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May 28, 2009 05:44 PM

Falafel in Philly?

Looking for a good falafel and/or schwarma place in philly...thanks!

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  1. this is one of my biggest gripes with food in philly - the lack of good falafel places. Mama's on 20th was very good the one time I went, but haven't been back. Maoz is just terrible. The unlimited salad bar must exist to cover up the dry and bland balls they throw in there.
    Chickpeas on South was good - however it's gone quite downhill and, while they have a shwarma spit, it hasn't had anything on it the last few times I've been in there.
    Supposedly there's a lunch truck around 20th and Market that is awesome, and there's a new spot on South and 6th (aladeen) that seems promising.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jaba

      Mama's and the truck at 20th & Market are two best falafel places, at least on the East side of the river.

      Mama's is an Israeli style--soft pita stuffed with falafel and salads. As it is Kosher, it's closed on Saturdays.

      The truck at 20th & Market is affectionately known as the Falafel Nazi and as far as I know it is only open for lunch during the work week. This guy has a unique style and is quite eccentric. His works slow and the line is long, but its worth it. He offers sandwiches and platters, both of which come with falafel and optionally grilled chicken. He loads them up with a selection of salads that rotates daily.

      I highly recommend both.

      1. re: barryg

        First off, I am not a falafel expert, but I LOVE Mama's. The pita bread is so soft and great. The vegetables they put in the pita sandwiches taste super fresh too. I like to add a little bit of eggplant to my sandwich...

    2. don't laugh, but there is a lunch cart on Penn's campus that makes great falafel and other vegetarian dishes and sandwiches. It is called Magic Carpet, and I think they have another truck somewhere in the city, but I don't know where it is.

      There also used to be (don't know if it's still there--haven't been in a couple of years) a lunch truck on (I think) JFK and 16th by one of the subway/train station outs. It had great falafel, too. I always got the grilled chicken and falafel wrap. The falafel was crispy outside, moist inside and flavorful. Plus they load the sandwich with great grilled chicken and other yummy things.

      In general, I'd bet your best bets for falafel are mostly lunch trucks. BUT I've had a lot of people (three vegetarians and loads of non-vegetarians) tell me that Saad's at 45th and Walnut is great. I have been meaning to go, but haven't yet.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bananafishes

        Saad's won't be beating out Cristo (truck at 20th & Market) any time soon, but it's a good, good falafel sandwich, by which I mean something you can hold in your hand and eat without having things fall out on your shirt. In the days of overstuffed sandwiches, I guess that might not be a selling factor for some, but I think it's fantastic. Saad's also has my fav hummus in the city (yes, even better than the much-favoured Zahav).

        On Penn's campus, there's another truck that has good falafels. I think it's called the pita truck or something? Around 40th & Locust. The line is much better here than Magic Carpet (either trucks).

        All in all, best falafels in the city is at 20th & Market, Mon. through Fri.

      2. oh yeah...totally forgot about alyan's (just south of south on 4th). good falafel and GREAT french fries.

        1. There is a school/mosque at Germantown and Jefferson that has a cafeteria open to the public that rabidog posted about awhile back that supposedly has excellent falafel - I haven't been yet because I am a little intimidated (being female and not wearing muslim garb) and can't find anyone to go with me

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bigley9

            mmmm i'm going to add that to the list of places to visit when i return in mid-july!!! surprisingly i have not managed to run into any felafel in central asia yet. as i remember it, the best felafel in the city! muslim garb not required, and though it's a totally friendly environment you can expect to gather a few harmless stares. it's mostly just curious schoolkids. after that both mama's locations and the felafel cart are both pretty spectacular, and i'd rate saad's just below those. maoz would round out the bottom of the list for me - i agree with whoever posted that the felafel there's too dry. only thing about mama's - i definitely prefer their platters to their pitas. the hummus / tahini / felafel platter is wonderful. the mama's location at 6th and south has shawarma (though i have not tried it as a vegetarian) but the location at 20th and market is vegetarian only.
            have not been to alyan's - a place i'll definitely have to check out!

          2. There's a lunch truck on Penn's campus that has the best shawarma in Philly. It's called Ali baba's magic food and it's on 37th and walnut next to the gym there. I recommend getting a platter instead of a sandwich, the guy there likes to pack the sandwich really full so it's a little drippy. They have excellent falafel there too. Next to that I'd say Saad's on 45th and walnut is easily the best place in Philly. Every time I go there I get a chicken Maroosh, hands down the best sandwich I've had in my life!!