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Falafel: SFBA Dish of the Month June 2014

The goal of Dish of the Month is to collectively try as many versions of falafel as we can in the Bay Area.

To keep things lively, focus on places where you have not eaten falafel before and report back. Bring pictures!

Voting thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976998

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  1. Well, I guess I'll get started. Had the stuffed and regular falafels at Old Jerusalem. The stuffed are fantastic and worth a short drive (easy parking on the block actually). Both are light on the inside and crispy on the outside, Flavors are also great but perhaps a bit too salty.

    5 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Oops sorry. Didn't do much of an examination but there is corn and onion for sure. I actually ate 'em while driving back to the office!

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I believe it is onion and pine nuts. They are amazing.

          1. re: ChervilGeorge

            LOL, that is what I get for saying "for sure." Thank you for the correction.

        2. re: Civil Bear

          Anyone else making stuffed falafel around here?

        3. I just had the falafel salad @ Barney's on College in Oakland. Surprisingly satisfying--the falafel patties well seasoned and fried, a good contrast w/ the crisp salad greens; and a good, creamy garlicky dressing set it off. I'm not saying I stumbled upon Jerusalem in the East Bay, but this is a salad that works quite nicely.

          1. Yesterday I tried the Flying Falafel at a festival. They were frying as fast as they could to keep up with the crowd. Service was incredibly friendly.

            $8 bought you a full falafel. I was given a whole wheat pita (soft and thick), and then there were bowls set up with falafel, pickles, cabbage, sliced tomatoes and shredded carrots to fill your own pita. There were squeeze bottles of hot sauce and tehina.

            The falafel were very fresh. They were crispy but irregularly shaped. They were lightly golden brown on the outside, and light brown on the inside. They tasted good, but definitely lacked salt. The pickles seemed like pretty good Israeli pickles. The sliced tomatoes were sad looking. The tehina also lacked salt.

            Overall, it was a pretty satisfying falafel. My 4 year old was thrilled with it, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

            1. What makes a wonderful falafel? Recently had them at Falafel stop in Sunnyvale. They were freshly fried. I have not tasted many versions beyond that, Dish Dash an a few others. Somebody recommended falafel drive through as the best of the area but I haven't been.

              Are there regional variations?

              1 Reply
              1. re: ckshen

                Here's a piece on NPR that describes some of the variations with examples here in the Bay Area,

              2. I stopped by Amba in Montclair Village for a late lunch. The falafel sandwich was good, but made me miss the glory days when there were 3 falafel joints with the Israeli style add your own salad bar to the top, and now there are none. The falafel balls were well-fried, crispy, without a distinctive spicing. The tahini sauce was good, and the rest of the sandwich was filled out with some cucumber pickles with allspice/clove type spicing, lettuce, tomato, and thick hummus. The salads in the case, particularly the cauliflower, looked good, but are only available as side orders or platters that I did not end up ordering. I actually really enjoyed the french fries offered as an add-on, they were double fried, crispy, and tasty. Ordering took place at the counter, but I was asked if everything was okay and if I'd like hot sauce while at a table (though not offered any namesake amba). The hot sauce was homemade, tasting mostly of red chili.

                1. The falafels at Zands (Solano in Albany) for lunch today were nicely spiced and had good texture, but the problem here is that they're invariably cooked in advance and barely warmed up. I'll have to ask them whether they can make some fresh, or even toss the cooked ones in the fryer for a minute.

                  Original plan was to go to Sophia Cafe down the street, but they're closed on Tuesdays.

                  Are there any other falafel places Berkeley (outside of Downtown) and north?

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: ernie in berkeley

                    Troy and Jerusalem Organic Kitchen are both at the top of Solano. I haven't tried the falafel at either place. Very close if you want to compare.

                    I guess Zaki is closed. I liked the falafel there.

                    I assume the Barney's on Solano also has the falafel salad. I'm glad to know about something good there. Generally don't like the place at all.

                    1. re: ernie in berkeley

                      Never been to Sophia Cafe. Since that was your original plan, assume you prefer to Zands? Say more?

                      I've not been a fan of Amba. Agree w/ earlier poster re spicing--but even more critical--didn't think tahini sauce was good, wasn't wild about pita.

                      I miss felafel @ Holy Land on College/Ashby (think they are still in Grand Lake area in Oakland)--a falafel and mint-y lemonade there would make a fine meal!

