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Falafel: Feed Your Face

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In all of my many many years of obsessing over food, there are only three food-stuffs that I would seriously consider as a Last Night on Earth meal option: Mashed potatoes and gravy. Sushi (o-toro, preferably). And falafel. Pretty uninspired stuff, I know, but for some reason, falafel falls into the category of Things I Could Eat Every Day and Never Grow Tired Of. I actually carried around a big bottle of Sriracha hot sauce on a two-week backpacking trip through Scandinavia for the sole purpose of seasoning the many, many, many falafel sandwiches I purchased from the many, many falafel stands all over that region.

What is it about the humble chickpea? Why is it so good when crushed, made into a dough, and fried? There's something serendipitous about the combination of warm, crunchy balls of ground chickpea and smooth, tangy hummus (also made from chickpeas! it's the new soy!), preferably topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled turnip, and copious amounts of tahini sauce. (I try to cram some tabouleh in there for good measure, too.) Chickpeas are also chock-full of protein and fiber, so falafel is a guilt-free indulgence.

When my falafel-cravings hit (which they do about two or three times a week), I have a few good options I can turn to. Roro's Chicken is a Lebanese joint in the middle of Hollywood; and boy do they make a mean falafel plate (not to mention their meat options). Their lettuce is fresh, the pickled turnips are crispy, and the hummus is just begging to be licked off the plate. Their pitas aren't freshly baked, but who cares when you've got awesome tahini sauce? They're also ridiculously cheap: $4.99 for a filling falafel plate, and $3.25 for chicken shawerma or a kafta kabab.

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Another excellent option is Pita Kitchen in Sherman Oaks, right at the intersection of Van Nuys and Ventura. It's a total hole in the wall with limited seating and parking, and it's usually very crowded, but it's worth the wait. You get a huge plate for $7-9 which includes your protein of choice, plus rice, thick pita bread, and sides like eggplant or cucumber salad.

I've never been there, but I was recently informed that Carnival Restaurant is the best Lebanese restaurant in the city. Their website sure is making me hungry: they've got traditional dishes of chicken and lamb liver, as well as kabab sandwiches, salmon and shrimp choices, and daily specials like lamb shank and okra stew.

If you're really in a pinch, or you want to eat falafel for breakfast (what?? Falafel makes amazing breakfast food!), Whole Foods Market usually has some pre-made stuff in their buffet area, including a few different kinds of hummus and baba ganoush, as well as tabouleh and sliced tomatoes with onion.

So if I die tomorrow, well, at least I got to gorge on plenty of falafel while I was here.

Roro's Chicken
6660 Sunset Blvd #C
Hollywood 90028
(323) 461-9999
Delivery & catering available.

Pita Kitchen
14500 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks 91403
(818) 990-7006

Carnival Restaurant
4356 Woodman Ave
Sherman Oaks 91423
(818) 784-3469

Photo of a fun falafel napkin by roboppy via Flickr