The Absolute Best Falafel Places In The U.S.

Ah, the humble falafel. Crunchy on the outside with a fluffy interior, the mashed-up blend of spiced chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) with the occasional fava bean thrown into the mix is traditionally shaped into a golf ball-sized orb and fried to perfection. You can snack on them solo but they're perfectly suited for a sandwich, tucked into a pita pocket, or wrapped in laffa bread with an assortment of toppings like vegetables (fresh and pickled), perhaps a dollop of hummus, a touch of hot sauce (ideally harissa or zhoug), and the all-important drizzle of tahini for a creamy, nutty finish.

It's a staple virtually everywhere in the Middle East, but of course, you don't need to make the pilgrimage all the way over there to get your falafel fix. They can be found across America, but keep in mind not all falafel are created equally, particularly if they're fried from frozen or reheated, resulting in a dry-as-a-desert interior and rendering them devoid of the all-important crunch factor. You can rest assured that you won't come across such utter blasphemy with the recommendations below. Without further ado, here are the absolute best falafel places in the U.S.

Taïm

New York City is flush with fantastic falafel spots, and singling out the best of the bunch is as divisive as determining the Big Apple's top bagel or burger (for the former, we wouldn't dare step into that hornet's nest, but JG Melon is the champion for the latter, and that's just a fact). So why highlight Taïm over all the rest of the mini-chain's competitors? Well, a major factor is chef Einat Admony's commitment to not cutting corners when it comes to her Tel Aviv-inspired falafel. You can rest assured they're prepared with high-quality ingredients, made from scratch, and fried to order, thus ensuring peak crunchiness.

You have your choice of two shades: an herbaceous green or a harissa-spiked orange for the heat seekers. "Each flavor is just as tasty, and surprisingly grease-less, as the last," notes the New York Daily News. "The old family recipes that Admony uses are not only kosher but totally gluten-free, and include no fava beans or baking soda, which many places use to make their falafel balls fluffier."

We also appreciate that Taïm has multiple locations (and don't worry, expansion hasn't diluted the brand). There are currently five spots across New York, a pair in Washington, D.C., and an outlet in Bellville, New Jersey. If you can't make it over to one of the brick and mortar eateries, ordering a Taïm falafel kit to your home via Goldbelly is a solid backup plan.

Goldie Falafel

Chef and restaurateur Michael Solmonov lit the fuse that ignited the modern Israeli food explosion in the U.S. when he opened Philadelphia's universally acclaimed Zahav in 2008 (via Taste). Over a decade later, the three-time James Beard Award winner is at the helm of a local ever-expanding empire under the CookNSolo banner. For ultra-luxurious hummus, Dizengoff is the place to be. Want to indulge your sweet tooth with Israeli pastries? K'Far has you covered. For falafel, head to Goldie, which has three locations in the City of Brotherly Love. The all-important falafel pita sandwich assembly process is viewed as an art form here, so if you prefer a build-your-own approach, go elsewhere, but we wholeheartedly urge you to trust the masters at Goldie. You can also order a falafel salad or simply opt for a Bag of Balls.  

According to Secrets of Philadelphia, "These are seriously good falafel — crunchy on the outside and bright green and soft on the inside. They always taste super-fresh. Combined with the fresh salad – full of veggies, herbs, seasonal add-ins (pickled beets and sunflower seeds on our last visit) and choice of dressing (we like the spicy) and you have a lunch that makes you feel healthy (the whole restaurant is vegan)." Be sure to round out your meal with a side of shawarma seasoned fries and a sweet, nutty tahini shake, which is available standard or in a variety of flavors including Turkish coffee, banana, and milk chocolate.

Mizrahi Grill

Located in Highland Park, less than 30 miles north of Chicago, Mizrahi Grill is a favorite for craveable Mediterranean fare. The kosher menu has plenty of highlights including a sensational carved-to-order turkey and lamb shawarma and killer ground beef and lamb kebabs made with "mom's secret blend of herbs and spices" (it should be noted that all the meat is hormone-free). Among the non-animal offerings, their falafel is some of the best in the Midwest.