                      1. re: sundeck sue

                        I've only had Sophia's falafels once, and don't remember them very well, so that's why they were my first choice today. Zands are pretty solid aside from not being hot or crispy, good tahini, nicely seasoned veggies. I'll go back to Sophia soon (and to Jerusalem "Organic"). I'll probably skip Troya.

                        1. re: ernie in berkeley

                          I'm curious why you'd skip Troy. I had lunch there today for the first time. I only had the falafel and the dolmas, so I can't judge the plates, but the place was pleasant and the service was good.

                          As for the falafel: they were big round things, a bit larger than I prefer and not piping hot, but well-fried; crunchy and moist inside -- not mealy or mushy. An order of 4 came with tahini sauce.

                          I liked the two hot sauces on the table, especially the green. Wot is?

                          1. re: Glencora

                            No particular reason other than that falafel isn't a Greek dish. They do sound good, though, so I'll give them a chance.

                            1. re: ernie in berkeley

                              And now I've tried them. Troy's falafels are probably the best I've had in the East Bay (Berkeley and north). They were crisp and moist as Gencora says above, and the wrap was big enough to save some for dinner.

                        2. re: sundeck sue

                          Pita @ Amba has varied. Started fluffy when they opened, moved to thin and bleh, currently thickish whole wheat and fluffy.

                          1. re: sundeck sue

                            The one in Grand Lake is a shadow of the original in Elmwood (very sadly -- had many memorable, congenial meals there).

                        3. I ate the falafel plate at Park Gyros yesterday. The falafel balls were fresh from the fat—big, crisp, and light. I quite liked them with the hummus and the (much better) baba ghanoush. The chopped salad this is served with is delicious.

                          1. In What the Fork in the East Bay Express today, Luke Tsai reports that The Dock @ Linden St. will have "falafel waffles"!


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: sundeck sue

                              I suspect that means they'll use chickpea flour + spices to make a waffle.

                              1. re: sundeck sue

                                some folks have coined the word: fawaffle

                                1. Back to Sophia Cafe, and it turns out they closed for good on May 31. Someone else is taking over, different cuisine.

                                  So, up to the top of Solano to Jerusalem. I had high hopes when I saw them scooping the raw falafel into the deep fryer. But the dish arrived much more quickly than expected, and sure enough, the falafels were barely cooked, mealy and without any crisp crust. The greens were generous, though, and lightly dressed in oil and lemon.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                    too bad about Jerusalem. I'm usually quite hesitant about sending the plate back. Did you consider that option?

                                    1. re: escargot3

                                      Didn't occur to me, for a $5.50 sandwich. I might return and ask them to fry the falafels for a longer time. The flavor was ok, if a little undersalted.

                                    2. re: ernie in berkeley

                                      SOP to always ask if the falafel are fried to order at any place I've not tried before. I've had staff point to a pile under a heat lamp that they say are fresh. When I say "no thank you" and turn around to walk out the door, they will usually offer to fry some for me.

                                    3. Q Halal Chicken, Alameda

                                      As reported in the discussion of the restaurant, the falafel platter here is pretty awesome: for $8 you get three large, freshly fried falafel balls, a generous tomato cucumber salad liberally topped with feta, pita bread and hummus, and two different sauces (one vinegar and herbs, one yogurt based).

                                      The sign by the register says everything is prepared to order. The falafel were indeed freshly out of the fryer. The crust was dark and crisp, the inside bright green, with herbs and spices and just a hint of heat. Although they were tasty, I would have liked then a little fluffier. I couldn't come close to finishing the plate -- next time I'll get it to go and spread it out over a couple of meals.

                                      I noticed that the Mediterranean Deli next door also sells falafel.

                                      1. Taste of Mediterranean in Burlingame....

                                        1. My daughter, who is a total falafel "maven," just had a falafel from the Liba truck @ First Friday in Oakland--and LOVED it.

                                          I've had her falafel @ Alameda Antique Market and also remember it as a good version.

                                          According to What the Fork in the East Bay Express, she's got a storefront opening soon.

                                          And I think there may even be a coupon for her sweet potato fries to go w/ falafel in the EcoMetro East Bay coupon book.



                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: sundeck sue

                                            You beat me to it!

                                            IM-not so-HO Liba Falafel's truck has the best falafels I have had except maybe one I was offered straight out of a big frier on the street in the Old City of Damascus - she is that good.

