If you sometimes follow my tweets (like I’m a huge celebrity and you all read my tweets) I have expressed my love for falafel. This simple delicious sandwich is an easy meal to grab on your way at any time from almost every where in Lebanon.
With new franchised falafel restaurants opening in Beirut, this is becoming a trend. It’s a great new concept but what I felt is that the authenticity of that certain experience is still missing. To be fair in my judgment, I decided to give those restaurants a try. I tried Just Falafel 2 times since it’s opening. It’s a nice place but the atmosphere isn’t very inviting and one thing for sure, my appetite refused to go in with me. I went there for a second time to make sure that I wasn’t wrong the first time. But I was right. It didn’t fulfill my falafel cravings. I would still want go to any other small falafel restaurant in the neighborhood, grab a sandwich and eat it with full appetite. The experience of a small restaurant is irreplaceable; the smell of freshly fried falafel rounds, the sight of them stacked around the fryer, and the assemblage of the sandwich in a rush with pickled green chili pepper in a sandwich wrapper or foil on the side.
Below is a photo of a falafel sandwich from Falafel Fraiha, a small restaurant in Sassine Square. Even though I spent more than 3 years going to Sassine (since I used to go to AUST) never have I tried this really good restaurant.
I have been going to many falafel restaurants, and not because it was during Lent, only because I’ve been craving it a lot. Whenever I’m in Ain El Remmeneh and looking for something to eat, falafel Abou El Zouz, in Zouk Mikael: Falafel Zaynoun, Dawra: Falafel Arax and Falafel Sahyoun at Bechara Al Khoury (as suggested by @AymanFarhat and said to be the best) just to name a few. I love these small restaurants and I wouldn’t like to see them struggling against chain restaurants who care less about taste and authenticity.
This reminded me of when I was in Amman last year. After touring the city with a couple of friends, they took me to an alley where a well-known falafel place, Al Hashem, is located. The place is so well known that the King and Queen have eaten there. The place only serves Foul, Hummos (did I mention how much I love hummos too?) and falafel. Al Hashem doesn’t bother for location and ambiance as much as for quality and taste. I would love to have this right now.
Other than falafel, there is shawarma. Shawarmanji is a new business that is booming big not only in Lebanon but in many of the neighboring areas. They’re very confident and that confidence is inviting. After reading lots of reviews about it, I went and tried it. You might call me a traditionalist but I do prefer that sloppy sandwich from restaurants on the sidewalks. Don’t get me wrong, I like it; the cleanliness, the service, the look and feel, and the quality. They have done a pretty good job on the menu and the new shawarma items they are introducing.
I’m not against modernizing traditional concepts but I’m with preserving the original authentic experience. Being the food lover I am, I have once tried a shawarma sandwich from Sabra souks (yes I dared to) forgetting all about hygiene and quality and just going after the experience and looking for a taste (it wasn’t that good though.)
As a foodie, I always get excited about trying new flavors and new food experiences. The thing I appreciate most is loyalty and authenticity to the origins. This is why I am looking for an authentic Indian restaurant, the one that Indians here go to, not the ones located in hotels and the fancy areas of the city to save the effort of going to India to have a good Indian dish.
All this talk about food is making me hungry. How about you choose a place to have a falafel and forget about the extra kilos we have to lose?