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Amsterdam Falafel: PHYSICS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

Agh! Sorry to be a bit of a Sourpuss Swank lately in recent threads, but ... I simply must vent about AF. Mr. Swank and I grabbed a quick bite there a couple of nights ago. I hadn't been since it opened, and chalked up my initial gripes (unwieldy toppings bar, cramped quarters) to early kinks. Ugh. It was worse than I remembered.

First of all, we were greeted by a very bored lad behind the counter who seemed completely confused that I wanted my falafels in a bowl. Mr. Swank got his in pita form. Now: He piled his sandwich high with every topping known to man. I judiciously topped my balls and toted them in a bowl. His meal cost $4 something. Mine? $8!! ALL FOR A PLASTIC BOWL?

I had the last laugh, though, since Mr. Swank's sandwich promptly fell apart. He had to finally rest his gooey, toppings-laden sandwich on a dirty tray, since plates were nowhere in sight. What is the point? Why not offer larger pitas for easier topping application, or at the very least some kind of paper platewear? Half of his sandwich ended up on the tray or on the floor.

My falafel balls were turgid and grainy. We also ordered fries -- a measly portion to be sure. Add to this tiny tables, rickety chairs, and downright filthy floors, and we're not going back soon. Sad, as we loved AF in DC!!

Hmph.

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  1. A pita costs a fixed $5.50 for 3 balls and you can add as much extra stuff as fits in a pita. Sounds like Mr. Swank tried to fit in even more and discovered that that doesn't work.

    If you want to add as much stuff as you want instead of being limited by what can fit in a pita, you can get a bowl like you did, but then you pay by weight since you can add way more stuff. It seems reasonable to me.

    1. Did the same thing as you...went when they opened, thought it was good but there were kinks, and went back again last Friday night. Still pretty kinky.

      Loaded up my pita and was greeted at the register by an employee who for some reason apologized to me and said she was feeling dizzy?
      Okay.
      It was a very strange juggling match between my pita, fries, wallet, card, and trying to sign the slip. I know there are holders there, and I used them...but the whole exchange was not easy. Fountain drinks being out of view while at the register is annoying too.

      At least they put holes in the tables to stick your fry cones in...although at some point as you eat the fries, it's just going to fall through.

      I'll try again if I need to eat something fast before a movie at the theatre, as I do actually like the falafel and toppings.

      1. I honestly don't understand the trepidation about the system at this place.

        The whole point is that the pita self-limits the amount of toppings you can add (at least in theory). I mean, if you wanna keep squeezing those size 24 toppings into that size 4 pita, who's fault is that?

        I have been a handful of times and each time, the falafels have been fresh from the fryer and I have had no trouble navigating the holders. (Put in holder. Complete transaction before trying to reacquire grip on pita.) I suppose a cone of fries on top of things would be more of a challenge. Haven't noticed any cleanliness issues, and the crew I guess has been sort of college-y space-y, but that's what you get in Davis.

        1. Last time I was there I saw somebody who had filled their pita so much that it had taken on a cone shape. He then put his falafel cone in one of the holes in the tables. Seemed like a good idea, but it fell over before he got back to the table. It would be kind of nice to have a holder on the tables, but it's not that big a deal. Just hold on to your pita the whole time or make sure you don't overstuff and lay it gently on its side.

          As far as how they price the stuff, I think it's pretty simple. Veggies cost substantially more than chickpeas, so they try to limit how many veggies you can load up on unless you pay for them by weight. They want to keep the price low because it is fast food and they need to keep it affordable for the students. Never went for the bowl option, but previous posters said it cost $6 for a good amount of stuff, so unless they raised the price per pound...

          The two times I have gone, I have thoroughly enjoyed my falafel sandwich, found it to be a good deal, and had no problem with my pita self-destructing or losing filling everywhere. Definitely a more relaxing experience if you can avoid the lunch rush.

          And Swank, didn't you say in the previous thread that the large fries was a huge portion?

          1 Reply
          1. re: nickls

            Yes. Also humorous, in light of the recent complaining about messy floors, are the tales of her husband dropping stuff all over the floor.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/857897

          2. Unless this place has dramatically raised their prices and gone utterly downhill, it doesn't sound like the AF I'm used to. Perhaps Swank went at a bad time (the Tufts lunch/dinner rush can leave the place sort of disheveled) but I've found that the pitas are sort of self-limiting. You smush down the falafel balls, fill the pita until it gets nearly unwieldy, and then stop.

            1. And what qualifies a falafel ball as being "turgid," anyway?

              5 Replies
              1. re: FinnFPM

                Have you actually been to Amsterdam falafel, or are you just badgering the OP for the pleasure of it?

                I have to agree that the place is somewhat unorganized service-wise and at the register. However, since it is pretty much a fast food restaurant so I go in with appropriate expectations in terms of service, comfort, etc.

                1. re: FinnFPM

                  Turgid means "swollen" or "bulging," with an implication of stiffness. I like my falafel softer, easy to chew, and more moist.