                                            And she has a little buffet of a dozen superb condiments to put on top. The fresh falafels are served either 3 in a pita or on a salad. Condiments include various chutneys, pickled salads, and (to load on the guilt) incredible fried pickled onions.

                                            Thursdays at lunch (11 ish to 2 ish) she is always at De Haro St near Alameda in San Francisco very visibly parked in a warehouse parking lot - at the bottom of Potrero Hill near the Design District. There is always parking.

                                            In SF, I think the truck shows up sometimes at the Civic Center, but it is mostly an East Bay enterprise with a brick and mortar on the way.

                                            Also decent are King of Falafel on Divisidero, but they don't come with that wonderful condiment buffet.

                                            1. re: Thomas Nash

                                              Update: the Thursday Liba Falafel location has moved to 650 Townsend, not far away from De Haro, but parking is no longer easy...

                                              The warehouse, whose lot they were using, is being torn down...

                                            2. re: sundeck sue

                                              Liba is one of the few local food trucks I would make an effort to hit when she's in the neighborhood (near work)...

                                              The combo of her freebie condiments and falafel make her's number one for me... :)

                                              1. re: sundeck sue

                                                I heartily second this recommendation. Liba is the BEST falafel I've had within city limits, and the only place that comes close to reminding me of Falafel greats like Drive-In Falafel in San Jose and Amsterdam Falafel in Washington, DC.

                                                1. re: sundeck sue

                                                  I’m no falafel maven, but after my fourth time trying Liba Falafel, I would say it's one of the best I have eaten. The sesame seed-studded falafel balls are crunchy on the outside, and moist on the inside without being the slightest bit pasty, mushy, or underdone. I think this is because the chickpeas are ground into larger bits than I usually see. Also, I think the larger bits are what make the exteriors so craggy.

                                                  These crags catch and hold the 15 generous, self-serve fixin's available from the side of the truck. Because I’m a cootie-phobe, I usually eschew anything resembling a salad bar. However, when the fixin's are that enticing, I simply can't resist. To be honest, I went a little overboard with the fixin’s, but I ask you—what would you do with a roomy and sturdy (but still tender) pita pocket like this?

                                                  Showing a pic of my gluttonous crowning of the crags would be too embarrassing, so let’s just say I topped mine with one or more of the following: braised eggplant, Moroccan carrot salad, harissa, raita, pickled red onions, fried pickled onions, apple chutney, and multiple scoops of feta cheese, with a dill-and-cardamom-brined cucumber spear tucked between the pita and the wrapper for later.

                                                  After such a filling meal, I barely had room for their house-made peppermint patty. The minty nougat is enrobed in snappy dark chocolate and is served chilled.

                                                  Liba Falafel
                                                  Brick-and-mortar Falafel Shop coming soon to Oakland
                                                  Bay Area truck locations vary– see their schedule on their home page http://libafalafel.com

                                                2. I stopped by Shami Restaurant and Hookah Lounge in San Leandro to try it out and got falafel plate, for DOTM purposes (the kebabs with seasoned rice look really good too). The falafel were really tasty--the exterior crust was crispy and just the right width, and the interior soft, but not wet (or dry). No unusual seasonings, but salty enough to be pleasant eating on its own. It didn't taste that much of chickpeas, leading me to believe it is partially to mostly favas. It tasted great, especially with the tahini sauce. The hummus was really smooth, and came topped with parsley and sumac. The real winner of the plate, however, was the lentil soup. It had great balance, with a strong sour note from both lemon and sumac. I'll definitely be back to try other items from the menu, but I don't think I'll ever be able to resist that soup. The pita was the only disappointment--no better than store bought.

                                                  1. I enjoy the falafels at Falafel, Etc. in Fremont. They're crispy on the outside and not at all greasy, plus the salt level is perfect. I also like the fact that they're fried in canola oil.

                                                    1. Mediterranean Wraps, Palo Alto

                                                      Two weeks ago I kicked off the falafel hunt on California Avenue in Palo Alto with an al fresco lunch with a friend. I had the falafel plate which came with hummus, green salad, and pickles. The falafel and the hummus were pretty stellar, the salad not so much.

                                                      Fresh out of the fryer, the very dark brown-hued orbs had an uneven pebbly crust that gave them extra crunch. On the salty side, these were more highly seasoned than most. When asked if I wanted spicy or regular, I requested spicy but I'm not certain that's what I was served. Formed into large balls, these falafel had a lower crust to interior ratio than I prefer, but that's really my only criticism.

