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Amsterdam Falafel: The Good, The Bad, The Sad

s
Swankalicious Jul 9, 2012 06:37 PM

As a former DC resident, I was delighted and tickled to learn that Amsterdam Falafel was opening up shop in Davis Sq. Mr. Swank and I headed over tonight after work.

The scene: rather jammed. There was a longish line and some confusion over where to order. This is because the toppings bar is situated right next to the ordering station, so people loading up their sandwiches also appear to be in line waiting to order. It can get a bit tight sneakers.

The service: as efficient as can be expected for a new place. The owner was on the line, affably guiding people about.

The toppings bar: extensive!! Do not miss the chopped jalapeno, chopped tomato relish, delicious yogurt sauce, cuke salad, or the hot pepper relish! The curry mustard and garlic mayo (available, oddly, around the corner by the soda fountains) are also must-gets. The only problem is, it's tough to stuff the toppings into your falafel sandwich. Mr. Swank ended up splattering a puddle of condiments on the floor. The sandwiches are not designed for easy toting. Plus, once you bite into a few falafel balls, your toppings are gone unless you've thought to open up your sandwich, stuff the toppings inside, and then replace the balls. This isn't an easy feat when you're holding up production at a busy toppings bar! Oh the stress.

The large fries are super large -- opt for a regular.

On another note, Diva was positively booming next door. Maybe offloading the "lounge" has helped business?

  1. s
    somervilleoldtimer Oct 31, 2012 04:35 PM

    Okay, so I'm a latecomer, but I'm still happy it's in the 'hood. It's been impossible to find a good felafel on this side of the river.

    1. enhF94 Aug 13, 2012 06:55 PM

      first visit, not much to add except:

      1. worst. mayo. ever. it had, to quote the TV show, "no taste or properties of any kind." Surprising for a place that sells frites and calls itself Amsterdam.
      2. These falafel are the least dry I have ever had which, for me, means "almost moist enough to eat."
      3. messy fillin's + no plates = :(

      1. opinionatedchef Aug 1, 2012 10:13 PM

        Stopped off at AF tonight for another excellent late night falafel after a concert at The Burren. I was thinking, isn't it great to have a 'fast food' place where the salads are as much of the experience as the main dish? Sooo cool!

        Had an opportunity to meet the owner, Matt (6'5", thin, short brown hair, young) and learn some fun facts about this Davis Sq. spot, the 1st and only franchise so far of the D.C.- originating store, so thought i'd share 'em:

        --Matt ate AF while a student at GW(Geo. Washington U); where AF opened 8 yrs ago.He had no prior restnt experience iirc.
        -- There are about 15 'salads ' and 5 'sauces' on the toppings buffet.
        -- The top selling salads, by volume, are: Hoomus, Naked (undressed cukes and tomatoes)
        Baba ganoosh, and Yoghurt.
        --Tahini Sauce trumps Garlic Cream 2 to 1
        --The pitas come from NYC. Whole wheat pitas trump white pitas 3 to 1. "Foreigners" usually choose white pita.
        -- The falafel itself is made of 100% chickpeas (soaked, pureed etc)no bulghur or favas etc.
        -- The City of Somerville provides 'single stream' recycling of all materials used by consumers.
        -- The used canola oil is picked up regularly, purchased and resold for industrial use.

        Before deciding on Davis Sq., the owner had been considering an Allston location. On AF's first day of business (3 wks ago), the owner of Rami's came in and introduced himself to Matt; he gave Matt a framed $1 bill which hangs behind the cash register. The owner of Falafel King also went in that day.( I told Matt that the Rami's owner was probably just sooooo grateful that AF did not locate in his 'hood, that he was doing a major Happy Dance in his head.)

        5 Replies
        1. re: opinionatedchef
          Bob Dobalina Aug 2, 2012 05:12 AM

          Great post! Love how the other guys on the falafel circuit came by.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            h
            hckybg Aug 2, 2012 09:55 PM

            You mean the Falafelmob?

            1. re: hckybg
              Bob Dobalina Aug 3, 2012 05:36 AM

              Only if they had sent a chickpea wrapped in a bulletproof vest.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina
                h
                hckybg Aug 3, 2012 08:43 AM

                I've had bulletproof falafel before!

          2. re: opinionatedchef
            Luther Aug 6, 2012 03:56 AM

            I ate at Carlo's in Allston a couple years ago and was seated at a table next to Rami. He was loudly reminiscing about when he used to personally work the counter at Rami's. Best part (in his characteristic thick accent): "They used to call me the falafel nazi! hahahahahah"

          3. p
            Parsnipity Aug 1, 2012 12:25 PM

            Out of bowls for the per-lb option today. Heard the following discussion between staff:
            "are we out of ALL bowls? Even those square ones?"
            "No, dude, that was just someone's tupperware they brought from home. He asked if he could go home and bring it back."
            "Oh. Well that's okay, as long as you zero out the scale, right?"
            "Not sure. May be food code violation."

            1 Reply
            1. re: Parsnipity
              g
              Gabatta Aug 1, 2012 01:58 PM

              Out of bowls? That's laughable. The operation of that place should be SOOOOO simple.

