May 3, 2018
Falafel can be a tricky dish to make. It seems simple enough to throw together. Right?
Toss some chickpeas and a couple spices together, throw that son of a gun in a fryer and you’re set for a good meal.
But that simplicity is just the issue. After all, soufflé is just eggs, butter and sugar at its most basic level. Do it wrong and you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt.
I won’t pretend like I’m the authority on all things falafel, but I know what I like, and I’ll get finicky if things aren’t done right.
Back home in Pasadena, there were two spots you went to grab falafel, or really any Mediterranean food.
The first was Pita Pita down on Colorado Blvd. The second was Golden Grill Shish Kebab, the smaller rival that sat indignantly across the very same street as Pita Pita.
No matter your loyalties in this culinary conflict, these two spots knew their stuff, and they knew falafel.
Since then, both have closed their doors; one has since been replaced with a sub-par Hawaiian barbecue restaurant.
With their demise, I also lost my favorite spots to find one of my favorite foods. This put me in a falafel drought for nearly two years.
So what’s the deal, Sonnenburg? Well all I can say is thank the Lord for Falafel’s Drive-In. I had heard about this totem of the South Bay as early as my brother’s freshman year in 2012.
It’s reputation preceding it, I decided to go take a look a couple months ago with a handful of guys who live in my hall. With sunny skies, we made the forty-seven minute walk to the restaurant in lieu of a $14 Lyft.
When we got there, we were very pleased with the “vibe” of the whole place. Despite an endorsement poster from the ever-socringey prince of pomade, Guy Fieri, we found ourselves very taken. The politeness of both customers and staff was welcoming, as was the eye-catching mural on the far wall of the dining area.
Mural you say? Yeah! The shop is far from your usual sit-down spot. The restaurant, now only serving dine-in or take-out, was opened in 1966 by Anton and Zahie Nijmeh as a functioning drive-in.
However, with times changing, the lane for the cars was walled in and turned into an open-air dining spot. So once you’re all settled in with your pita pocket and beverage of choice, you can enjoy a nice breeze and a little sun.
Beyond the charm of the joint, the spread is exceptional. Mediterranean classics like gyros, hummus and tabbouleh sit happily with the usual suspects of American food like burgers and fries.
What’s important to remember at Falafel’s Drive-In is that it’s an iconic spot with an iconic signature order. And that, my friends, is the falafel sandwich with a banana milkshake and fries.
Airy and always fresh, the falafel sits in a warm pita surrounded by lettuce, tomatoes and a generous schmear of red sauce. Their fries are consistently crisp and satisfying.
To wash it all down, their famous banana milkshake is always well-mixed, providing an intriguing backdrop of tropical sweetness to the otherwise savory meal.
If you’re getting hungry this weekend and need something more than the usual Benson nosh, take a quick trip to Falafel’s Drive-In. Sure, it’s nothing new and not fine dining, but it’s cheap, local and overwhelmingly delicious.
Contact Noah Sonnenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.