                                                      I would get these again, but either alone or as a wrap.


                                                      1. Affi's Marin Gourmet

                                                        This stand at Sunday's Marin Civic Center farmers market was handing out samples dipped in its various spreads (e.g., hummus, aubergine, chimichurri "pesto") and hawking them as gluten-free. At room temperature, these were rather heavy and quite bland in seasoning. And rubbery on the crust, no crunch at all as a packaged product. I was not a buyer.

                                                        A friend has recommended Trader Joe's frozen falafel as a good item to have on hand at home or to take on camping trips. Opinions?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                          I've had the TJ's frozen falafel. They make a good snack, the flavor is fine, but the texture is off. They are a little soft and mushy, especially if you microwave them. I would usually crisp them in the toaster oven, or you could lightly fry them.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            T.Joes frozen falafel patties provide me a regular fix ; w. my dining companion we rarely go to middle eastern spots for lunch or dinner. as pamf notes their texture isn't ideal, but my technique includes both the microwave to thaw and then crisping in the toaster oven. they get dressed with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and espelette or a similar red pepper.

                                                            my earliest experiences with falafel were from street carts, fresh made. getting served reheated stuff isn't worth the monetary or opportunity investment for me. these frozen patties are comparable to many of premade/reheated versions at a much friendlier price.

                                                            my choice of fresh made falafel in this area, with the ideal choices of veg, pickles, dressings and condiments, would also be the Liba Falafel truck cited by several others here.

                                                          2. I'm a little surprised that there haven't been more mentions of Old Jerusalem on Mission. For me, their falafel is clearly superior to any other I've had in the Bay Area. Closest in fact to the perfect falafel stands in the hypercompetitive city of Haifa Israel.

                                                            I like Old Jerusalem better than Liba Falafel. The sides at Old Jerusalem are excellent as well. I will also second Ruth's recommendation of Q Halal Chicken, Alameda, but Old Jerusalem stands as the pinnacle for me.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: mmpojo

                                                              First post on this thread:

                                                              at the top of my list:
                                                              stuffed falafel and everything else at Old Jersusalem

                                                              1. re: mmpojo

                                                                Here's a photo that shows the oblong falafel at Old Jerusalem from my post last month.

                                                                You reminded me of another spot owned by an Arabic family from Israel, Small World in Napa. I've not been there for a long time and hope to get a recent report.

                                                              2. King of Falafel, San Francisco

                                                                At 9am, the small vegetarian plate ($7.49) made as pretty a breakfast as any. This was my first visit to this 40 year-old Palestinian-owned business that claims to have introduced falafel to San Francisco.

                                                                No problem to sub extra falafel for the tabouli on my plate, that also included hummus, baba g, dolma, pink turnip pickles, sumac-dusted onion slivers, and a scatter of tomato, cucumber, parsley and chopped lettuce. Fresh (but not that great) pita was served on the side and hot sauce was on the tables.

                                                                Fried to order, the golden brown crust is craggy with a solid crunch and embedded with sesame seeds. A scattering of ground cumin seed adds an extra lift of fragrance and flavor.

                                                                Sort of in the middle as far as seasoning level, the interior stayed moist but not heavy or doughy. The frying oil was completely neutral.

                                                                I noticed that no tahini sauce was provided with my plate. But I didn't miss it at all once I tasted the housemade hot sauce. In the jars, the coarse textured hot sauce looks like the generic stuff at Chinese restaurants. But, it has twice the level of flavor and heat, with just enough sugar and tartness to tame the impact.

                                                                I also didn't miss tahini because the hummus here has a lot in it. Smoother than I prefer, but pretty good. I did not care for the babaghanouge ... too loose and watery, no smokiness. And the dolma was fine.

                                                                King of Falafel's lease expires at the end of the year. The owner was not available when I was there, but the staff say that as far as they know, talks with the landlord are still continuing.


                                                                It will appear on tonight's episode of "Check, Please" at 7:30pm.


                                                                  1. I've raved about Falafel Stop in Sunnyvale before (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8745...) and it remains my favorite for this dish. This is Israeli-style falafel with garbanzo beans only, no fava beans, so none of that green color you'll find elsewhere. The homemade pita is fantastic and the combination of falafel, pita, vegetables, tahini, and a little bit of hot sauce makes for an extraordinary flavor combination. Parking is tough in the small lot on Sunnyvale-Saratoga just south of Fremont, but this is a must-try place for any Israeli falafel lovers in the area.