            2. c
              christy319 Jul 31, 2012 11:22 AM

              This thread is very entertaining. It seems crazy to me that people have to bring their own wax paper just to be able to manage their sandwich. Does anyone know the owners? Do they hate people?

              8 Replies
              1. re: christy319
                h
                hungryphd Jul 31, 2012 11:31 AM

                I would take the messiness claims with a grain of salt. I went last week and had a great sandwich. If I ended up with some tahini on my fingers, it was nothing a napkin couldn't handle.

                Most importantly, the falafel was easily the best I had in the Boston area. If you like falafel do not be deterred by fears of a little chaos and mess from giving Amsterdam a try.

                1. re: hungryphd
                  maillard Jul 31, 2012 06:34 PM

                  I was confused by how much trouble everyone seemed to be having until I realized that they were eating regular sandwiches (with 5 falafel balls) and I was having small sandwiches (with just 3). I can definitely see how having 5 balls would make it a much more unwieldy sandwich to try to add toppings to.

                  After going 4 times in 2 weeks I've kind of calmed down about Amsterdam falafel. I'm so, so glad to have something like this in Davis and I love the toppings and think the falafel and pita are very good. But ultimately I think that the falafel itself at Rami's (my previous favorite) is still a bit better. And Rami's hummus is a million times better. This is probably for the best, though. If Amsterdam had hummus as good as Rami's I would have a hard time eating anywhere else.

                  1. re: hungryphd
                    Bob Dobalina Aug 1, 2012 05:47 AM

                    I like this place because between the garlic sauce and green garlic/parsley salsa (?), I can put enough on my falafel to drive away vampires.

                    1. re: Bob Dobalina
                      s
                      soylent_greens Aug 1, 2012 09:08 AM

                      Yeah, and the gas drives away everyone else too. I wish the garlic sauce was a little less mayo-ey.

                      1. re: soylent_greens
                        maillard Aug 1, 2012 09:31 AM

                        Me too! I was hoping it would be like the garlic sauce at Reef Cafe (toum?). That stuff was glorious.

                        1. re: soylent_greens
                          Bob Dobalina Aug 1, 2012 09:33 AM

                          Have we met?

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina
                            s
                            soylent_greens Aug 1, 2012 12:12 PM

                            I have never had the pleasure sir. That garlic sauce at Reef was amazing, I think my breath still reeks of it. Schwarma King in Brookline does a pretty good facsimile of it too.

                        2. re: Bob Dobalina
                          opinionatedchef Aug 2, 2012 08:23 AM

                          you're prob too young to remember Leo Bascaglia, but he was a real kick in the pants. His growing up stories revolved around his large Italian immigtrant family in CA. He used to relate that his mother made him wear a clove of garlic around his neck at all times. He would pause and then announce, "None of the kids in my family ever got sick... because no one would ever get close enough to give us anything" !!

                    2. g
                      Gabatta Jul 31, 2012 10:12 AM

                      I tried Amsterdam Falafel for lunch yesterday. The food was excellent, but for such a simple operation they really need to get their act together. They appeared to be training new employees during the lunch rush and it really didn't go well. They were way behind on orders causing a long line. How difficult is frying the falafel balls and dumping them in a pita or bowl? To compound the issue they weren't tracking the orders well, and people were taking whatever came up even if it wasn't their order. Also the soda fountain was out of whack, but rather than shutting it down they let people keep getting cups of seltzer and coming back up for a refund. It all falls under the category of really simple stuff that should be sorted out already.

                      My bowl stacked with all the goodies from the bar was delicious, easily one of the best falafels I have had in the area. I could just fill up on stuff from the bar with minimal falafel and be happy too. I sat on the bench out front as it was a nice day, so no issue fighting for a table. Due to the seating constraints, I would probably try to come at off hours if I was with someone else.

                      1. n
                        naughtywaitress Jul 25, 2012 05:45 AM

                        We went last night and were very happy with the falafel, toppings and sauces. Great flavors all around. I like the concept and it is definately a good value. It was a little awkward to have two of us with two pitas and a side of fries. They had foil sheets to line trays with after you pay, but I wish I had known that before I laid the fries cone down on the tray to grab my wallet.

                        Are you listening, Amsterdam Falafel? You need more seating- add some counter seating along a wall, or change out the table tops for smaller ones and add a few more tables. I guess I have not eaten fast food/counter service food in a while, but I definately felt like a Falafel Refugee after paying and having no where to sit for a solid five minutes. There was a group there last night who had moved 4 tables together to seat about nine people, the remaining tables were filled. TWO tables were just lingering/chatting after they were finished. Really? Who does that when there is a line out the door?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: naughtywaitress
                          Boston_Otter Jul 25, 2012 06:31 AM

                          What I'd love to see are some stools or little stand-up tables (no seats, just tables) outside for people to grab-and-go.

                          1. re: naughtywaitress
                            n
                            newhound Jul 25, 2012 12:49 PM

                            Falafel Refugee: what a great name for a band. Playing, presumably, at the Middle East.