"After weeks of searching, no place nails the combination of flavorful, crunchy falafel with plush pita like Mizrahi Grill," asserts the Chicago Tribune, which also sends a special shout-out to the house-baked pita. Along with the fried chickpea balls, the sturdy bread pockets are packed tight with Israeli salad, cabbage salad, pickles, and french fries for a study in crunch. The additions of hummus and tahini offer a welcome creamy balance. If you're Chicago local or visiting the Windy City, for falafel this good, the trip out to Highland Park is definitely worth it.  

Falafel's Drive-In

This Bay Area legend has been serving up a diverse menu of Middle Eastern staples, American classics, and even some Mexican favorites for over half a century. "It looks like your typical 1960s-era burger spot, complete with a custom neon sign, but Falafel's Drive-In is one of the premier lunchtime attractions of San Jose," notes the San Francisco Chronicle. And while options include everything from corn dogs to the "award winning" fresh banana milkshake, the restaurant's namesake is the reason you're rolling in here. "The falafels are crisp and moist and slathered with tahini sauce and a sweet hot sauce," the Chronicle adds.

With a history that stretches across five decades, it should come as no surprise that Falafel's Drive-In has its fair share of devoted fans. One high-profile admirer is Mr. Flavortown himself, Guy Fieri, who rolled into the institution for an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," and declared that the signature fried chickpea balls were "falafel-icious." You can't get a better endorsement than that.  

Joe's Falafel

Los Angeles is jam-packed with strip mall dining gems and when it comes to Middle Eastern fare, Joe's Falafel may just shine brightest among them. The beloved no-frills spot excels across the board, offering juicy kebabs and shawarma that would be sure to earn the Avengers' approval. But the restaurant's exceptional namesake dish is the main draw, particularly when draped in laffa bread that is fresh out of the oven, and it's the reason fans flock here from across the City of Angels.

"Joe's Falafel feels out of the way, hiding in the corner of a strip mall on a flyby section of Cahuenga Blvd. near Universal City," reports LAist. "It's not quite Hollywood, not quite the Valley. But the falafel, rounded at the bottom with a protruding tip like a deep-fried muffin, is worth the trip from just about anywhere."

If for some reason you don't end up ordering falafel at Joe's, there is still a very good chance that you will get to try it during your meal. That's because the restaurant's jovial namesake will swoop by your table with a sample falafel ball so you won't make the mistake of not ordering his signature specialty on your next visit.

Abu Salim Middle Eastern Grill

The team behind San Francisco's popular Old Jerusalem restaurant have another hit on their hands with Abu Salim Middle Eastern Grill. If you love falafel, head straight to the Haight for some of the best balls you'll find in town. It's the incredible frying technique that puts Abu Salim on this list. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "the Ramallah-style falafels shatter elegantly in the mouth."

It won't be a matter of if you're going to order falafel, but how. Abu Salim offers up your standard ball plus two equally impressive extra-large stuffed versions: one packed with sumac, pine nut, and onion, the other with a gooey, melty mozzarella center. Any of the three options can be ordered a la carte or tucked into a wrap with cucumber, tomato, pickle, red cabbage, and the obligatory tahini.

If you're looking to cut down on your carb intake, enjoy your falafel atop a mound of Arabic salad (the traditional combo of diced cucumber and tomato with parsley and olive oil), which is topped with a dusting of sumac and a drizzle of tahini. There is also a vegetarian combo that features falafel with an assortment of dips plus a side of salad and rice — this Middle East feast is definitely suitable for sharing.

Rafic's Falafel

The population of the Detroit suburb of Dearborn is around 35% Arab, so it's no surprise there are a number of excellent Middle Eastern food options in the area. For falafel, you can't go wrong with Rafic's. The iconic restaurant is a beloved community fixture that has been serving up straightforward, sensational falafel for over 60 years.

"These falafels do not have a fancy twist; they are just cooked made to order, and prepared really, really well," notes Daily Detroit. "It is the epitome of what a falafel should be: tasty, crunchy on the outside, and soft and warm on the inside."

The falafels are so good that the best plan of attack is to enjoy them in their natural glory. "Honestly, skip the falafel sandwich," the Daily Detroit recommends. "Cut to the chase and get the falafel plate that comes on a bed of greens, with pickled turnips piled in the middle." Priced at a mere $5.99 for eight falafel balls, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better bargain in town.

