The Falafel Hunt

I heard falafels were a big deal in Paris for quick bites.  They’re probably as big as donor kebabs are in Germany.  Since we’ve been here, falafel stands, shops and restaurants are ubiquitous in the city.  On our way to visit the Arc de Triomphe, I got hungry and did not want to stand in the long line until I was fed.  We walked along the promenade of Champs-Elysees, nudging our way through the crowd of shoppers and tourists.

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Everywhere we looked had either restaurant chains or nothing within our standards.  Nothing grabbed our attention, and we were getting annoyed with the mob of people.  We diverged and hooked left down a street called rue Washington.  Just within that turn, we were out of the buzz.  The street was lined with restaurants, and most were not yet opened.  The ones that were open had local diners.  My hunger was coming in strong like the ocean’s wave.  I needed to eat soon, but fois gras and other French cuisines were not an option.  I almost settled for a Chinese restaurant that had vegetarian options until Nick suggested we explored the entire block before settling.

A little further stood a small shop decked out with bright green and yellow signs.  There were pictures of falafel sandwiches, fries, and other food options I don’t remember.  All I saw were the falafel sandwiches and it rang a bell.  We walked inside and ordered two sandwiches – vegetarian.  Vegetarian here is usually vegan, too.  I checked and there was nothing about it that was non-vegan.  The sauce they used was made up of entirely sesame.

This was the first falafel sandwich Nick and I had ever tried.  This was not prevalent in Seattle, and if there were any, we didn’t seek it out.  I honestly didn’t know they existed until now!  Happy with our option, we had the falafel sandwich and it was quite scrumptious.  The best part about it was that we paid 10 Euros for the both of us.

The crispy pita wrap consisted of falafel, mint, tomatoes, salad, and the sesame sauce.  It is similar to a burrito except not as round and big.  And the ends of the wrap do not close in.  Unfortunately I forgot to whip out the camera for this first falafel sandwich we tried, so there are no pictures to show.  Although when we left, we looked for the name of the place, and Nick noticed a discreet sign with the name Hallah on it.  At least we have the name of the place and the street it is on.

Sure this wasn’t the healthiest thing to eat because the falafels were deep-fried, but it’s not the worst either.  Intrigued with our meal, we decided to go on a falafel hunt.  We had heard of different places to try out by other sources and decided to do a comparison on falafel sandwiches.

The next place we had the sandwich at was at the market near our place:  Marche des Enfants Rouges at Traiteur Libanaise.  It was busy on Sunday, and we watched as the older gentlemen rolled out some sort of bread, while taking orders for falafel sandwiches.  He was moving at a fast pace, barking orders at his fellow kitchen mates.  As an outsider you would think he was upset.

I didn’t know what kind of bread he was rolling out and warming, or what it contained inside; it did look enticing, but our goal was to get that falafel sandwich for lunch.  I ordered in French, and it was a nice conversation despite what the picture conveys.

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Again for 5 Euros, the sandwich turned out to be just as good as Hallah’s.  The taste was different and simpler.  We weren’t sure which one we liked better; both sandwiches had their own unique flavor.  The difference in this second sandwich was that the pita wrap and falafels were not as crisp, and the ingredients were a little different.  Instead of the mint and sesame sauce that were accompanied in the first one we consumed, this wrap had cucumbers, parsley, and onions.

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Maoz Vegetarian is an international chain that has only one in the states.  And that lucky place is Philadelphia.  I have a suspicion it is better here in Paris, though.  There is one location each in the 5th and 6th.  The one we went to was in the 5th.

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Maoz is different in that you have full control of how you’d like your sandwich to come out.  This is because they have a bar full of condiments, which you have access to after they hand you the base:  warm pita bread filled with the right crispy texture of falafels and salad strips inside.

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We both really liked our falafel sandwiches here.  I favored this place by far because the base ingredients came out perfect, and I liked the condiments.  I also preferred the pita as bread, rather than a thin wrap.

To mine, I added marinated tomatoes and onions, tomato harissa, and cucumbers.  I added no sauce because the flavor of the harissa and tomato-onion marinade already had intense flavors.  Nick added a little more to his than I did by adding olives and pepperoncini.  The pepperoncini was a good touch.  I had some of his and enjoyed the extra kick it provided.  The price of Maoz was 4.90 Euros for each of us, so again not too shabby for the price.

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Lastly, we wanted to know what all the hype was with a place in the 4th called L’as du Fallafel.  It’s run by a Jewish family, and they have a restaurant where you could sit down and eat if you’d like.  The place is also well liked by Lenny Kravitz, which they use that to their benefit.  Before we entered the restaurant, we noticed a big sign that stated, “Recommended by Lenny Kravitz.”  Inside, there were many pictures of Lenny Kravitz and the owner on the wall.  L’as du Fallafel t-shirts were also advertised among these pictures, as if the singer could glamour you into buying one.

When we got our order, I was surprised by the size of it.  It was loaded with ingredients, and the sauce was overwhelming.  The ingredients consisted of a hummus and sesame sauce, too many falafels, strips of beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbages, and onions.  The sandwich was enormous, and I had to use a fork to prevent a sloppy mess.

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The consensus here was that it was our least favorite.  The hummus/sesame sauce was too overpowering that you couldn’t taste the vegetables.  We also didn’t like the ratio of ingredients.  It was really heavy, which would be good for when consuming alcohol, but for a meal it was just too much.  It was tasty, and while this may be the choice of Lenny Kravitz, we would rather go to the other three places we previously tried.  Also, at almost 8 Euros per sandwich, it’s not quite a deal anymore.

After trying four different places, we are aware there are still many more options.  But I think we’ve ended our falafel hunt.  We now have a select few we like, and to go back to when we’re having a falafel craving.

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2 thoughts on “The Falafel Hunt

  1. Yay food adventures! I think I would like the 3rd place you went where you can pick your own ingredients and put it together. Just because different people like different things. I’m sure a majority of people like the last place you went where to portion is large and heavy/rich tasting. However, at least you can pick that at Maoz. Although they all look delicious! I’m sure you know this but Hallah foods are all licensed and certified as kosher. We have to do that for quite a few of our items.

    MORE FOOD ADVENTURES!!! 🙂

  2. Falafel is awesome…. Simple as it should be with not a lot of extra.. Sean and I visit a local Greek spot often. Traditional and perfect. We cook Greek at home too! We love it!

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