                          2. p
                            Parsnipity Jul 22, 2012 11:03 AM

                            We ate here last night after Artbeat- by 6 it was actually not too crowded. We both got large falafel sandwiches- 2 of my falafel rolled out onto the tray, so that jibes with someone's advice above to de-falefel the sandwich a bit in order to fit in toppings. I do think 4 falafel would be plenty even for the larger pita. We also shared fries- regular size is quite large, and the fries were not great. A little bland, kind of tough- I probably wouldn't get them again. I liked the sandwich, but, and this is really my own fault I guess, the diversity of toppings just made it all a bit unfocused. I did go back up several times to get more or different sauces or salads in the little condiment cups, which is permitted according to the instructional sign. I also noticed several people getting sandwiches to go, which means wrapping them in foil sheets after you've finished assembling them.

                            I should also mention that this is possibly the worst place imaginable to go with a young child. It's messy, there's no plates or way to share food, no easy cleanup, and it's impossible to keep track of your child, build a sandwich, pay, and get everyone settled at a table. There's also limited space to stash a stroller. But they do have a high chair, God love 'em.

                            Although I'm happy to have the nearby option of Amsterdam Falafel, my own personal preference is the falafel sandwich from Greek corner. Their falafels are enormous- baseball size and crunchy- and the tahini/yogurt sauce is rich and creamy, and they top the sandwich for you so you don't end up with a mish mash of 18 different flavors. I also like their pita which is not split, but folded over and thicker.

                            1. t
                              taterjane Jul 21, 2012 09:13 PM

                              It was a madhouse here today because of artbeat, and thank goodness I was prepared because of reading this thread! I went with the bowl option -- you can add a pita to it, which makes this option just as good as a sandwich, but with way less stress!

                              Most of the toppings I tried were good. The baba ghanoush was a standout. The one negative is that I thought everyone was raving about the FRIED eggplant (there was no roasted option), so I grabbed two of those to try, even though they looked like blackened lumps. I am sad to report it was utterly disgusting. Just tasted like balls of OIL.

                              The falafel were moist and tasty on the inside but harder than I like on the outside -- way too crisp.

                              Though I had to fight my urge to shove everyone aside and completely reorganize their system to be more efficient, I'd definitely give it another try.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: taterjane
                                Boston_Otter Jul 22, 2012 09:25 AM

                                Since they introduced the bowl option, I've noticed more and more people in line getting it. It's a great deal, less messy, easier to deal with.

                                1. re: Boston_Otter
                                  maillard Jul 22, 2012 09:46 AM

                                  They've had the bowl option since the first day, but I think they ran out of bowls at one point. Maybe I'll finally break out of my small-whole -wheat rut and get a bowl next time.

                                  1. re: Boston_Otter
                                    opinionatedchef Jul 22, 2012 10:07 AM

                                    otter, is this a $ by the pound thing? is falafel included or how does it work?thnx!

                                    1. re: opinionatedchef
                                      Boston_Otter Jul 22, 2012 10:16 AM

                                      Yes, if I remember correctly it's $6.45 a pound. You tell them how many falafel balls you want in your bowl, then load it up with whatever you like and it's weighed at the register. Last time I went, I was the only person in line holding a pita -- everyone around me had bowls. The person in front of me had three falafel balls and a decent amount of stuff from the bar, and it came to about $6.

                                  2. re: taterjane
                                    maillard Jul 31, 2012 06:37 PM

                                    Just wondering... did you eat the eggplant by itself? I had an only-eggplant bite on my last sandwich and yikes! It is definitely super greasy. It's really tasty if smooshed down into a sandwich, though. Kind of like how eating a big spoonful of mayonaise would be kind of gross, but people like it when spread on a sandwich.

                                    1. re: maillard
                                      t
                                      taterjane Aug 2, 2012 12:37 AM

                                      I did eat it by itself. It was like drinking liquid fat once I penetrated the eggplant skin. Ugh!!! But then, I'm also not a fan of mayo on bread...

                                      1. re: taterjane
                                        maillard Aug 2, 2012 12:41 PM

                                        Ew! That does sound awful (and I hate mayo).

                                  3. g
                                    granolagurl Jul 18, 2012 01:53 AM

                                    We fInally made it to Amsterdam last night. Used all of the "tricks" I learned on Chowhound while there: brought a piece of wax paper, removed one ball from pita so toppings would fit better, smashed other balls down into pita. Meanwhile, granola-guy is rolling his eyes at me (he is a BIG rule follower!). The falafel balls themselves were probably the best we have ever had. I liked the topping bar. We are kinda big food freshness and safety geeks and didn't find the bar offensive or unsanitary (as we all know food bars can sometimes be).

                                    A few thoughts:
                                    1) The falafel plate might benefit from the addition of lettuce. That way, you can at least pretend you are eating a "healthy" salad.

                                    2) Diva should close and Amsterdam should expand into that space (ha, don't hate on me for saying that!).

