My search for the best falafel in New York continues….
There’s a wine trail in Napa, a bourbon trail in Tennessee, and a barbecue trail in Texas. Yet nobody ever talks about the great falafel trail in the Financial District. But they should!
In the crowded business district at Manhattan’s southern edge, sit lots of food carts and trucks feeding all the hungry lunchers during the week. There are so many that I even give a food cart tour with Turnstile Tours down in this neighborhood. And without fail we always discuss halal food and sample some falafel.
Muslims are the newest immigrant groups in the city so halal food is ubiquitous from food carts. Those practicing a vegetarian diet might want to avoid the chicken and lamb over rice and instead settle for the delicious little fried chickpea fritters. But not all falafel is created equally. So I pitted three of the Financial District’s most popular falafel carts against each other.
Adel’s #1 Halal
The cart we usually visit for falafel on our tour is Adel’s #1 Halal, an Egyptian owned cart that has mostly slipped under the radar aside from a huge local following and a fan of taxi cab drivers. We chose Adel’s because it was along our route on Front Street, but also because their falafel is delicious.
Most carts don’t advertise it, but if you ask anybody for a side of falafel, you’ll get an aluminum foil pocket worth of chickpea balls for about $1. Adel’s gives three for this price and tops it with your choice of white sauce (a tangy mayo-based sauce), tahini, and red or green hot sauce.
While this was perhaps the weakest and messiest presentation and the balls were the smallest, the falafel itself was perfection creating that perfect balance between crunchy exterior and soft interior.
In fact, inside, the vibrant green colors fulfilled the promise of herbaceous flavors like mint and parsley backing the chickpea base.
Alan’s Falafel often has a huge line at Liberty Plaza, even next to lots of other food carts. Their side of falafel came with four balls and they were the darkest of the bunch.
They looked almost burnt, but the crispiness gave way to a tender creamy center. The fresh herb flavors were strong, especially the mint, and you could really taste the chickpeas. These were the crunchiest I’ve had in a while, but the crunch almost turned gritty on bites. There was a nice tahini topping.
Across the street from Alan’s is Sam’s Falafel in Zuccotti Park. They’re probably the most famous of the three having been around the longest and nominated for a coveted Vendy Award in 2011. They sell out the fastest, usually done for the day by 2 or 2:30, while the others stay open a little bit later.
Their side of falafel came with 5 falafel balls smothered with both a hot sauce and their tahini.
These had the most textured experience with major crunch happening at first from some sort of seeds in the mix, although the crunch dissipated quicker than the other two. I imagine the abundance of sauce (which helped with the flavor) started to tone down the crunch. The flavors were excellent here and I even detected a rich, sweet flavor of coconut. Could that be? Was it in the tahini or was I having a stroke? I continued to taste the subtle tropical flavor and I liked it, but I can’t quite explain it.
I was surprised that all three of these falafels were rather similar. I’ve had such a wide range of styles and quality around the city, but these three are pretty close. Can I pick a winner? Not really. Sam’s probably wins for value and flavor, Alan’s wins for crunch, and Adel’s is my favorite for that fresh, deep green interior. You really can’t go wrong with any of the three and I urge you to take the great falafel trail of the Financial District. I should brand that!
Does Adel’s #1 Halal have the best falafel in NY? 8 out of 10 since they have a solid texture component and a wealth of bright herbs inside.
Does Alan’s Falafel have the best falafel in NY? Crunch turned into grit in a few instances, but the lightness and fresh mint keeps them at 7 out of 10.
Does Sam’s Falafel have the best falafel in NY? I found it to have a strange (but pleasnt sweetness) underneath the fiery hot sauce and the wealth of crunchy tenderness. 8 out of 10.
|ADEL’S #1 HALAL|
|SE Corner of Maiden Lane and Front Street,
|140 Broadway (between Liberty and Cedar Street),
|Cedar Street and Broadway,
Inside Zuccotti Park,