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Feb 20, 2010 07:58 PM

Falafel in San Diego

I have lived in Diego for about 6 months and am still searching for great falafel. So far the best i've found was at the kabob shop downtown. Are there any specific neighborhoods with a large Middle Eatern population that can fry up some amazing falafel? Thanks for the ideas.

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  1. The best I've had here is Mystic Grill:

    Much better than any competitor, IMO.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      2nd this. I like the falafel better there than at Mama's, which many people love.

      1. re: Josh

        wow, and it's in my hood! Will have to check this out. We are definitely short on great ethnic eats in the E. County. I am also a Mama's fan, btw.

      2. I've had a pretty good falafel at Cafe Athena in PB..

        1. El Cajon International Market has some of the best local falafel that I've had in San Diego. El Cajon is home to the largest population of Chaldean Iraqis outside of Iraq and as such is full of Arabic restaurants (though with an Iraqi emphasis and not a traditional Lebanese cuisine which is what most people think Arabic food is).

          This market is a great supermarket but they also do shawarmas and kebabs and falafel (you can buy them separate or in a sandwich).

          502 E Main St
          El Cajon, CA 92020
          (619) 444-5800

          There are also a ton of newer Chaldean-emphasized restaurants around E Main St but I haven't tried falafel at any of them.

          If you want really great Lebanese falafel try the neighborhood in Anaheim - Sanabel Bakery and/or Zankou chicken.

          4 Replies
          1. re: stangoldsmith

            What are some of the specialties of Chaldean-Arabic food? Are there any restaurants in El Cajon serving this food that you recommend?

            1. re: ipsit

              I've only tried the market food, whose hummus in the deli is some of the best I've had in SD as well. There is one place on the same side of the street a block or so down as the Market that is always crowded. I don't know much about Chaldean food specifically but it is quite different from the staples of Arabic food (and/but they also do all the staples as well).

              1. re: ipsit

                I had a good falafel at Village Grille on Main Street in El Cajon. Other tasty places in that area:


              2. I was going to say Mama's Lebanese Deli, but now I need to try this Mystic Grill...

                1. Taste Of Lebanon on Miramar Rd. has tasty falafel. I went with a coworker who loves Mama's Lebanese Deli and proclaimed he liked these even better. We ordered the falafel, manakeesh ultimate, and meat, spinach, cheese pie. All were good. Parking is a nightmare during lunchtime though.


                  8 Replies
                  1. re: pinkamoeba

                    Second here for Taste of Lebanon. I went today after reading this thread. I had the falafel wrapped in pita. Very good. I can't wait to go back to try other menu items. Oh, and I went around 1pm so parking was available. I can see how this tiny parking lot could be a nightmare around the lunch crush though with about 4 other eating establishments in the same spot.

                    1. re: pinkamoeba

                      Mama's Deli and Taste of Lebanon are owned by two brothers. Checked out Taste of Lebanon recently - the giveaway was that both places have the exact same photographs on the walls, and the menus use most of the same language ("Fresh off the Sajj!")
                      I checked with the owner, who told me that its all in the family.
                      Taste of Lebanon is a better option for those coming on from the north, but it closes at 7pm - Mama's is open until 8pm. The food at both is mostly identical, though Mama's wins easily in the ambience category.

                      1. re: ipsit

                        I am not sure if the food changed a lot at Taste of Lebanon over the last two years but when I went there two years ago it was very bland and of low quality. Even people in my company who are not so much interested in food went to Taste of Lebanon over the last years and always complained about less than average food. I still haven't made it to Mama's Deli but if the food is indeed on the level of Taste of Lebanon I think I will skip it.

                        1. re: honkman

                          Haven't been to Taste of Lebanon, but Mama's isn't bland. That said, Mystic Grill is much better.

                          1. re: honkman

                            Agreed HM. Worked over in the area a couple years back, gave it multiple chances and found the food to be of poor quality. I'd be willing to give it another shot if theownership and qualilty has turned around.

                            1. re: honkman

                              I have been to Taste of Lebanon on many occasions since I work nearby.
                              I would not say the food is bland or low quality. Middle Eastern food is not supposed to be extremely hot or spicy. Their Falafel and Baba Ganoush are both the best I have had. Order the vegetarian combo and you get both of these plus hummus, tabouli and grape leaves, excellent! The owner is extremely nice and is always there.

                              Taste of Lebanon
                              6780 Miramar Rd Ste 110, San Diego, CA 92121

                              1. re: pantani

                                I am not talking about hot or spicy food but good middle eastern food which has its characteristic flavor profile (depending from which part of the region) which was lacking when I went ot Taste of Lebanon. It tasted very americanized.

                                Taste of Lebanon
                                6780 Miramar Rd Ste 110, San Diego, CA 92121

                            2. re: ipsit

                              I never like having to contradict myself, but went to Taste of Lebanon last evening and this time round, the food really was noticeably worse (not anywhere near Mama's). For one, the bread wasn't fresh - though it was during my first visit a few weeks ago. Second, the babaghanoush wasn't quite as creamy - more tart, though it did have the smokiness. The dolma also tasted not-very-fresh. The falafel was good - fried to order and fluffy with a good balance of flavors. Even the toorshi was limited to pickled cucumbers (no turnip or olives)

                              Pretty dramatic drop-off between trips. The first time was encouraging and I felt good about discovering a new place near where I live. Yesterday, they didnt have it! Not sure whats going on, but this at least explains why there are polar opposite opinions about this place.

                              Taste of Lebanon
                              6780 Miramar Rd Ste 110, San Diego, CA 92121