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: granolagurl
                                      opinionatedchef Jul 20, 2012 11:31 PM

                                      gg, i'm w/ you on closing diva! When we tried AF today, i missed the trick of removing one ball (BRILLiant!) but did follow maillard's(thanks again, m!) advice to smush down the balls, and was really pleased by the really good amount of toppings you could fit in that way. Personally, I thought the baba was excellent (nice smoky flavor) along w/ the tahini sauce, and cuke salad and hot green chile relish. The turkish tomato salad was a little too sweet for me. The beets are a really cool addition (and much more nutritious than lettuce, gg!)They didn't have sliced eggplant and he said they usually run out really early. I asked why they didn't make more and he said they didn't want to have any leftover because it was good only for the day it was made- to which i commented that it seemed that if they ran out so early- that they should make enough to last longer and he said they "hadn't got it down yet". So maybe if enough people request it/complain, they will start making more..... Anyway, we both really liked the moist whole wheat pita and the quality of the falafel itself (crunchy outside, moist and flavorful inside, and no hint of over saturated/needing to be changed oil.) My Love was completely won over, saying it made him feel completely different about falafel. I agree with him; how great to have a good variety of fresh healthy salads accompany the falafel> texture, roughage, vitamins, bright flavors. Who woulda thunk it- tasty salad w/ fast food? I found it easiest to eat by lying it on its side and using a fork, but everyone else seemed happy to be attempting to fit their too small mouths around it. (Examples would make a fun film/ad for the place.)

                                      Thx to swank et al; i can see us being regulars and am so thankful that they're in Davis Sq and not over in Allston where all the other good Middle Eastern places are. I can sooo imagine hordes of Somerville vegetarians being in rapture.

                                      There's only one problem with AF (and it's the same problem I have w/ the special smoked miso burger at Strip T's): now I never want to have falafel anywhere else. (rami's et al? what a joke!)For us, AF might as well be called "As Good As It Gets Falafel". We were lucky to be there late (10:30 PM Fri.after MFA French Film Fest) so no lines and very relaxed>>only 3 tables occupied. If at all possible, try to make your first visit there at an off-time so you can enjoy it w/o feeling crowded.

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                        maillard Jul 21, 2012 02:01 PM

                                        Glad to hear that you liked it! I hope you get to try the eggplant next time. I was too late for it once and the sandwich was still good, but definitely missing something.

                                        For folks removing one falafel ball, are you getting the larger sandwich with 5? I've only ever gotten the 3-ball sandwich and haven't needed to remove anything, but I can see how you'd need to if there are more (is the bread the same size or larger?).

                                        1. re: maillard
                                          opinionatedchef Jul 21, 2012 08:25 PM

                                          m, mine was a 5 falafel, but someone else will have to answer the diff size bread question.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                                            f
                                            FoodDabbler Jul 21, 2012 08:34 PM

                                            o, I'd expect yours to be 5 only because 7 is apparently unavailable.

                                            1. re: FoodDabbler
                                              opinionatedchef Jul 21, 2012 08:47 PM

                                              well of cowase,fd. but the great thing is, you can put enough hefty salads on it to make it truly substantial.

                                    2. chickendhansak Jul 16, 2012 12:05 PM

                                      My experience doesn't match the generally positive initial reviews. The falafel were tough and crusty, with the crust laden with grease. They were busy at the time, but I assume they plan to be, so I wasn't that impressed. The bread was anonymous. The salad bar is OK; good hot sauce. I had a Boston Kebab Company falafel sandwich yesterday -- difference between them was night and day.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: chickendhansak
                                        j
                                        Jenny Ondioline Jul 16, 2012 04:21 PM

                                        Yep: a sandwich the size of my head with the best falafel in town for $5.99 beats the attraction of being able to add my own toppings to mediocre or subpar falafel.

                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline
                                          opinionatedchef Jul 16, 2012 05:31 PM

                                          but you haven't yet tried Amst Fal?.; now that Namaskar is gone,you and Al. have an excuse to take you back to Davis.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                                            j
                                            Jenny Ondioline Jul 16, 2012 06:00 PM

                                            It seems like the reviews so far are focusing on the toppings, not the falafel themselves, which I think are the most important part of the sandwich. I'll get there eventually, but it's sounding like I don't have to rush.

                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline
                                              maillard Jul 17, 2012 07:12 AM

                                              The falafel are very good! Crunchy on the outside, not too dry on the inside, green and tasty. Other than Rami's and Fordee's and that place in Allston that had the crazy amazing garlic sauce, these are the only good falafel I've had in Boston so far. I haven't tried Boston Kebab Company, though...

                                      2. n
                                        newhound Jul 13, 2012 09:14 AM

                                        Lunch today at Amsterdam: love this place. Rami's and Fordees are my go to's along with nostalgia for long-gone Sepal, but Amsterdam will now go to number one. The falafel are very good-- small Israeli-style, but greener inside than Rami's, which I had last night for comparison. It'll take a few trips to run through the various toppings, but the hummus and baba are fine but not great. The line is getting long as I write this. Definitely the closest thing (in Boston) to the sandwiches I've had in Israel.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: newhound
                                          Trumpetguy Jul 13, 2012 08:11 PM

                                          Sold!

