It’s funny that I'm writing my first Falafel Files post from a coffee shop across the street from my favorite falafel joint in Iowa City, IA where I go to school. I graduate and move away in 7 days and I still have 5 more punches on my current falafel pita punch card before I get a free one. This seems viable, right?
Many of you may be wondering what exactly falafel might be, where it originated, and how it’s prepared. I will gladly provide a short history lesson, but then it’s straight to the point – my falafel endeavors. Falafel is generally considered a Middle Eastern, and sometimes Mediterranean cuisine. The origin is unknown and slightly controversial, but is thought to have begun in Egypt, and slowly spread to the Middle East as an alternative to eating meat during Lent. The cultures that comprise the Middle East and Mediterranean all have their own variations of falafel, but it is most commonly prepared by deep frying chick peas or fava beans. I’ve even had it with rice and lentils, but nothing compares to that of chick peas (hummus, am I right)? Spices such as parsley, cumin, coriander, green onion, and of course tons of garlic are added to the mix to produce small, deep-fried round balls of goodness. It is most commonly served with pita bread and hummus on the side, or inside the pita pocket to make a sandwich. Baba ganoush, cabbage salad, tomatoes, and cucumbers and tahini dressing are a great combination as well, because the more the merrier.
Sitting at 206 N. Linn Street, Oasis Falafel is definitely the most renowned Middle Eastern restaurant in the Iowa City area and an absolute most-visit if you’re in town and craving some good grub, or just some chips and hummus. This place is seriously such a hidden gem because of its location, but I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Even my dad who’s from Syria and grew up on this stuff thinks that this is some top-notch falafel.
Being from Chicago and coming from a foodie and opinionated Armenian and Italian family, I’ve had my fair share of falafel on a weekly (ahem, tri-weekly) basis. Before I go any further, I’ll briefly describe how this mild obsession came about. Last summer when I wasn’t at my part time internship at the Tribune, I worked in my mom’s office making phone calls every Friday from 8-5pm, followed by a much-needed happy hour at the end of the day on the Chicago River. I loved it because she’d take me out to lunch every week, and somehow we stumbled upon a weekly tradition which we cleverly named “Falafel Fridays.” Our goal, every single Friday, was to try a new Middle Eastern or Mediterranean restaurant with falafel on the menu and evaluate its quality by the end of the meal. I lost count after about week 5, but we had to have tried over a dozen places just within walking distance of her office, and loved them all (duh…how can you go wrong)?! Needless to say, if you’re ever in the Chicagoland area, I’d be happy to give you the best recommendations.
Beginning in 11 days, I set off for about 3 months of post-grad travels abroad and just seeing where my feet (and bank account) lead me. My goal is to find a falafel restaurant/joint/food truck/shack/ANYTHING in every city or town I step foot in, which I know will be a challenge, but who wouldn’t be up for a challenge of eating amazing food? For my remaining blog posts, I will provide a full evaluation about the quality of the falafel, what it’s served with, the employees’ service in the establishment, the atmosphere, and anything else that catches me as interesting (visuals included), as I search for the world’s best falafel. I want to end the dispute of who and where makes the best falafel on the planet Earth once and for all. And then who knows? Maybe the Travel Channel will pick up on this and give me a TV show! Until then, here’s a great picture I snapped a few months ago at Oasis just to leave you salivating. See y’all on the other side of the pond!
xoxo -Falafel Files