Friday, January 17, 2014

Digesting NYC, part II: Falafel

There is no shortage of falafel in New York City, it's simply a matter of finding the good ones.  This is a challenge that could take years, and if I ever take up residency, it is one I shall gladly accept!  Now, the origins falafel-- a fried fritter of mashed chick peas or fava beans with handfuls of parsley, onion, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lemon, tucked into a pita with tahini or cucumber-dill yogurt sauce, tomatoes, and julienned cucumbers-- are contested: it is the national food of Irsael, but claimed by Palestine; perhaps rooted in Egypt, but undoubtedly Arab.  Having never traveled to the Middle East, I haven't tried a native version (yet), but I have indulged on some of the best falafel in Paris, and have some sense of how the ideal pita should taste.  In my 2 days, I had falafel from two establishments: Maoz Vegetarian and Oasis.

Maoz Vegetarian Times Square on UrbanspoonWhen I arrived at Equity Point hostel in Times Square my first night, I dumped all my bags, changed clothes, then walked one block to Maoz Vegetarian (see, I knew there was a reason I picked this hostel!).  It's a narrow shop with a single counter where you order, stand back, and wait.  There's a slim counter to eat on as well, but this is definitely a grab-and-go establishment.  You can chose between white or wheat pitas, a pita salad (on a bed of spinach), and the full pita with five fritters or a half pita with three pitas.  I went for the full sized on whole wheat, which came to $6.50.  It's also possible to upgrade to a meal with a soft drink and fries.  The best part is the dozen or so toppings on their free-for-all salad bar: marinated chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, pickled cabbage, peppers, tahini, hot sauce, and more.  It was one packed pita, not greasy at all, and fun to eat with all the variety of toppings.  Post-consumption, I investigated a bit more online and as a chain throughout the city, Maoz is actually very reliable and consistent.  That merits a huge thumbs up from me!

Oasis on UrbanspoonNot even 24 hours later, a simple transfer on the subway from Union Square/14th to the (L) line into Brooklyn, and stepping off the first stop at Bedford Avenue, I feasted on falafel yet again at Oasis.  I noticed the restaurant when I exited the subway, but it wasn't until meeting my best friend's boyfriend, Deonza (a Bronx native), did he lead me here.  Ignore the shabby facade; this Middle Eastern deli is cheap, fast, tasty, and super convenient.  The falafel pitas are $3 with fritters much larger than Maoz, as well as hot schwarma kebabs, fries, and other bites to statsify those late-night treks home.  It does not have the same array of offerings as Maoz to fill the pita, but the fritters are so well balanced with the cucumber, it doesn't matter.  You can also order it spicy, which is a nice slather of chili sauce-- just don't forget to ask for a container of yogurt sauce.  I'm a fan!

Deonza, caught in the act of degustation.
So, if you're in Williamsburg or on your way back to Manhattan from Brooklyn, I highly suggest stopping at Oasis because it is outrageously cheap.  You can order three falafels for the price of one drink from the bars in the area!!  However, if you find yourself craving falafel in Midtown or somewhere else unfamiliar in NYC, keep your eyes out for Maoz Vegetarian and know that your chickpea pita is in good hands.  I really enjoy falafel from scratch, but there's nothing like stuffing your face with this fried pocket of worldly delights after the bar at 2 AM.  I can't wait to return to the city and investigate more of the eateries!

Listening: "The Hobo Girl" by the Fruit Bats

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