                                          1. re: Trumpetguy
                                            w
                                            wkathym Jul 14, 2012 02:21 PM

                                            Went there for the first time with my husband today. We both loved it. Yes, I agree that it gets a little precairous without a plate, but we managed to keep the falafels and the fried in their respective paper-holders. We live in the neighborhood and are thrilled that something different (than the usual bar-type food) has opened in Davis Square.

                                          2. re: newhound
                                            BostonZest Jul 14, 2012 02:26 PM

                                            Isn't Sepal still open at MIT?

                                            Their webpage is still in place.
                                            http://dining.mit.edu/venues-menus/sepal

                                            http://sepalrestaurant.com/

                                            Penny
                                            http://www.bostonzest.com/

                                            1. re: newhound
                                              w
                                              wonderwoman Jul 14, 2012 02:35 PM

                                              sepal has an outpost in the food court at the cambridgeside galleria. a nice alternative to the rest of the food court. additional outposts at mit and the longwood medical area food court.

                                              1. re: newhound
                                                StriperGuy Jul 14, 2012 11:57 PM

                                                Fordee's in Watertown is as good as Sepal ever was.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                                  maillard Jul 15, 2012 05:32 AM

                                                  I thought Fordee's was very good, but I had a sample of falafel from the Sepal in the Longwood food court and found it to be nearly inedible. Just dry and gross and awful. Maybe because it wasn't fresh? But they should definitely not give out samples then, because that convinced me not to ever get lunch there...

                                                  1. re: maillard
                                                    StriperGuy Jul 16, 2012 12:28 PM

                                                    To be honest, I was never a huge Sepal fan. But Fordees is excellent and very consistent.

                                                    1. re: StriperGuy
                                                      Science Chick Jul 17, 2012 06:47 AM

                                                      I'll never forget my singular Sepal experience, a few months before they closed their doors. Nasty hummus that was obviously made with canned chick peas. Rancid oil in the oil/vinegar dressing setups. Greasy falafel cooked in old oil. It was simply awful and I was not surprised when they closed down shorty thereafter.

                                                      1. re: Science Chick
                                                        Bob Dobalina Jul 17, 2012 07:08 AM

                                                        Had a similar spectrum of experiences - the first time not long after their falafel and shepard's sandwich was featured on the PBS special "Sandwiches You Will Like", I tried it and really enjoyed the brightish green falafel, etc. - vowed to go back. Got back maybe 6 months (or more) and the place had clearly changed - the food was not nearly as fresh and tasty as the first visit. Then I read your post about the rancid oil and never went back. That first time was really good though.

                                                        1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                                          Science Chick Jul 17, 2012 07:32 AM

                                                          Man, I wish I could have had one in their heyday......can't imagine what could have gone awry.....

                                              2. Infomaniac Jul 12, 2012 08:34 AM

                                                I stopped by yesterday to check this place out.

                                                Was glad I read the reports here before heading in as I went in prepared with my own piece of wax paper from home which made the whole experience a lot less messy.

                                                Very good falafel. The curry mustard was great, and the extensive toppings bar selection.

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: Infomaniac
                                                  maillard Jul 12, 2012 11:46 AM

                                                  I went again last night for dinner. They definitely have a metal tray to sit your falafel in (holding it toppings-up) when you pay. I guess this wouldn't work as well if you have a tray. Sadly, they were out of the delicious roasted eggplant when I went. Hopefully I'll catch it next time.

                                                  Where is this curry mustard? You are the second person to mention it, but all I've seen is curry ketchup (which is very delicious). Curry mustard sounds so good!

                                                  1. re: maillard
                                                    Infomaniac Jul 12, 2012 12:38 PM

                                                    Sorry, I meant curry ketchup.

                                                    I was looking for the mustard too because I saw mentioned it here, but I thought the curry ketchup was great!

                                                    I went out of my way to try this place and was glad I did. Unfortuately it's not a place I'll get to frequently, but if I lived in the area, I could see myself eating there often.

                                                    1. re: Infomaniac
                                                      maillard Jul 12, 2012 01:40 PM

                                                      Ah, okay. Glad that I wasn't missing a mustard option... I really did like the curry ketchup. Much better than Saus's.

                                                      I live right up the street from Amsterdam and am likely going to have a problematically high falafel intake, at least for the next few months.

                                                      1. re: maillard
                                                        Infomaniac Jul 12, 2012 04:14 PM

                                                        Hey....at least you got that going for ya!

                                                        It's funny.....I said to myself when I left, It's a good thing I don't live close to this place.

                                                        1. re: maillard
                                                          b
                                                          bear Jul 13, 2012 04:12 AM

                                                          Sounds like a good excuse to practice "Meatless Mondays" to me. You can be trendy and virtuous at the same time!

                                                          1. re: bear
                                                            s
                                                            Swankalicious Jul 13, 2012 09:10 AM

                                                            Sorry - a typo - I too meant curry ketchup, NOT mustard!

                                                            1. re: Swankalicious
                                                              Infomaniac Jul 13, 2012 10:58 AM

                                                              Thanks....the ketchup was excellent, but know I have mustard on my brain.

