If there is any food that could qualify as a national one, felafel comes pretty
close. Dozens of stands offering the fried chickpea snack dot every pedestrian
area, and just about every “Israeli-style” restaurant serves its own variety.
And, as the saying (sort of) goes, for every two Jews, there are three opinions
on felafel balls. Crispy or soft? Spicy or not? Huge or tiny? Chunky or smooth?
Everyone has his own preference, and just about every type was represented in my
12 different samplings. And here they are, ranked... according to my
preferences.After all, this is my column!
All tested establishments are
This more than 70-year-old Jerusalem landmark is always
chock full of people eating the restaurant’s Israeli fare, and they would all do
well to add a felafel ball or two to their order. Rachmo’s fried chickpea
offerings are crispy outside, with an excellent balance of sweet and salty
flavors, a slight green tinge and just a hint of a spicy aftertaste. The texture
hits the right balance between completely smooth and too chunky.
pita; 50 agorot for a ball
5 Ha’eshkol Street and 25 Yoel Salomon Street
It would be easy to write off this Ben- Yehuda storefront as a tourist
hangout, but I was pleasantly surprised by its felafel’s extra-crispy exterior,
very green, soft inside and well-balanced flavors.
NIS 8/10 for half a
pita/laffa; NIS 15/19 for a pita/laffa; NIS 19 for a baguette; NIS 32 for a
5 Ben-Yehuda Street
MERCAZ HAFELAFEL HATEIMANI: A
I was inclined to like
this tiny storefront from the moment I walked in, mainly because I was handed a
fresh, piping hot felafel ball to munch on while I waited.
continued to like it after ordering my sandwich, as I enjoyed the soft felafel
balls with just a hint of spice and a strong chickpea flavor. Although I didn’t
love the cold French fries that topped my pita or the uneven tehina
distribution, I’d still go back for more.
NIS 8 for half a pita; NIS 15
for a whole pita; and 60 agorot for one felafel ball
Corner of Havatzelet and
SHALOM FELAFEL: A
For months I’ve been intending to try the
felafel at this hole in the wall, mainly because it is always crowded. It
certainly has a measure of charm, including a sign detailing 35 different
responses to the question “Harif?” (spicy?), including “What, do you want to
kill me?” “Put it on; it’s for the boss” “A tiny, tiny, tiny bit” and “I’m
Ashkenazi!” Shalom served probably the smallest felafel balls on this list, and
they were also among the crispiest, though they could have used a touch more
spice. My pita was packed so full, it ripped, although some would consider that
NIS 8/9 for half a pita/laffa; NIS 14/16 for a pita/laffa, 50
agorot for a ball
34 Bezalel Street
MAOZ FELAFEL: B+
This King George storefront
snags many a tourist with its prime location. Luckily, they’re being served
quite well and will enjoy hot and fresh-tasting felafel balls, with an excellent
crisp-soft balance. The balls’ flavor is fairly one note, with a spicy
after-kick. The felafel balls are not green at all, and I may have even spotted
a piece of carrot inside, which just confused me.
NIS 8/9 for half a
pita/ laffa; NIS 14/17 for a pita/laffa; 50 agorot for a ball 19 King George
HA’AHIM LEVY: B
It would be easy to miss this hole in the wall at the
very entrance of Mahaneh Yehuda. Unless, of course, you notice all the people
crowding around and munching on pitot.
The Levy brothers have created a
felafel with a chunkier texture than most, and the outside was not very
NIS 7 for half a pita; NIS 14 for a whole pita; 50 agorot for a
Corner of Mahaneh Yehuda and Agrippas streets
FELAFEL DAL KALORIOT:
In what can only be a grand joke on the dieters of the world, this
“lowcalorie” felafel stand is found in Talpiot.
I don’t know if they’re
really low fat, but they were not very crisp, though they had a nicely balanced
flavor. Plus, with a free ball to munch on while I contemplated my order, I was
NIS 10/12 half a pita/laffa;
NIS 15/20 pita/laffa or
37 Pierre Koenig Street
FELAFEL OVADIA: B
Hungry Baka residents
can chow down on this well-textured felafel ball, though they’d do well to add
some sauces and salads to jazz up their sandwich to make up for the somewhat
NIS 8/9 for half a pita/laffa;
NIS 15/18 for a pita/laffa
76 Bethlehem Road
FELAFEL ADIR: B
This felafel and shwarma stand seems almost out
of place on trendy Emek Refaim. Still, it’s probably the cheapest reliably tasty
meal you can get in the German Colony, if not fairly unmemorable.
they draw people in with the offer of a free ball while you wait.
8/10 for half a pita/laffa;
NIS 16/20 for a pita/laffa;
NIS 7 for 10 felafel
42 Emek Refaim Street
FROM GAZA TO BERLIN: B
This off-the-beaten path haunt
in Rehavia, named for the streets that intersect right outside (not for the more
disparate geographic locations), offers felafel balls that you can see pop out
fresh from the fryer. They were nice and crispy (and piping hot), with an
There were a lot of complex flavors, but they
bordered on the sweet side and could have used a touch of salt.
for a pita; NIS 1 for one ball Intersection of Aza and Berlin streets
This old-school Israeli-style restaurant only serves pitot whole, not half, and
when you get one, you’ll know why: The felafel balls are practically the size of
golf balls. This made it somewhat more difficult to eat, and it meant there were
only three of them in the whole sandwich.
Regardless of the size, I was
less than enthralled with this offering, as the felafel balls were much too
spicy for my liking (I could see red pepper flakes inside) and were not too
NIS 17 for a full pita
3 Shamai Street
MELECH HAFELAFEL: C+
centrally located tiny storefront has quite a name to live up to, but its
felafel isn’t quite “king” worthy. They didn’t taste very crispy or fresh,
though they were very soft on the inside, with a wellbalanced flavor and a hint
of spice. They don’t sell half portions, but at these prices, you don’t really
NIS 10 pita; NIS 12 laffa; NIS 20 plate Corner of Agrippas and
King George streets