REVIEW: Falafel Cafe (Restaurant)

RATING: B

WHAT: Falafel Cafe

WHERE: Clearwater, just off US 19

PRICE: $26 for 2 people, including tip.

2 Falafel Platters (sandwich with 2 sides), including 2 cups of lentil soup, fries, soup, and salad. 1 canned Pepsi and 1 bottled water.

ATMOSPHERE:

Falafel Cafe is a small restaurant in a strip mall. It has outdoor seating but we don’t recommend it. It’s the mall parking lot, facing the highway. The space itself is about the size of a small Subway sandwich shop and there are 2 televisions (one on each wall). When we visited, they were too loud for such a small space–one was playing sports and the other an Arabic channel. The tables were covered with cheap plastic liners but the restaurant itself was clean.

HOW VEGAN IS IT?:

Middle Eastern food typically has many unintentionally vegan options and this place is no different. If you like Lebanese food, you can’t go wrong here. Hummus, salad, soup, and at least a couple sandwiches are all vegan. One note, though… Falafel is a deep-fried chick-pea based batter. Middle Eastern restaurants almost always fry in vegetable or corn oil, but we didn’t ask. Also, whenever you are eating restaurant fried food, we think it is only fair to assume the fries (or falafel) were fried in the same oil as the chicken tenders, fish, and everything else. So, if you order something fried, you take your chances or accept that it is probably not 100% vegan.

THE GOOD:

Like any good Lebanese restaurant, they had Pepsi! Michael is not a fan of Coke and is always excited to find Pepsi when we eat out. The amount of food was surprising for the price. We left stuffed. They gave us a complimentary hummus appetizer to start, complete with pickled beets!

The staff consisted of one person running the store. Our server was also our chef, our host, and our cashier. The place was obviously family owned because the only other guests were his family. He was very friendly and the service was very good.

The food was made fresh to order, so if you go, expect a bit of a wait for your meal.

We have to offer a disclaimer here: Michael comes from a Lebanese family of restaurateurs so he is a harsh critic of Middle Eastern food and has very particular opinions about how Arabic restaurant food should taste. That being said, Michael thought this place was “good”.

The falafel was very good and it was served as described… on a platter! The fries were crinkle cut and hearty. The salad was a bit simple as far as ingredients go, but it was spiced well.

 

THE BAD:

Nicole would have liked to have seen more of the traditional vegan options that Arabic/ Middle Eastern restaurants usually offer (such as grape leaves, fattoush, or tabbouleh). They did have ful (sometimes spelled “foul” but pronounced more like “fool”), though, which makes for a great breakfast option.

This is not necessarily bad but the lentil soup was creamed (meaning “blended” not “made with cream”). Traditional lentil soup is a bit more chunky whereas this was closer to a baby food consistency. We weren’t fans of the consistency but you might be, and the taste was fine.

 

THE SUMMARY:

Falafel Cafe is a good spot for a hearty lunch if you have a bit of time to kill. We definitely received our money’s worth and the owner was friendly. We could have done without the TV’s but that is just our preference. Next time, it might be a carry-out order. The restaurant is small, clean, and convenient if you are in the area shopping. Worth a visit, especially if you love Falafel!

 

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