Anyone who's had a foray into vegetarianism or traveled around Europe on a budget has made fast friends with the falafel sandwich. It's cheap, filling, and easy to eat on the go, with a pita outside to hold the lightly fried chickpea goodness on the inside.
Other famous falafel companions include tahini, tzatziki, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and parsley, but the innards rely heavily on who's assembling the sandwich. A good falafel ball is crispy on the outside, but still moist and smushy on the inside and with generous seasoning. This week, we're pitting two of our favorite falafel joints against each other to see who serves the best sandwich.
In This Corner: Haji-Baba
The Setup: Don't let appearances fool you. The goofy sand dune and rubble mural that seems to have been painted in the era that its set, along with the plain Jane tables and chairs, make Haji-Baba appear as though it doesn't have a lot to offer. But the freshly prepared gyros and flavorful foul moudammas prove otherwise.
The Good: Following the tradition of falafel sandwiches, Haji Baba serves its cheap (under $4) and quick. If you know to ask for it on handmade pita, you'll have a better wrap. The simple sandwich is also larger and more filling than most others we've had.
The Bad: The falafel is a little on the dry side compared to others in town. Plus the wrapping techniques leaves something to be desired -- along with a puddle of tahini on your lap.
In the Other Corner: Al-Hana Restaurant in Baiz Market
The Setup: Just like Haji, Al-Hana is the dine-in section inside a Middle Eastern grocery store and deli. Unlike Haji, there aren't a lot of windows or natural light, so it's pretty dark inside. Don't let that scare you off, though!
The Good: Al-Hana has some of the freshest falafel in town. It's crispy on the outside and bursting with herby flavor inside. You can tell each falafel was made to order, rather than in big batches. Al-Hana's use of pickled turnip and parsley really pop as sandwich condiments, and the wrap stays tucked in through every bite.
The Bad: Al-Hana's super-thin pita is definitely less filling than Haji-Baba's fluffy, pillowy pita. If you're looking to get full, maybe order two of these bad boys. Since it's also under $4, it's not really going to break the bank to order more than one.
And the winner is... Al-Hana. This falafel is so good that we always wonder why we stop at Haji-Baba instead. Although the ambiance is a little dark, the freshness of their food brightens it all up. We could eat this falafel sandwich every day.
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