8 Restaurant Chains That Serve the Best Falafel
Slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and filled with delicious spices, falafel is among the Middle East's most famous street foods. Usually made with chickpeas, fava beans, or both, the flavorful, deep-fried fritters are often stuffed into a pita or served as a platter. Whether bought quickly from a sidewalk food cart or enjoyed in a fancy sit-down restaurant, falafel is a tasty dish that can be enjoyed for lunch, dinner, or even as a snack.
Homemade falafel takes some practice and a lot of patience to perfect. If you've made falafel on your own before, you may know how frustrating it is when it comes out too dry or too crumbly, or lacks flavor. Thankfully, several chain restaurants specialize in making this delicious dish, so you can leave it to the experts and not have to spend the time or energy attempting an at-home recipe.
From iconic New York City hot spots that have been around for decades to newer institutions that allow you to customize your meal, here are eight restaurant chains that serve the best falafel.
If you want Middle Eastern cuisine made from only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, check out Naya. With locations in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, the restaurant chain whips up options like chicken shawarma and kafta lamb, using recipes that have been passed down generations.
One menu item you must try is the falafel, which can be enjoyed in a bowl, salad, or wrap. The fried chickpea croquette comes perfectly seasoned with herbs and spices. "So darn tasty," one Yelp reviewer posted. "Great crispy falafel. Had a wonderful falafel and hummus salad with all the toppings – pickles, onions, tahini, hot sauce, jalapeños… so good!"
The Halal Guys
What started as a hot dog cart in the 1990s has become one of the most famous American halal restaurant chains out there. At the Halal Guys, you can expect a long list of options, including beef gyro sandwiches, hummus, baba ghanoush, baklava, fries, and chicken platters. One standout pick is the falafel, which can be ordered as a platter, sandwich, or side.
Made from deep-fried chickpeas and spices, this falafel is lauded for its delicious taste. "Good place, good food, good service, nice people—the falafel were amazing. 100% recommend this place," one Yelp reviewer proclaimed. And word to the wise: Don't forget to order the chain's iconic white sauce on the side—you won't regret it.
Naf Naf Grill
Started in Illinois in 2009, Naf Naf Grill serves Middle Eastern dishes across 12 states, using late founder Sahar Sander's authentic handmade recipes. Naf Naf Grill's menu features a 'build your own" stuffed pita, bowl, or salad that offers the top-notch options of falafel, chicken shawarma, crispy chicken, or steak as a base. The falafel is especially a hit.
"WTF! As in, what the falafel!" one Yelp reviewer exclaimed. "Hands down, the falafel at Naf Naf Grill is king. These spiced balls of chickpeas are filling and standalone without the addition of meat. It's flavorful and moist in comparison to other Middle Eastern places that tend to be dry."
With nearly 300 locations throughout the United States, Cava is a popular Mediterranean fast-casual dining chain taking the country by storm. One reason people come back time and time again is because it uses only the best ingredients. For example, Cava's kalamata olives are sourced from the Peloponnese region of Greece, its pitas are made using freshly milled flours and sprouted grains, and the chain only uses antibiotic-free meats.
There are a lot of great dishes offered at Cava, but one must-try is the falafel, which is served in a salad or pita. "Fiery broccoli and spicy falafel are magical!" wrote one Yelp reviewer. Yet another reviewer mentioned, "I always get the supergreens with falafel. I usually skip bread, but the pita and hummus is amazing. FYI, this is the best falafel you will ever taste!"
Started in 2004, Luna Grill is celebrated for its tasty dishes, welcoming environment, and high-quality ingredients. With nearly 50 locations, mainly in California and Texas, the fast-casual Mediterranean chain makes sure to source only ingredients free from antibiotics, preservatives, and GMOs whenever possible. It's also transparent about everything that goes into its recipes.
From the eight-hour marinated kebabs to the freshly-made hummus, you can taste the amount of attention and detail that goes into each menu item—including the falafel. "Stumbled upon this place, and what a great surprise!" one Yelp reviewer mentioned "All of the food was fresh and tasty! Super friendly staff! Delicious falafel, gyro, and ridiculously yummy pita!"
Following the same format as other "build your own" fast-casual restaurants, Taim allows you to customize a bowl, pita, or salad exactly how you'd like it. At locations in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington, D.C., you can choose from bases like toasted cumin jasmine rice, chopped romaine, and hummus, and mains like falafel, roasted beef meatballs, and golden eggplant.
What's excellent about Taim is that it has two different types of falafel available—go for the harissa falafel if you're into spicy foods, or try out the traditional green falafel made with fresh herbs. You can also order them both! "Best green falafel I have ever had!" a Yelp reviewer shared. "Traditional, delicious, light, and so tasty!"
Started over 50 years ago, Mamoun's is advertised as the "original falafel restaurant." What began as a single restaurant in New York City's Greenwich Village has grown into a fast-casual chain with locations in places like Atlanta and New Haven, Conn.
Its falafel is made from finely ground chickpeas, mixed with onions, parsley, garlic, and spices, then deep fried. Enjoy it in a pita, as a platter, or on the side by itself. "We popped in to get falafel—with their famous tahini and spicy sauce—and I'm so glad we did," one Yelp reviewer exclaimed. "The falafel was absolutely delicious! The balls are nicely seasoned, they pack a ton of flavor, and they are perfectly cooked."
Pop by Roti when you're in the mood for deliciously made eastern Mediterranean cuisine, prepared using wholesome ingredients. With locations in Illinois, New York, Texas, and Maryland, Roti offers an exciting menu filled with dishes made with spices like zesty za'atar, warming cumin, and delicate saffron. Although its menu has many eye-catching options—chicken fattoush salad, harissa chicken bowls, garlic steak pitas, among others—the falafel is a no-brainer.
"I absolutely love this place," one Yelp reviewer wrote. "The best falafel plate I've ever had, and you get a lot for what you pay for. It's delicious, and I go here every time I am in the area."