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Apr 27, 2014 06:44 AM


Where would one find the best falafel in or out of Center City? My husband loves Alyans but after eating there for over 20 years (he's very loyal!) I'm ready to try somewhere else. Would prefer sit-down.

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  1. Three places to consider

    Mama's vegetarian... they bake their own pita. And you can really get it spicy there, something that a lot of places won't.

    Maoz.. its a chain but really puting out great food.

    For food truck, you would enjoy King of Falafel which is always at 16th and JFK.. ( I know you said sit down but this is worth trying.... ).

    17 Replies
    1. re: cwdonald

      Thanks, cw. I shouldn't have made my topic so narrow. What I'm really looking for is something more traditionally Middle Eastern, with meat dishes as well as falafel - like kibbeh, kefta, chicken kebobs, lamb shawarma, etc.. Any of those kinds of places around here? Lebanese?

      1. re: JunieB

        Try Green Olives Cafe on Passyunk Ave in South Philly or Bitar's on 10th and Federal. Green Olives is sit down. Bitar's has some tables and chairs but is mainly take-out.

        However, I will admit to having the falafel at Mama's and at Green Olives and Mama's wins hands down.

        1. re: Philly Ray

          Mama's is some of the best falafel in the US. Israeli/Palestinian style tho, different than Lebenese.

          1. re: barryg

            Sounds like a good rec. How do you define the Israel/Palestinian type? Friends from the Middle East say that falafel is just falafel - that people have their own way of making it but that there is not one that is specific to a particular country, so I'm just curious. I know that some people prefer fava bean and some prefer chickpea.

            1. re: JunieB

              No favas I don't think, heavy on the parsley. But I really mean the whole sandwich... Soft fluffy pocket pita, creamy tahini-heavy hummus, the same salads, sauces and pickles you would find at a typical shop in Jerusalem. The way they assemble the sandwich is the same too. And pita is always fresh (baked multiple times a day) and the falafel is always fresh out of the frier. The main difference I find with the Lebanese places is that they usually make a wrap out of a larger flat, drier pita.

              They also have the other typical things at Israeli falafel places... french fries, fried eggplant, sabich sandwich (eggplant + hard boiled egg), veggie patties (they call them latkes).

              1. re: barryg

                We'll definitely have to give it a try. One of my biggest complaints at Alyans is that the pita always falls apart and you're left with a big mess on your hands!

                If the falafel is green inside it's made with fava beans and if it's tan inside it's made with chickpeas. I like both but prefer chickpeas.

                Bread is always different from country to country. We were recently eating in a Turkish restaurant in NYC and I asked for pita and the bread they brought me didn't resemble pita at all! It was delicious though. Again, it's probably more about the people who are making it than about what is traditional.

                Thanks for the details.

                1. re: JunieB

                  Peeled dried fava beans aren't green - they're a pretty similar color to chickpeas.

                  1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

                    I hate to be misled! I don't make falafel myself but that's what cooks have told me and as far as I can tell it's proven to be correct, at least the times I've asked in restaurants or food trucks.

                    1. re: JunieB

                      You can use fresh or dried favas when making falafel. There really aren't any rules, recipes vary from person to person, country to country.

          2. re: Philly Ray

            Maybe we have to go to Mama's for falafel and somewhere else for meat and chicken dishes. Thanks!

          3. re: JunieB

            I would try two places. One place is Cedars on second street just off of South. I haven't been there in a few years but used to like it a lot.

            The other is a cafe near Penn. Manakeesh Cafe has falafel, shwarma etc. in addition to some fabulous pastries and real lebanese coffee.

              1. re: JunieB

                Never mind. I was looking at the wrong website!

              2. re: cwdonald

                cw, is Manakeesh a sit down restaurant? I can't tell from their website. I love their menu!

                  1. re: cwdonald

                    Lovely interior. I like the brick walls. Can't wait to go there.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  We had been semi-regulars at Cedars, not sure why it has been so long since last there. We frequently dine at some small Lebanon/Egyptian places in the burbs and beyond and do love the middle east foods. Cedars had alway been quite good, it is definitely worth a visit.

            1. I highly recommend Judah's Mediterranean Grill. It's on Krewstown Road in Northeast Philly--only about 15-20 minutes from Elkins Park (I think that's where you are?). Great falafel, shawarma, etc. Fantastic salads--the Moroccan carrot is my favorite. They are kosher, so not open Fri night/Saturday. Very friendly service.

              Their website appears to be down, but here is their Facebook page:


              Editing to add that their pita is terrific, and their sandwiches can be ordered either on pita or laffa--a square, puffy wrap, which is a little bigger than pita and delicious. They also have many non-sandwich dishes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                That's more like what I had in mind. Their fb photos are gorgeous! I might have to go there tonight!

              2. Just curious about this, is falafel healthy? Is there a healthy alternative if not?

                3 Replies
                1. re: dndicicco

                  I would consider Falafel healthful for the legumes and veggies but not lo-cal for the fried - -

                  if you have a carb/gluten issue I am sure you could drop the pita for a salad and you could reduce the cals by baking instead of frying. but I like it fried in pita i don't consider it a bad choice nutritionally.

                  1. re: dndicicco

                    Define healthy. Falafel is fried, and legumes are fairly high in calories, so it is not low calorie. It is full of plant-based protein, high in fiber and other nutrients, and usually served with fresh veggies, so, on balance, healthful I would say.

                    1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                      Very helpful. Healthy for me is not necessarily low cal, so very much in line with the above.

                  2. Anyone know what happened to the Israeili guy's falafel cart that used to be on the SW corner of 17th & Market?