                                                                    1. I got the falafel at Wally's Cafe in Emeryville, which I'd been meaning to try out for quite some time. While the service was very friendly and fast, and the baklava and lentil soup complimentary with a full order the sort of touch that engenders good feelings, I wasn't too excited about this one. The falafel were dry, perhaps my fault for not specifically requesting fresh fried--the place was extremely busy at the time leading me to assume they would be fresh enough. They did have more spicing than the other two I've tried this month--a noticeable cumin note--but it didn't make up for the dry, mealy texture. I enjoyed the baklava quite a bit, though, and I'm not usually a fan.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: ...tm...

                                                                        Oh Wally's, I'd forgotten about that place, never been and always meant to. I like the dimensions of the falafel, lots of crust, too bad they're dry.

                                                                        1. re: ...tm...

                                                                          Sorry to hear that you got some dry ones ..... I usually go when it's not so busy and I've enjoyed the falafel. Crunchy but moist interiors ..... and nice spicing. Hope it's a one off?

                                                                        2. King Falafel and Sonoma Burger in Cotati

                                                                          Dropped in here last week for a first time visit. The young woman had a look of disbelief when I asked if the falafel were fried to order, repeating my question as if it were nonsensical, and I took this as a good sign. Indeed the falafel are fried fresh for each customer and made of chickpeas. I also learned that the family that owns the spot hail from Jordan.

                                                                          The prep counter was covered with more than a case box full of fresh green herbs --- Italian parsley and cilantro. The high herb content makes these falafel brighter green in the center from the flecks of herbs and a little softer at the core. The spheres are fried to a dark brown but have a rather delicate crispness to them.

                                                                          My deluxe falafel sandwich, $6.95, was rolled up into a cylinder with lavosh and then grilled for a pleasing chariness and crackle. It was packed quite firmly with hummus, chopped tomato, lettuce, cucumber, tahini sauce, shatta sauce, dill pickles, and velvety eggplant. I had spotted the pink-tinged turnip pickles in the display case and was disappointed to not find them in my sandwich. No problem, a few on the side were soon offered, as well as additional shatta hot sauce. The housemade hot sauce turned out to have a bit more tomato sweetness and less capsicum burn than some other versions, so can be applied more liberally. I saw packages of pita bread on the shelf also, the balloon-y stuff made by Kronos.

                                                                          This was a satisfying lunch, not one to drive a distance for, but good to know about when in the neighborhood. King Falafel is located next to Oliver's Market. Several of Oliver's staffers were taking their lunch breaks at the outside tables.

                                                                          King Falafel/Sonoma Burger
                                                                          548 E Cotati Ave
                                                                          Cotati, CA 94931‎
                                                                          Rancho Cotati Shopping Center
                                                                          (707) 664-8200

                                                                          1. Saha in San Francisco

                                                                            Last week I had dinner here with my brother, and of course, had to try the falafel ($12) at this Yemeni-owned "fusion" spot. The scent of sesame tahini mingled with cumin, mint and cilantro when the plate of seven pieces hit the table was wonderful. Freshly fried and delicately crisp, the exterior crust had a fine-grained texture and the insides were moist and creamy though not doughy. This was a far more finessed texture than I'd run across at my other stops. Lovely tahini-rich hummus underneath for swabbing, more tahini drizzled over the top, very briny olives for contrast, and a quenelle of spicy hot condiment filled out the plate. The hot sauce was very spicy, a little sweet, as well as garlicky.

                                                                            In this month's hunt for falafel contenders, I've especially been enjoying the differences in housemade hot sauces offered with the dish. The name of the dish on the menu is falafal and eggplant, and after the meal I had to ask the waiter where the eggplant element might be. He said I was not the first to ask that. The eggplant is incorporated into the falafel itself, contributing to the smooth and soft texture of the interior. I have to say it doesn't add much flavorwise. While I did enjoy this dish, I would probably satisfy future falafel urges elsewhere.