                  1. re: Swankalicious

                    That's an awesome word to describe a falafel ball. Or balls. Or a falafel stick, perhaps.

                    1. re: Swankalicious

                      I'm a huge fan of your use of the word turgid. I like it. I like you. The end.

                      1. re: yumyum

                        Hey thanks!! Turgidly yours, Swank!

                  2. The extra toppings go between the bread and the wax paper, not infinitely skyward.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Luther

                      I prefer both sideways and skyward :-)
                      I haven't had a problem w/ the pitas either, though I think they shrank a bit since they first opened...made the mistake of getting a regular sized on the first time and I was stuffed :-(

                      1. re: Spike

                        Finn: Chill out! I think the entire process is unwieldy. I don't think it's bizarre to hope that a restaurant, even a casual one, might offer something as innovative as plates for its patrons. As for the filthy floors, Mr. Swank is a neatnik and promptly cleaned up his mess. Others did not. Whether you apply four toppings or 40--and I topped sparingly, and did not fill my sandwich to the brim, SINCE I OPTED FOR A BOWL--the process could use some ironing out. You're more than entitled to your opinion, but I found the whole experience messy and tiring.

                        1. re: Swankalicious

                          I just ask for a piece of tin foil and they always give me a piece. Then I have no worries about the overfill mess. Problem solved!

                          1. re: David_A

                            I like making hats out of that and wearing them to prevent the voices in my head from urging me to load up on the toppings.

                    2. Falafel sandwich construction, like ice sculpting, is something that I admire AND leave to the professionals.

                      To me, AF is a cheap eats place---you get what you get, toppings ahoy! but yes, icky trays. A good deal at AF for <$5.00 if one has great manual dexterity ...I'm a klutz, so I go where someone patient and not clumsy can assemble for me.

                      1. Or...go to Boston Kabob Company in Allston and get the best falafel in town in a sandwich the size of your head, assembled by experts, for under $6. There are options.

                        1 Reply
                        1. Recently retried Amsterdam Falafel, thanks to excellent feedback on my recent Davis Square snarkfest. I found the falafel moister than all previous lifetime falafel, by which I mean they were Kickass-Cupcakes-dry. The toppings help a lot.

                          I am a fork-and-knife guy even with pizza, so find the lack of plates incredibly annoying. I am totally uninterested in hipness at the expense of setting down food to, for example, clean up the food I just spilled on the floor.

                          But what really burned my brooch was the mayonnaise for the fries. They say they specialize in fries, they call themselves _Amsterdam_ for cryin' out loud, and this was the worst mayonnaise I've ever had. I recognize that at home I only use homemade, but I don't turn up my nose at Hellman's, and I even enjoy McDonald's mayonnaise.

                          This mayo. was. tasteless. Blank. Empty. The world's first mayonnaise not worth the calories. No acid. No salt. As far as I could tell, only emulsified oil. I understand it's prepackaged so it's not going to taste like fresh lemon juice, but I couldn't even taste citric acid.

                          *any hounds who cannot successfully make mayonnaise are invited to recuse themselves from the thread.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: enhF94

                            Such a sad mayo story! No excuse for that......I agree. On a happier note, on a recent trip to Barcelona we were in a lovely, but ill-equipped, apartment. I triumphed making some awesome mayo using olive oil, a fresh egg from the Boqueria, some lemon and *a fork*. ;)

                            And I'm with the neatniks posting above.....I'm sorry, but there is no excuse for failing to provide some sort of receptacle to tote your falafel and pita around. Even most street vendors wrap everything in a nice paper that serves as a plate/holder for you! I've been meaning to get over to AF, but the cleanliness issues are holding me back a bit. I'll still go and then post my 2 cents, though!

                            1. re: Science Chick

                              funny, I found it so easy to make mayo in Madrid with a fork over twenty years ago. sometimes fail here.

                              thanks for the warning on the mayo at AF. I load up on enough calories with the other toppings, but good to know.

                            2. Something I'm a bit confused about -- I see a lot of people complaining that there's no way to carry your food back to the table without risking spilling it everywhere, and that trying to juggle pita and beverage and fries is nearly impossible.

                              Every time I've gone there, I've been given a plastic tray for my food. Do they no longer use them?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                I have not been given a tray, no, but I'll ask for one if I ever return!

                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                  they do have plastic trays and the last time I was there....6 weeks ago...?....they were in plain sight. I think the issue is however is that there isn't a plate to hold your pita or a plate to put your pita on to put on top of the tray. so if your pita spills out, it's directly on to the tray,which sometimes seem to be not so clean. example...at McD's if you eat in, you get a tray and no plate, but your hamburger comes in a paper wrapper so that it does not sit directly on top of the tray. If you want, you can also use said wrapper for a pool of ketchup for your fires.

                                  1. re: Madrid

                                    Ah, gotcha, thanks for clarifying.