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Jun 19, 2011 07:40 PM

Homemade Falafel: New Astoria Lebanese joint

Stopped by Homemade Falafel on B'way in Astoria Friday evening. The place just opened last Monday, so I wasn't expecting a lot from such a new place. But it was lovely, tasty food made with great care.

Great baba ghanoush -- very tangy (lime juice), with just the right amount of savory tahini and subtle smoky undertones (not overkill, as with some babas). Very fresh tabbouli! And even though it was just 20 min before closing on a Fri, the owners freshly fried my falafel for my wrap as I waited.

It was worth the 10 minute wait -- a flavorful mix of ground chickpeas, garlic, parsley and some mystery spices imported from Lebanon (according to the owners). So soft and not at all greasy.

In addition to the falafels, the wrap also had homemade turnip pickles (the purple ones), lettuce, tomatoes and tahini. My only quibble -- truly mediocre, dry, flavorless pita. Bu still a great combo -- the best falafel I have had in a very long time. Oh, and the owners were amazingly friendly, lovely people.

Homemade Falafel
36-18 Broadway, Queens, NY 11106

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  1. Did they have toum (Lebanese garlic "mayo")?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Humbucker

      I didn't see any mention of this on the menu, but it's worth asking the owners.

    2. I must have walked by this 20 times and not noticed. I'd say the neighborhood has enough falafel, but then I realize there's no such thing. Very excited to try this.

      It's worth mentioning I had Freddie's (the King's) falafel on Saturday. Man, out of the fryer, that's still one awesome falafel. If only they wouldn't go so heavy on the white sauce on the platters (I always asked them to lay off a bit, and it goes ignored).

      King of Falafel & Shawarma
      Broadway 30th St, Queens, NY 11106

      2 Replies
      1. re: Mr Porkchop

        If you ask me, there's not nearly enough carefully made, quality food in this city -- falafel or otherwise! But it is out there....if you look hard enough. :)

        1. re: CitySpoonful

          Agreed. It seems with the combo of a Greek and Arabic-speaking community in Astoria places feel legally obligated to offer falafel, however mediocre, but I would take quality over quantity. Perhaps one problem is that a lot of the places serve Egyptian falafel that I don't care for as much. I'm all for leaving it to the Lebanese.

      2. I was in the neighborhood, so I tried the falafel and hummus sandwich. Not bad, and I LOVED the turnip pickles. I'll have to try making turnip pickles at home! I had no idea turnips could be so tasty! Nice crunch. Turnips aren't usually red, are they? Aren't they usually white? I don't think I've ever bought them. While I was eating them, I thought they were pickled beets or something, except the flavor was much more subtle.

        However, as falafel goes, on a city-wide basis, I prefer Taim and Kwik Meal or maybe even Maoz. (I'm not sure about how this compares to other Astoria falafel, or even other Queens falafel.) This was definitely above-average, but I wouldn't go out of my way like I would for Taim.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Ike

          I had the opportunity for a rare weekday Astoria lunch today and thought I'd check this place out.

          First off, these guys are so nice. The total opposite of the gruffness I sometimes get from what's probably the best Lebanese sandwiches in the neighborhood, the Cedar Meat House. I overheard in conversation that one of the gentlemen used to be associated with some place up by Ditmars which he sold "and is now Indian." I'm guessing this was the exceptional Haddad's (RIP).

          Sadly, the menu doesn't have near the variety of small meze that Haddad's had, and seemed really focused on falafel as the name would suggest. They did also have some raw meats in the display case, like Lebanese sausages, and incongrous "fajita meat." Does anybody go into a falafel place and say, "hey, I want the fajita sub"? Perhaps there's a market with halal-only eaters or something.

          Anyway, got the falafel and fries. Fries came straight from the freezer bag, and weren't very good. The falafel was made fresh and turned out nice. Could have been crisper and more aggresively seasoned for my taste, but like the sandwich as a whole, it was light eating. It was served on the more traditonal, thinner Lebanese style pita, so if one likes a thicker pita like you get at a halal cart or greek place, you're out of luck. Growing up with Lebanese food, I personally prefer the type they have here.

          But yeah, if there was anything truly exceptional, it was the turnip pickles. Ike, they are pickled in beet juice, hence the radioactive brightness. That's how they get them the color of the incredible hulk's shorts. I have to imagine they make their own, if not I really want to know where they buy them, because I could munch on those those like chips in front of the TV.

          I still probably prefer Freddie's cart, or Duzan,or Cedar Meat House, for my falafel fix, but there are worse things to eat on that stretch of Broadway coming out of the R stop. It's a nice addition to the neighborhood, and I hope they do well.

          1. re: Mr Porkchop

            Stopped in there today for the first time. Got the baba ganoush and chicken kabab sandwich. With the exception of the pita, everything was fresh and delicious. I also enjoyed the pickled turnips. I too wish that they had a more extensive menu, but perhaps they will branch out if business does well.

          2. re: Ike

            Ike, I think the turnips are pickled with beets -- thus the purplish color. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I recall seeing turnips and beets being pickled together at Middle Eastern grocery stores...)