                                                                            1. Sam's Mediterranean Cafe & Deli in Rohnert Park

                                                                              Well, here's a twist on trying to get fresh, fried to order falafel. This week I dropped into this cafe located in a business park, spotted the stack of falafel displayed in the refrigerator case, and asked if I could have falafel fried to order. The proprietor (Sam?) asked, "do you want regular or spicy?" I ordered a spicy wrap and he set to work pulling out pita bread (Caravan brand, my least favorite) and dressing it. I watch him do this and wonder when he's going to start frying. I turned around to survey the set up a bit and didn't see a deep-fryer. When he asked if I want pickles in the wrap, I requested turnip pickles. He replied, "Ah, you know the real stuff, but I only have this kind", and showed me a dill pickle chip. I smiled and repeated, "Yes, that's why I only eat falafel that are fried fresh and crispy."

                                                                              Then I saw him step over to the microwave and pull something out that he tried to hide from view. Somehow when my back was turned, he put falafel balls in there to heat!!! I said, "What are you doing? I said twice that I only want fresh fried." He insisted that I'll like it once I taste it, and confessed that there's no fryer on the premise!!! I asked him to hand me a piece of the falafel balls that he has broken into pieces. I tasted it. The flavor was nice, but the crust was rubbery and the inside was soggy. I tell him that I can't eat it. Not spoiling for a fight, he said that he wouldn't charge me and could eat it himself.

                                                                              With this kind of shenanigans, Sam's Mediterranean Cafe & Deli goes on the FALAFEL WALL OF SHAME. Also joined by the Y3lpers who recommended the falafel here earning Sam's 5-stars overall.


                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                pays to be vigilant .... very disappointing that he wasn't up front about your request. at least he didn't double down when you said you wouldn't accept it.

                                                                                1. re: gordon wing

                                                                                  I've replayed our brief convo in my head a few times and he never exactly lied to me. His crime was being willing to pass off something that was not at all what I asked for so specifically. And the prices are on the high side here . . . that bogus wrap would have cost me $10.

                                                                                2. Burmese Kitchen in San Francisco

                                                                                  And for something different . . . I tried these on Wednesday.

                                                                                  Burmese Falafel - Baya Jaw (7pcs) (V) (G) ............................................... 6.95
                                                                                  (Fried Crushed Yellow Split Peas wth Onion, Chili. Served with Tamarind Hot Sauce)

                                                                                  Fried to order and served up too hot to eat, these golden brown flattened spheres were greaseless. Very crunchy on the rough exterior and coarse grained and tender inside, I'll borrow Rebecca's term and call them craggy. Shown here with seven pieces on the plate, along with the spicy tamarind dipping sauce,

                                                                                  Only a bit of green inside, some scallion and perhaps cilantro, making these look much different than Middle Eastern falafel. Minced soft onion added sweetness, and caramelized when exposed on the surface. Here's the inside,

                                                                                  The tamarind sauce was very spicy hot, and a party in the mouth with sour, sweet, fruity and garlicky elements. As much as I enjoyed these Burmese falafel, after the first four I sort of tired of them. Best to share.


                                                                                  Now open for dinner, Burmese Kitchen has a 10% discount coupon for dinner Mon-Thur, valid until the end of July.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                    Sounds like the Burmese Kitchen falafels have improved considerably. I ordered them a few years ago and they were crunchy and coarse grained nearly all the way through. So much so that I never dared order them again.

                                                                                    Perhaps they deserve another shot!

                                                                                    1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                      Definitely coarse-grained all the way through, as I saw an occasional complete half of a yellow pea. But they are moist and not dry or crunchy in the middle. The seasonings on this were a nice change of pace for the month. These falafel also make an appearance in the samusa soup, so perhaps they're fried hard for that purpose.

                                                                                  2. Gotta Eatta Pita is a small chain with locations in Danville, Pleasanton, and Pleasant Hill. You can order falafel or shawarma (pre-cooked, no visible spit) in either a pita or as a salad bowl. Toppings are added by the workers like you're at a Chipotle, and include s'hug, a green hot sauce, an eggplant salad, purple cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers, and some others.

                                                                                    I tried the falafel at the Danville location. A sample of pita was way better than supermarket pita, but bland, so I opted for a salad bowl. You get six falafel balls in an order and they're maybe 1 1/2 - 2" in diameter, the smallest I've ever seen. They're fried to a light brown, uniformly crispy, and tasty. Not remotely greasy.

