Foreign Food Finds
Ankur Chawla | Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The latest addition to the cluster of restaurants on South Bend Avenue including Between the Buns, Studebagels and JW Chen’s, Falafel Express promises an authentic Mediterranean cuisine in a casual, semi fast-food environment. Unfortunately, the red tray the food was served on wasn’t the only thing that reminded me of dining hall or cafeteria food.
Admittedly, the ambience and interior design wasn’t awful by any means. It merely lacked distinction and looked like the inside of any on campus eatery like Reckers or Waddick’s, with a condiment stand full with ketchup and the large plastic napkin holders you’d see at those respective on-campus places.
Also similar to on-campus places, prices were surprisingly high for the quantity and quality of food. $1.50 gets you a Happy Meal-size order of fries. Comparable to Chipotle in prices, the so-called sandwich menu essentially has the choice of chicken, beef or vegetarian and comes in a burrito-like form using a pita wrap. Opting for the vegetarian option, I ordered the Falafel Sandwich, thinking the restaurant’s namesake would be a decent choice. Soggy falafel and relatively bland spices doomed the dish to mediocrity.
I know I’m generally harsh on demanding flavor, but even my less spice-inclined friends agreed with my conclusions after eating the Beef Shawarma Sandwich. A common theme and big miss by the restaurant was the presence of awkward pickle spears in each of the wraps. Not common in traditional Mediterranean food, there is absolutely no need for pickles and they tend to overpower the rest of the not-so-strongly flavored meal.
Still, some bright spots did exist on the menu. The “side” of hummus was a full-on Tupperware container of it one might buy at a grocery store, yet homemade and quite delicious. Though I cannot personally speak to this, a friend of mine enjoyed his Beef Kufta Sandwich and claimed the Chicken Shish-Kabob could have been worse. Also, the fact that “Scare Tactics” was on the big screen TV only made our meal better.
Overall, unless there is significant change in the kitchen and menu I do not see myself heading back to Falafel Express. There was a reason the cook himself walked out of the restaurant to return with a Papa John’s pizza while we were there eating our meal. Yes, that actually happened.
Contact Ankur Chawla at email@example.com if you’d like to join him on his next quest for quality foreign foods in the area. Seriously, do it.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily of The Observer.