Baba's

Inspired by their dad's recipe, Palestinian-American siblings Rana Kamal and Khalid Ansari created the breakout hummus brand Baba's ("Baba" translates to "father" in Arabic). The duo is also passionate about another traditional dish from their youth. "Just a bite of that warm falafel with the spices, and then dipping it into the hummus, there's nothing like that," Kamal told the Star Tribune.

While putting their stamp on falafel seemed like an obvious move, where exactly Kamal and Ansari chose to do so was certainly unexpected. For a couple of weeks in the summer of 2021, the Baba team set up shop in a sleek, retrofitted Airstream at the Minnesota State Fair where their Middle Eastern menu was a hit. The breakout bite was the falafelicious bowl, which brought together falafel, chickpeas, pickled cabbage, pickles, tahini, sumac, a skewer of mini pitas, and, of course, Baba's signature hummus.

The dish was so successful, it was even able to snag an endorsement from none other than long-time Twin Cities resident Andrew Zimmern. "That falafelicious bowl is the best version of modern fair food that I've had at a festival of any kind in a long time," gushed the "Bizarre Foods" host and multiple James Beard Award-winner. "I was so impressed with the texture, the handmade quality of it, the layers of flavor, the number of ingredients, the speed with which they got it out ... I was tremendously admiring of what they're doing out of that little airstream trailer."

Safta

Few chefs are executing modern Israeli food in the U.S. with greater success than Alon Shaya. Having made a name for himself with his eponymous New Orleans restaurant Shaya, which earned a James Beard Award in 2016 for Best New Restaurant, he eventually made his way to Denver to open the River North hit Safta.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, "Safta's appeal couldn't be simpler: The atmosphere is jovial and the food nothing short of wondrous, whether you're digging into caramelized orange–ricotta blintzes for brunch, sitting solo at the bar over a glass of wine and a bite of shanklish (a type of spice-rubbed, house-made cheese) with slices of ripe tomato, or making a night of it with friends and family. Dining out doesn't get much more purely pleasurable than this."

While the menu is stuffed with Shaya's brilliant culinary creations from delicious dips (which are a must to pair with the standout house-baked pita) and stunning mains (lamb is the meat of choice), Gayot notes that you can't overlook the "lovely falafel, misshapen spheres specked with Middle Eastern spices and herbs."

They're available in a platter portion but if you're craving a sandwich simply go DIY with that fantastic pita, a side of hummus, and a selection of market vegetable pickles.

1000 Figs

For falafel fans in New Orleans, 1000 Figs is the place to be. Husband and wife Gavin Cady and Theresa Gali proved that they know how to get the perfect fry on a ball of chickpeas with their popular Big Easy food truck Fat Falafel which got rolling in 2012, though they recently put the brakes on the project. Rest assured, their signature offering is just as spectacular at this cozy rustic-chic sit-down spot in Mid-City.

According to The Times-Picayune, "These are no ordinary orbs. The fried batter of seasoned chickpeas and fava beans betray the hint of cinnamon. The gentle interior of each reveals a falafel nursing a New Orleanians' desire to be a plushly soft as a beignet."

You can choose between the standard falafel platter or sandwich, but we recommend bringing some friends, ordering a bottle of two of natural wine, and digging into the Falafel Feast. Beyond its namesake, the sizeable spread includes some of the Middle East's greatest hits such as hummus, smoky baba ghanouj, tzatziki, pickles, kale and cabbage salad, an assortment of seasonal vegetables, tahini, zhoug, toum, and fresh bread.

Cedo's Falafel & Gyros

There is no shortage of falafel joints in Portland, but Cedo's crispy creations are among the best in the Pacific Northwest. The casual, family-owned spot boasts two featured offerings and both are worth ordering. But while the spit-roasted slices of gyro meat are juicy and well-portioned, it's the other star that deserves top billing.

"Let's cut to the chase: You're at Cedo's for the falafel," notes Willamette Week. "It's crunchy on the outside, thanks to the coriander seeds that Cedo's toasts whole and then subjects to a coffee grinder, and spring green on the inside from fresh parsley."

The key to Cedo's success is the extra love and care taken with each falafel ball. According to Portland Monthly, "Chickpea perfectionist and Palestine native Sam Hazza soaks his garbanzo beans overnight, toasts and grinds his coriander by hand, and cultures his own yogurt to create the city's best falafel, its nutty, cumin-dusted fissures doused in a lemony tahini sauce and packed in soft pita."