                                                              1. re: Infomaniac
                                                                Science Chick Jul 13, 2012 11:33 AM

                                                                That's better than ketchup on your shirt......

                                                    2. re: Infomaniac
                                                      s
                                                      soylent_greens Jul 14, 2012 04:27 PM

                                                      Wax paper trick is pure genius! Just came back from second visit and it was key - that along with removing one ball and crushing the h-e double toothpicks out of the others. They also had some little wooden sticks that helped me mash about a pound or so of toppings into my sandwich. Not too crowded around 6:00 on a Saturday night.

                                                      1. re: soylent_greens
                                                        opinionatedchef Jul 14, 2012 11:52 PM

                                                        Thx for the traffic report;helpful for wannagos! Is this in the diva location?

                                                    3. p
                                                      pocketviking Jul 12, 2012 07:51 AM

                                                      Agree that the system is a mess, but the raw ingredients rock. The falafel is crunchy, light and fluffy. The toppings - at least all that I've tried - are delicious.

                                                      Given the no-plate policy, it would make sense to have people pay when they order. Also, they'd do themselves a favor by offering customers a choice between a basic, fully constructed sandwich which can, but doesn't need to be, spiked at the toppings bar.

                                                      1. c
                                                        christy319 Jul 10, 2012 02:07 PM

                                                        Do they still have the no-plate rule? I've never felt so loathed as a customer as I did at the DC branch. No plates because you will be able to fill your pita too high (just charge more, for christsakes!). And all the signs telling you don't do this, don't do that, you can't have cups for toppings, etc. Having never been there before, I made the mistake of filling my pita before taking off my winter coat and scarf and filling my fountain drink. I ask for a plate and am told no. I asked how people manage to do things with an oozing falafel in one hand and am met with a shrug. So I'm left trying to take off my coat and scarf sticking the dripping pita out away from my body, but I still end up with sauce on my scarf; I eventually make a pile of napkins to set it down on so I can fill my drink and get my fries, which ends up making a mess on their counter as my toppings fall out.

                                                        I'd far, far rather have it L'as du Falafel style, where there are plenty of toppings but they put them in (expertly) for you, and don't treat you as though your sole intent is to bankrupt the place.

                                                        20 Replies
                                                        1. re: christy319
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                                                          Gabatta Jul 10, 2012 02:11 PM

                                                          Now you're talking. We had L'as du falafel last month and have been jonesing for something similar in Boston ever since. So good.

                                                          1. re: Gabatta
                                                            Science Chick Jul 10, 2012 02:17 PM

                                                            Check out Taim falafel in the West Village next time you are in NYC. Totally amazing Israeli falafel (3 varieties...green, harissa red and one other), great toppings (they put them on for you) and hand cut fries with saffron aioli dipping sauce. White or whole wheat pita......SO GOOD!!!

                                                            1. re: Science Chick
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                                                              Gabatta Jul 10, 2012 02:49 PM

                                                              Thanks for the rec, much appreciated. We will be in the city in a few weeks and staying right near there. We will definitely check it out for lunch.

                                                              1. re: Gabatta
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                                                                FoodDabbler Jul 10, 2012 03:37 PM

                                                                For what it's worth, here's my take on Taim (that post and the followups): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3612...

                                                                1. re: FoodDabbler
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                                                                  christy319 Jul 31, 2012 11:16 AM

                                                                  I've been to Taim and found it not like L'as. There were not nearly the assortment of toppings. I'm not saying it's bad or not a quality product, but it didn't remind me of L'as at all. Those fries sound good--I wish I'd gotten those.

                                                          2. re: christy319
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                                                            blink617 Jul 12, 2012 10:00 AM

                                                            Is this "no plate" as in they don't serve your sandwich on a plate? How are you supposed to eat it? And how do you manage if you have kids with you or something?

                                                            1. re: blink617
                                                              Science Chick Jul 12, 2012 10:10 AM

                                                              It's an Israeli street food thing.....usually served in a paper and off you go......yeah, it's a messy affair!

                                                              1. re: Science Chick
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                                                                nickls Jul 12, 2012 11:51 AM

                                                                Although it does raise the question, if you get a falafel and a cone of fries at the same time, do you have to eat the fries by shoving your face in the cone?

                                                                1. re: nickls
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                                                                  FoodDabbler Jul 12, 2012 11:54 AM

                                                                  You follow the latest scientific research on how cats drink. Apparently their rapid tongue movements make a little vortex that funnels the water into their mouths. With practice I am sure you can do the same with fries.

                                                                  1. re: nickls
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                                                                    blink617 Jul 12, 2012 01:14 PM

                                                                    In Israel, they solved this problem by putting some fries (not a whole cone) right into the pita with the falafel.

                                                                    1. re: blink617
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                                                                      LStaff Jul 12, 2012 01:34 PM

                                                                      Now you can use your half empty cone to steal more toppings....oh, wait, how do you get toppings at all if both hands are full? Add a drink and it all becomes a juggling act. <eyeroll>

                                                                  2. re: Science Chick
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                                                                    blink617 Jul 12, 2012 01:13 PM

                                                                    Got it. When I bought falafel on the street in Israel, it wasn't all that messy even with a few condiments. At a sit-down restaurant, I think I'd still want a plate of some kind. Rami's has the plastic baskets, which are pretty good.

