All Hail, Falafel!

I underestimated the modest little falafel. I was expecting some great things, sure, but I was also anticipating lots of dry and dense chickpea balls. Greasy, soggy, and mealy were words I used very rarely in my falafel reviews. Of course, I stuck with the most renowned and popular falafel spots in the city. I’m sure terrible falafel is out there somewhere, but we’re also blessed to be rolling in the good stuff.

Israeli Scotch Egg at EASTWOOD

Aside from Eastwood (which makes a mid-blowing Israeli scotch egg), there’s very little ingenuity happening with falafel. These places mostly stick with tradition.

Falafel Sampling at TAÏM

The craziest it gets is at young Israeli spots like Taïm and Nish Nush. Most people claim that the former has the best in the city. Both are excellent choices and use surprising spice, herb, and vegetable additions to the chickpea mix. Taïm is slightly crunchier and more refined with their colorful spices contributing tons of serious flavor. Nish Nush is an excellent alternative.

Falafel Pita at AZURI CAFE

More traditional is my old favorite, Azuri Café, which still has lots to show for itself with light crisp balls and the freshest vegetable accompaniments.

Falafel Sandwich at BA'AL CAFE AND FALAFEL

And the hidden little Soho gem Ba’al Café is loading up sandwiches, but preserving a creamy center to each of their falafel specimens.

Falafel at KING OF FALAFEL & SCHAWARMA

Most of the other winners hail from the outer boroughs. Freddy the King of Falafel reigns over Astoria with his famous cart and yellow fried orbs of over-stuffed chickpeas.

Browner and Better

In Brooklyn, a trip out to Bay Ridge is worth it to experience the darkest and crunchiest falafels I tasted at Hazar Turkish Kabab.

Wafa's Large FalafelAnd the Lebanese Wafa’s in Forest Hills manages to load up seeds and spices without sacrificing texture.

Loaded!!!

While I always hate to choose just one favorite (it’s absurd to call it “the best”), one surprised me and delighted me more than any other. I had never even heard of Murray’s Falafel before I started this adventure and when I mention it to most people, they think I’ve confused it with the bagel or cheese shop. This tiny little shop in Stuyvesant Town is generous with the size (and quantity) of their falafel and although the yellow interior is not as colorful as others that are loaded with parsley and mint, this has tons of well-rounded chickpea flavor and gets that perfect interplay with crunch.

Although I did see a slight difference in regional falafels (Israeli and Egyptian are lighter and crunchier than Lebanese or Syrian), I thought the ones that were most successful used lots of fresh herbs and spices while maintaining the right balance between crunch and soft tenderness. And I’m pleased to say many of the falafel joints in New York get it just right. Of course, I’m going to keep crunching on falafel around the city so it’s possible I might hit a few more duds. Stay tuned and check out all the rankings here.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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