from this really tasty meal. I'll keep you all posted as I continue my search.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: MoiJill
                                                              e
                                                              epop May 2, 2007 10:37 AM

                                                              I've heard very mixed things about Elat, that their falafel balls are not exactly light. The best way to test this is to eat the falafel by itself, w/o sauce or bread and see how delightful the taste is, or if it has a rancid/heavy taste.

                                                              Please do keep us posted. It would be really nice to find a good one. To make it isn't that difficult but the restauranteurs just don't care.

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