Often regarded as the food capital of the world, you can’t turn a street corner in New York without stumbling upon a myriad of culinary options. Despite these endless possibilities, however, I always go back to the delectable, delightful falafel ball. Whether whole or chopped, big or small, I can’t get enough of these mashed fresh chickpeas, which, when fried, turn into moist yet crisp, light yet filling little balls of satisfaction.
Halal carts sell these crunchy little nuggets of bliss, all decent-tasting and -priced, on almost every street corner throughout the city, and so far I’ve never had a bad encounter. At the same time, I don’t mind going out of my way to a place where I know I’ll get an extra-special sandwich. To uncover the best of the best, I’ve revealed below my top five picks on where to get your falafel fix in the Big Apple.
1. King of Falafel and Schwarama:
Corner of Broadway and 30th Street, Astoria, NY; N or Q train to Broadway
Yes, this happens to be a Halal food truck. It also happens to be the best – and cheapest – place to grab some Middle Eastern grub in town. But don’t take my word for it. This corner vendor has four and a half starts on yelp, its own website, and the coveted 2010 Vendy Award. A stellar accomplishment, the Awards take place every year to name the best street vendor in the city. Stop by this place for an intoxicating explosion of flavors and spices, all with generous portions. Just be sure to either arrive early or give yourself some lead time, as lines form quickly.
http://www.thekingfalafel.com; open 11:00 am – 9:00 pm Mon.-Sat.; closed Sun.
$3 falafel in pita; $4 falafel in wrap; $6 falafel platter
2. Worth Café:
111 Worth Street (between Broadway and Lafayette) New York, NY; 4,5,6 train to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall; 2,3 train to Chambers Street; A,C train to Chambers Street/Park Place
Located by City Hall in Tribeca, this place is a go-to spot for city workers and government officials alike. Fresh, speedy and affordable, I suggest stopping by if you happen to be in the area. They’ve got a great, zesty hot sauce, which, when mixed with their cool white sauce, gives a great contrast to each bite. I also love the chunks of raw onions they use, which they marinate in a house blend of herbs, as well as the shredded purple pickled cabbage. And if you want more flavor, just ask; they load on extra veggies upon request.
Phone: (212) 374-1000; open Mon.-Fri. 6:00 am-7:00 pm; Sat. 8:00am – 6:00 pm; closed Sun.
$7 pita or wrap (whole wheat available); $8 platter
3. Homemade Falafel:
36-18 Broadway, Astoria, NY; N or Q train to Broadway; R train to Steinway Street
The new kid in town, this Astoria find boasts the chickpea with Lebanese flair (that means flatbread, not pita) for its sandwiches, and, as the name suggests, homemade add-ons like hummus, tabboule and pickled marinated beets. Chopped to bite-sized proportions, these little ruby surprises really make the sandwich pop with a touch of tanginess that counterbalance well with the other savory flavors. With friendly service and a spotless storefront, I look forward to adding this place to my rotation of neighborhood spots for a quick, cheap bite.
Phone: (718) 545-0034; open seven days a week
$4.50 sandwich (whole wheat available); $7 platter
4. Ba’al Falafel:
71 Sullivan Street, New York, NY; C or E to Spring Street; N or R to Prince Street
Another newbie, this place popped up in the fashionable, generally pricey (think $10 sandwiches and $14 sandwiches) neighborhood of SoHo, Manhattan. This hasn’t phased the Ba’al Falafel team, however, who has been going strong with their tasty, affordable fare which they serve up in an intimate setting. Add personable, neighborly staff that remember you the next time you come in, and an all-vegetarian menu that offers healthful options for the non-falafel crowd, like fried squash or marinated beet sandwiches, and you have a great lunch spot in between shopping sprees at all the trendy boutiques nearby.
Phone: (646) 368-9957; Mon.-Sat. 7:00 am-7:00 pm; closed Sun.
5. Café Rikka:
81 Saint Marks Place (between 1st and 2nd Aves.), New York, NY; L train to 3rd Ave. or 1st Ave.; 6 train to Astor Place
38 Avenue B (between 3rd and 4th Sts.) New York, NY; L train to 1st Ave.; 6 train to Astor Place
A falafel phenomenon, this New York standby is actually a franchise, with two locations, one on Saint Mark’s Place and the other on Avenue B. Reliable fare offered at lightning speed, sit and enjoy your meal at one of the tables in either tiny outpost, or else grab your grub to go. For an added refreshing energy boost, wash down your Middle Eastern feast with an order of Turkish coffee or iced pomegranate tea.
Saint Marks – Phone: (212) 982-9166; open seven days
Avenue B – Phone: (212) 777-5264; open seven days
$3.50 sandwich; $4 appetizer platter; $7.50 falafel deluxe platter; $9.95 Middle Eastern platter