                                                                    1. re: blink617
                                                                      Science Chick Jul 13, 2012 08:04 AM

                                                                      Agree, blink.....I'd prefer *something* between my food and the elements. According to maillard (above), it doesn't sound like they even give you a paper or anything. That's a bit odd.....

                                                                      1. re: Science Chick
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                                                                        Mayica Jul 14, 2012 12:45 PM

                                                                        Just ate there today for lunch -- the pita sandwich comes in a waxed paper warp, wrap, and they have cafeteria trays you can use while you'll filling it with toppings and paying.

                                                                        I got a bowl -- pay by they pound, you tell them how many falafel balls you want. The fried eggplant pieces were, indeed, fantastic.

                                                                  3. re: blink617
                                                                    Dr.Jimbob Jul 16, 2012 11:15 AM

                                                                    Just grabbed a quick bite of lunch and experienced the mob scene for myself. They are working out a plate compromise -- you can do a "salad bar bowl" and pay by the pound. They have not as yet fixed the price for the bowl (it isn't on the menu up on the wall), but this is rapidly becoming a very popular option (you call for the number of falafel balls you want, hence three-ball-bowl or five-ball-bowl, and top as you wish).

                                                                    My batch of falafels came out a trifle overfried -- the plastic fork was barely equal to the task of penetrating the crust. I suspect overload from a big busy line played a part in this, but if this is the consistent falafel of the future, it may still be worth doing this just to do the salad bar -- between tzatziki, baba ghannoush, hoummus, shepherd's salad, and some very enticing looking french fries, plus a variety of sides and sauces that have almost enough garlic in them, it is looking to be another good fast, cheap take-out alternative.

                                                                    1. re: Dr.Jimbob
                                                                      Boston_Otter Jul 16, 2012 12:56 PM

                                                                      Can you tell us about how much a salad bowl ran for you? I'm tempted to try it, but with no price, I always hate cash-register surprises after my salad's been made.

                                                                      I also noticed that they now let you get more toppings from the bar after you've paid, as long as you're just putting them in the little plastic cups.

                                                                      1. re: Boston_Otter
                                                                        Dr.Jimbob Jul 16, 2012 01:28 PM

                                                                        Today it was $6.45/lb. might make it a worthwhile destination on the strength of the salad bar alone, whether the falafel is good or no.

                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter
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                                                                          deglazer Jul 17, 2012 02:25 PM

                                                                          For reference, I got a 3-ball bowl today. I wasn't feeling super hungry and was more interested in sampling the wares. I took a good dollop of almost everything. Not a ton, like a tablespoon or so. The end result was a good pile of food, not huge but a good enough looking plate of lunch. It came to $6.12.

                                                                          General impressions: the falafel are solid but nothing great. Too fluffy and light for my taste, and not even close to the dense and meaty greenness of Fordee's. But this is such a bad falafel town that they easily make it into the conversation. Mine were well cooked, crispy crust, moist enough inside.

                                                                          I agree with Jenny Ondioline - I'm not particularly that into the toppings part in general - in fact, the favorite falafel joint of my youth served the sandwich with only tomato, curly parsly, tahini and a reddish "spice" shaken overtop (hot but less hot than say, cayenne). That was it. Seems a little austere (some shepherd's salad would be nice, eg.) but the falafel were so good that it didn't matter.

                                                                          The topping and condiments are pretty good though, my own preferences aside. There are things you don't always see, like what seemed like a salad of just parley and garlic, an onion relish, fried eggplant. I'd def. go there often if I lived nearby.

                                                                          As someone who can't eat bread and doesn't want to eat fries all that often, I could use some rice. This is my problem, I realize. They are not to be faulted, especially since the menu is pretty much gluten free except for the pita. But to my taste, the stuff is all sort of dense and highly-flavored. It starts to seem like a bowl of condiments after awhile. But that's my personal eating issue and doesn't detract from what I'm sure is a tasty sandwich, which is what 99% of their customers are after. I would probably make rice at home and take the salad stuff to go.

                                                                          1. re: deglazer
                                                                            Bob Dobalina Jul 17, 2012 02:35 PM

                                                                            Or just grab a side of rice from Chipotle down the block.

                                                                            1. re: Bob Dobalina
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                                                                              deglazer Jul 17, 2012 02:40 PM

                                                                              Good one!

                                                                  4. Bob Dobalina Jul 10, 2012 05:23 AM

                                                                    So what was the sad?

                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina
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                                                                      Gordough Jul 10, 2012 06:24 AM

                                                                      Do they have little containers or anything to put the condiments/sauces in or do you have to put whatever you want on the pita itself?

                                                                      1. re: Gordough
                                                                        Luther Jul 10, 2012 06:38 AM

                                                                        Sauces (peanut/ketchup/mayo/garlic) can go in cups and you can top off whenever you want. Salad items go on your pita and you can't go back for more.

