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The top five Jerusalem falafel jointsby michael • November 04 2008
Best of Jerusalem, Food
Moshiko Falafel and its mighty salad spread
It's not originally an Israeli food, or a Jewish food - its origins are lost to history - but Israel runs on falafel. Along with its cousin hummus, the savory, deep-fried chickpea balls are a common denominator, a food that unites Jew and Arab, religious and secular, native and immigrant, rich and poor. It's cheap. It's filling. It's delicious. It's everywhere. But the sheer number of falafel kiosks can be daunting to Jerusalem newbies. Sure, any falafel in Israel is better than the abortive just-add-water abominations they call falafel in the West, but there's good falafel, and there's great falafel. And as always, Jerusalemite is here to help you separate falafel from fal-awful (ouch).
There is a simple test for gauging falafel quality, which Jerusalemite calls the "paper bag" test: do the falafel balls stand on their own, without their hummus, tehina, amba (mango chutney) and kruv (cabbage) co-conspirators? Is a grease-spotted paper bag of plain falafel just as good as the full pita-or-laffa monty? Just as a pizza could be dressed with the freshest sauce and the finest Italian buffalo mozzarella and still fall flat if the crust is sub-par, a stuffed laffa (like a tortilla wrap but much doughier) with all the fixings is nothing more than soggy bread without perfect falafel. Rest assured, all of the following pass the paper bag test with high-flying colors. Below is Jerusalemite's list of the best falafel in Jerusalem.
Yemenite Falafel Center
A classic unassuming workingman's falafel kiosk in the heart of Baka. Unlike the previously mentioned joints, Ovadia doesn't shine bright in any one area, but it's all-around solid. Good falafel, good pita, good salads, and the good feeling that you're eating the kind of humble lunch that's sustained countless cabbies and hard-hats before you. And it's definitely the best and cheapest workingman's lunch you'll get in this increasingly upscale part of town.
And now that Jerusalemite has clued you into the best, you should know the worst. No matter what your supposedly "veteran" friends tell you when you first arrive in Jerusalem, do not waste your time at the quantity-over-quality Melech HaFalafel, or the pedestrian Shalom Falafel, or the running-on-nostalgia-and-stale-cooking oil Maoz Falafel, or the simply sad From Gaza to Berlin. When you're in this city, there's no excuse to settle for second-rate.... At least not when it comes to chickpeas.
Photo of a laffa-in-progress at Moshiko (top) by Ben Jacobson for Jerusalemite; photos of other felafel joints by the Jerualemite team.
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