Falafel Found, Finally

Falafel is one of those foods you take for granted until you can't find it anywhere.  In New York, there were a dozen little shops within walking distance of my apartment where, for about five bucks, you could get a pita crammed full of veggies, tahini sauce and delicious warm nuggets of fava beans and parsley.  In Baltimore, falafel is a specialty item, mainly found at upscale mezze restaurants.  An Arab lady briefly opened a gelato shop up the street from our church, and when we found out she made falafel on the side, we tried hard to keep her in business.  Unfortunately, she closed after less than a year (probably because the Middle Eastern side of the menu was insider's information.)

But today, on a Groupon adventure, Rob and I found falafel.  Tahina's is so well-designed and efficient, it looks for all the world like a chain restaurant; Rob dubbed it "the Middle Eastern Subway."  I would say it's closer to Chipotle, as the ingredients are all fresh and beautiful. My research, however, turned up an even better scenario: it's a brand-new venture by a marketing firm who wanted to try out some of their tactics on their own business.  They're calling it the "first of 300."  Boy, do I wish I had enough venture capital to be number 2!

Like Chipotle, you choose a centerpiece (beef, chicken, or falafel -- and who in their right mind wouldn't choose falafel?!) and a presentation (pita or salad.)  Then the fun begins.

There are a staggering number of vegetables (crispy fried eggplant rounds, red cabbage, sprouts) and salads (carrot and cilantro, cucumber and tomato, spiced chickpea) and sauces (baba ganoush, hummus, and yes, tahini.)  You can also get slightly inauthentic toppings like pickles, cheese and honey mustard. As many as you want (my salad teetered precariously as I carried it to the table) for about $6 per entree.

The restaurant also sells fries; eggplant and sweet potato options are a nod to the Mediterranean, and a "sauce bar" is meant to evoke Belgium's frites shops, I think.  After our falafels, we didn't want anything else.  But we will be back.  And you should join us!