My love for falafels runs deep. There's just something irresistible about deep-fried ground chickpea balls snuggled into a warm pita surrounded by cool, crisp lettuce, tomatoes and tangy pickles, doused liberally with tahini sauce and a zetz of red hot sauce: To me, a rockin' falafel sandwich is one of life's great pleasures.
Apparently I'm not the only one. In a town where falafels – whether fabulous or forgettable – are a rarity, folks are lining up to order at Amsterdam Falafelshop, which opened in Deep Ellum in May. It's part of a chain that started in Washington, D.C.
Unlike at traditional falafel shops, which may pride themselves on getting the proportions just right, here you order just a pita filled with falafel, as the fried chickpea balls are called – a small sandwich (three balls) for $5.85 or a regular one (five balls) for $6.85. Once it's handed over in its paper wrapper, you help yourself to a buffet line of toppings – which is where things get exciting. There's baba ghanoush and hummus, "naked salad" of tomatoes and cukes, sweet tomatoey Turkish salad, red cabbage, pickled beets and more. To add zest and zing, there are pickles and red pepper sauce and jalapeno-cilantro, and – my favorite – a garlicky, vinegary, parsley torator sauce.
The problem, of course, is overloading: So much of it looks good. But you can't, because you're holding a pita in a paper wrapper; there's no plate, just a tray. A sign suggests smashing the falafel balls a little to make room; another says, "A little re-topping of your sandwich is allowed – using the little cups from the ketchup bar."
So. Must. Exercise. Restraint. I stuff mine with baba ghanoush, hummus, coleslaw, naked salad, cucumber pickles, turnip pickles, Turkish salad and torator and a goodly dousing of tahini sauce.
Drumroll, please, and . . . bummer! The pita bread is dense and spongy as a sad English crumpet. The tahini sauce tastes scary-sharp and sour (yikes – has it turned?).
Too bad, because the other toppings and the falafel balls are pretty good. Next time, I'd order a bowl – which would make it easier to be smart about the buffet.
Would I go back? Sure, if someone wanted me to join them there. But not on my own.
Unless I were high: A "pot pairing menu" suggests toppings that harmonize with various strains of marijuana – lemon haze, OG Kush, Afghani, etc. Perhaps not coincidentally, the place, which offers lunch daily, stays open till midnight Sunday through Tuesday and till 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.