                                                                                    The strong flavors of the veggies, especially the spicy s'hug and eggplant salad, complemented the crunchiness of the falafel. The small size of the falafel maximizes that amount of crunch, but did leave me wanting some more substance in their center.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                      It's fairly new, isn't it? I think I saw a press release that the first location was coming within the last year. Sorry to hear that the pita bread wasn't more interesting, that was the real attraction.

                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                        This reminds me of a question I've been meaning to ask--is there any place in the Bay Area, besides the Liba truck, which offers the salad/pickle bar approach to falafel? Three such places opened and closed in Berkeley, including the Dutch chain Maoz. Though none had my favorite falafel balls, I'd always choose them over other options for a complete-feeling lunch.

                                                                                        1. re: ...tm...

                                                                                          Haven't been there, but here's the menu for Dish n Dash in Sunnyvale.

                                                                                          (And I was kinda surprised that we haven't heard more from the South Bay as there are so many falafel places in the area.)

                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                            Interesting...it's certainly a customize your sandwich kind of place. I was thinking more of what I've been led to believe is a common setup in Israel. The falafel is served with minimal accompaniments, but a wide variety of different pickles, sauces, and some salads. PIckled turnips, cucumber/tomato salad, cabbage, pickled cabbage, Moroccan carrot salad, pickled beets, cauliflower salad, and of course a couple hot sauces and tahini sauce are what I've seen as common at Maoz, Chick-o-pea, and Fa La La (all formerly of Berkeley) and Liba (though Liba has more seasonal California ingredients, with a few staple pickles). I also like the top your own strategy because some I want mixed in with the sandwich, and some I just want a couple refreshing bites of, separate from the filling.

                                                                                    2. I had the vegetarian sampler at Oasis Market on Telegraph in Oakland which included 4 falafel. There was no tahini sauce, which was somewhat disappointing, but the hot sauce on the tables (spicy, with a strong vinegar note) and the other accompaniments were quite good. The falafel was all chickpea, I think, and fluffier than most versions (more baking soda?) and very well seasoned and fried. I enjoy this type with plenty of sesame seeds which I've also gotten at Oasis Grill Berkeley (though not this month).

                                                                                      I've been to Oasis Market many times, but usually get lamb dishes or stick to groceries, but I'll have to add the falafel and hummus to the rotation from now on.

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                                                                                      1. re: ...tm...

                                                                                        re tahini (which seems essential)--in my experience w/ Oasis Market, you can just ask for any accompaniment you don't get/see; and they're happy to give it to you, either gratis or for a song (recently asked for feta to go w/ something; and for a buck, got a ginormous slice).

                                                                                        1. re: stanbee

                                                                                          Good balls, everything else of a very low standard (pita, salads, hot sauce, hummus, tahini etc).

                                                                                        2. Jannah in San Francisco

                                                                                          Way back machine . . . keeping track of Chef Yahya Salih and his Mesopotamian cuisine stylings used to be one of the most houndish pursuits on this board. I only tried his food once, when he opened for a couple years in the spot where Helmand Palace is located today on Van Ness.

                                                                                          Fast forward . . . a few years ago he opened Jannah. Last week I finally made it over there for lunch.

                                                                                          My target was to try the Safeehat Falafel, $9.95, described on the menu as "pizza". The chickpea-based falafel batter forms the crust. The disk is is topped with a smear of aromatic basil pesto, chopped red onions, red and green bell peppers, roasted eggplant, feta cheese, and mushrooms. After baking, a scatter of diced tomatoes and green onions.

                                                                                          The flavor was quite good, but I had issues with the texture. As one who seeks out the highest crust to volume ratio, this was about as low as it gets. The very edges of the rim were browned and crunchy while the rest of the falafel base was soft. Bright green and a bit spicy, the falafel part was very tasty. I wished that I could drop some of this in a fryer to give it some backbone.


                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                            Thanks for trying it--- from the description, I would have thought it a spin on farinata!

                                                                                          2. Aladdin Gourmet International Market in San Mateo

                                                                                            Saturday afternoon I stopped by this Lebanese-owned market, deli and bakery just off 101 in San Mateo for the first time in five years. For the first day of Ramadan, I was thrilled to find atayaf available.

                                                                                            Behind the counter I could see the proofing boxes for pizza dough and the brick oven, and thought it worth taking a chance on ordering the falafel pizza. Yes, that's right, falafel pizza. A small one is $7.99. Aladdin supplies cooked falafel to many delis and I was interested in trying it a the source but with a twist. The orbs in the deli cold case were priced at 50¢ each.

