My search for the best falafel in New York continues….

MAMOUN'S, 22 Saint Marks Place (between Third and Second Avenue), East Village

You can’t find a New Yorker alive today who remembers a time when this city didn’t have pizza, bagels, and hot dogs on every corner. But there are plenty of people who remember the days before falafel.

Today, it’s a pretty ubiquitous and iconic New York dish, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that this city got its first taste of falafel. 1971, to be exact. That was the year that a Lebanese family opened the first Mamoun’s in Greenwich Village. And a falafel frenzy was born.

The First Falafel Menu (With Adjusted Prices)Since that time, Mamoun’s has expanded to include a slightly larger location on St. Marks in the East Village, two locations in New Jersey, and one in New Haven, Connecticut. Amazingly, despite the expansion, most locals still regard Mamoun’s as an excellent (and cheap) place to grab a falafel sandwich.

The Customers Haven't Aged

I’ve always been a fan of Mamoun’s, often stopping by for an ultra-affordable mid-day snack. One dollar buys you a side of falafel (three balls with tahini sauce), which is perfect for in between lunch and dinner. But now that I’ve been tasting all the newer falafel possibilities, how does the original stack up?

Falafel Sandwich at MAMOUN'S

My sandwich was in my hands in a matter of seconds. Aside from the often lengthy queue, Mamoun’s might as well be the definition of fast food.

Falafel at MAMOUN'S

Still, the falafel are always hot and fresh. Unfortunately, the rest of the ingredients involved in the sandwich (lettuce, tomato, onion) were of the quality you’d expect from a fast food joint.

But the star of the show here, of course, is the falafel. In the small mini-pita, they were pounded to flat pattys. They were definitely crunchy, but not as tender and flavorful as I remember. Something was a little off.

Side of Falafel at MAMOUN'S

So I decided before I left, to order my usual: a side of falafel. The price has increased to $1.50, which is still not going to put me into debt.

Falafel at MAMOUN'S

These chickpeas were made into a rounder shape than the ones I received in my tiny sandwich. Perhaps the falafel gets crushed in the sandwich and that affects the texture. Regardless, these were as perfect as I expect from Mamoun’s. The crunch gave way to a tender center with flavors of garlic and spice. They didn’t even need the powerful hot sauce, but I added it anyway because I must be a fan of pain.

Falafel and Nothing Else

On their own, the falafel are heavenly. The sandwich, with its lackluster ingredients, slightly distracts from the wonder of the fritter. But at no more than a few singles, how can you really complain? I’m pleased to report that the falafel trailblazers are still going strong.

Does Mamoun’s have the best falafel in NY? Some say they do and with an 8 out of 10, I might agree with them. On their own, the classic falafel are everything one hopes for – crunchy, tender, flavorful, and cheap.

MAMOUN’S FALAFEL
119 Macdougal Street (between West 3rd Street and Minetta Lane),
Greenwich Village

(212) 674-8685
22 St. Marks Place (between Third and Second Avenue),
East Village

(212) 387-7747
mamouns.com
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Category: Falafel

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

2 Responses to THE FIRST TO FRY (Mamoun’s Falafel)

  1. Greg says:

    Actually, the New Haven Mamoun’s was the first one.

  2. Brian Hoffman says:

    Thanks for the reply Greg. From my research and on their website, it looks like the first Mamoun’s was indeed in Greenwich Village. The New Haven location opened second.

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