                                                                      2. re: Bob Dobalina
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                                                                        FoodDabbler Jul 10, 2012 07:57 AM

                                                                        "Mr. Swank ended up splattering a puddle of condiments on the floor."

                                                                        If that doesn't make you cry, you're a hard-hearted man.

                                                                        1. re: FoodDabbler
                                                                          trufflehound Jul 10, 2012 08:28 AM

                                                                          Like the ice cream that fell of the cone.

                                                                          1. re: FoodDabbler
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                                                                            katzzz Jul 10, 2012 12:12 PM

                                                                            I'm not super fussy, but the topping bar set-up as described doesn't sound all that sanitary. Hope that's a mistaken impression.

                                                                            1. re: katzzz
                                                                              Science Chick Jul 10, 2012 12:26 PM

                                                                              ha-ha! Y'know, I love the falafels in Israel *because* of the topping bars...but I always wondered what would happen if they were attempted here for that very reason. I never thought the powers that be (i.e. health dept), would allow it here, considering you are required to take a new plate every time at any buffet to prevent cross-contamination. Hey...it works in Israel, though, so why not here!

                                                                              BTW, Swank....what about the falafels themselves? Could you tell us a bit about how they rate (compared to, say, Rami's or Fordee's)? Spicy? Tame? Crunchy? Bready?

                                                                              1. re: Science Chick
                                                                                maillard Jul 10, 2012 12:48 PM

                                                                                Where would the cross-contamination come from? I don't think there is any double-dipping, since if you want more sauces you have to put them in a little paper cup. There is however, some crossing of topping on the bar itself, which is a sad thing for dill haters.

                                                                                I found the falafel to be bigger and greener than Rami's, but about as tasty. I've only been to Fordee's once and it was awhile ago, but I think Amsterdam is pretty similar to theirs.

                                                                                1. re: maillard
                                                                                  Science Chick Jul 10, 2012 01:15 PM

                                                                                  In Israel, you can eat a bit, and then go up and add more toppings after you've already bit into your sandwich. Touching the serving pieces to your partially eaten sandwich and returning the serving piece to the buffet transfers bacteria from your sandwich into the vat on the buffet. Multiple by umpteen users and you have a nice bacterial cocktail! Of course, *if* they keep the bar at proper temperature, the bacteria won't have much of a chance to multiple. That's *if*....!!!! I haven't been to Amsterdam, so I don't know if they allow the double dipping as in Israel....

                                                                                  1. re: Science Chick
                                                                                    maillard Jul 10, 2012 01:48 PM

                                                                                    Yuck. No, at Amsterdam you can't get more toppings and additional sauces have to go in little paper cups. No double dipping. Just dill creep.

                                                                        2. maillard Jul 10, 2012 03:54 AM

                                                                          I was there yesterday as well (though for lunch). I didn't have the ball replacing issue. I always just smoosh down the sandwich so that the falafel is flattened, then I pull up one side of pita and place toppings on top of the falafel all the way to the bottom. Makes it easier to eat, too! I wish Rami's would do this; I end up just eating a salad first, then falafel because the toppings are all sitting on top.

                                                                          My favorite topping was the roasted eggplant. And the two hot sauces. I didn't see curry mustard, that sounds delicious!

                                                                          Didn't they have a metal tray by the cash register to sit your falafel in while you paid? I might be completely remember this wrong... If they don't, they probably should.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: maillard
                                                                            opinionatedchef Jul 13, 2012 02:43 AM

                                                                            Love your lesson in how to assemble one of these, squishing and all. Brilliant. I hope people are paying attention because they will have a much better eating experience if they follow your lead! so thnx. Btw, do you think they'd give me trouble if i brought in my own plate or sandwich container? I have a hard enough time when i'm wearing a napkin and using a plate; w/o one it would be pigpen delux.

                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                              maillard Jul 13, 2012 05:58 AM

                                                                              Thanks, I actually learned about the ball smooshing from signs at the DC Amsterdam location! It really does make a difference.

                                                                              I've found the people there to be super nice, so I don't think it would be an issue. I wish they would just wax paper the trays. That would keep fallen pieces nice and clean without having to go for actual plates etc.

                                                                          2. Luther Jul 10, 2012 03:33 AM

                                                                            I was at the preview this weekend, I thought they did a good job keeping the food true to the DC operation. The atmosphere is different but what can you do? Also if they keep the cashier after the sandwich-loading zone it's going to be ridiculously messy- if you don't have both hands to keep your food vertical, your precarious sandwich is going to all topple out during the payment process. It's key not to let your sandwich run dry as you work your way down, you gotta keep poking that shit with the wooden stick and redistributing the ludicrous pile of salad stuff you put on top. I liked the new curry ketchup quite a bit, as I found their mayo to be too cold and stiff to really be ideal for the fries.

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                                                                              Uncle Yabai Jul 10, 2012 12:00 AM

                                                                              Sounds like a classic Israeli falafel shop, in Israel. Not just an absolute delicious and chaotic mess, many of them don't even have napkins or sinks to wash the backsplash. And they are usually crewed by the owner, who makes the guy from Azuri in NY look like your friendliest uncle.

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