                                                                                            A small pizza turns out to be about 12" diameter, not that small. Thicker than thin, the crust is a little bready and chewy, but not at all doughy. I would have liked it baked a bit darker with some crispness, yet this was better than most California blonde style with some yeasty flavor and adequate salting. The cheese tastes like whole milk mozzarella. The falafel are big, slightly flattened spheres here. They're broken in half and positioned as golden brown humps on top of the cheese. The lady putting together my pizza was waiting for something behind the counter, maybe she was frying the falafel to order, can't say for sure. What I can attest to is how wonderfully crunchy the crust becomes after baking in the pizza oven. Lots of crags, and a very bold crunch.

                                                                                            The pizza has some fresh parsley sprinkled on top before firing. But it seemed overly plain. I returned to the counter to ask for hot sauce, and eyeballed the overhead menu again that listed the ingredients. Hmmm, the tomatoes were omitted. I asked the lady baker for tomatoes, and she looked up at the menuboard herself. She apologized and gave me a dish of chopped tomatoes to sprinkle on top along with some hot sauce that tasted like the jarred sambal served at Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                            That was an improvement, but still not quite there. I poked around my pizza again and figured out that the feta was missing. I went back to the counter to inquire again. The lady baker smacked herself upside the head and said, "Give me that", motioning to my pizza. She scattered some crumbled feta over and explained that she had not made one of these for a while and had forgotten exactly what all the components are supposed to be. Here's the final result of the evolution of my pizza,

                                                                                            With everything together at last, I did like this quite a bit. Most pita bread's not that great, and I'm not big on lavosh, so this pizza format was preferable to either. The falafel themselves are very tasty, made of chickpeas (no favas) and lots of fresh green herbs with a little kick of spicy heat. I forgot to add some tahini at home to see how that would work. This pizza fed me for the rest of the weekend and I had the last piece for breakfast this morning. It heats up beautifully and the falafel revive to a solid crunch.

                                                                                            Aladdin has two tiny tables in the deli area where I sat eating my pizza. I had wondered whether it was rude to be eating in public when most of the customers and employees were fasting. Yet it was fun to have my falafel pizza on display and to see the reactions of teenagers and others in the store, i.e., "Mom, falafel pizza! They have falafel PIZZA!" The lady baker had said its not a big seller. So if Aladdin's falafel pizza starts to show up a iftar observances this year to break the day's fast, you know who to thank.


                                                                                            1. Having not yet had a great pita with my falafel, I tried to call in an order to Arabica (Berkeley), which I'd heard had good pita, but it turns out the falafel are made next door at Razan's Organic kitchen. The pita was soft, though it didn't hold up well to the to go aspect of my order--the tasty tahini sauce soaking most of the outside of the pocket pita. There was a bit of nicely textured hummus in the bottom. The falafel balls were a bit broken up--I'm not sure if that was due to my to go issues, or a combo of that and a relatively thin crust. While the crunch wasn't ideal, the flavor was good--with sesame, plenty of green, and a light texture.

                                                                                              1. One last falafel this month. I'd known many Berkeley grad students get falafel at Bongo Burger, but had assumed that was just because it was cheap.
                                                                                                I enjoyed the falafel sandwich I got--the falafel balls were flat disks, fried well, with a good, sesame studded crust. The falafel were a bit smaller than most, but their size and shape filled up the pita very evenly. The topping was mostly lettuce, with surprisingly decent tomato slices, a bit of onion and cucumber, and a nice, garlic-rich tahini. The pita was very thin, which I liked, and not nearly as stiff as a grocery store version. I'd definitely get it again the next time I'm too hungry to bike home--maybe the half-sized version for only $3.50.

                                                                                                1. Liba's Falafel has opened in a former japanese eatery on 17th st.
                                                                                                  soft opening now 11-2, 5-7
                                                                                                  menu: aquas, falafels, salads, etc.

                                                                                                  eats: falafel sammie(7.75)
                                                                                                  -3 large falafel and ? in a large pita pocket
                                                                                                  filled up with various toppings at toppings bar.
                                                                                                  -toppings really unique, tasty
                                                                                                  falafels large, crunchy, and tasty, no spiciness
                                                                                                  seems pricey, but the all u can stuff toppings makes it ok?
                                                                                                  note: falafel salad is $10.