Street Vendor Review: Christos' Falafel

>> Friday, March 27, 2009

Last week at Serious Eats, I saw a post and video clip about a street vendor in Philly that presumably has the best falafel A-N-Y-W-H-E-R-E...

Falafel, eh? I've never had none and since CuteCub likes falafel and had time to go around with me, we decided to travel the 15 blocks to try it for lunch.

I guess you can say food carts are the best example of an American dream comes true, low budget and as long as you have solid good food people will come. You can make as much money as the effort you put in. There are many a street food carts in Philly with interesting ethnic foods, especially around University of Pennsylvania, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, even Ethiopian. Ever since the soul food place around my former job had closed, I haven't had any good oxtail stew on rice and there are at least 3 soul food carts around that area that advertised for them, too bad it's so far away.

The weather was a bit dreary and the line wasn't as long as we've expected. The cart itself is a bit odd. Instead of carrying drinks, cookies, candies and gums, the outside compartment of the cart was decorated with rows and rows or garlic, potted plants and some decorative bottles of olive oil. The owner Gus must be making a pretty good living not having to figure how he'd make more money. Also, there's no menu or prices anywhere. It's a good thing that we've seen the video in advance and know that he only sells falafel and chicken as platters or as sandwiches.

In the drizzling rain, the guy in front of us ordered 5 platters, but Gus wouldn't do it because he doesn't make mass orders and would only make him 2. Strange. Not only that, Gus then ask if it's the guy's first time buying food from him because all regulars would know. Exactly what's the difference between 5 guys waiting in line and each order a platter or one guy buying 5? After waiting around 15 minutes, we got our platter for $10.

The platter consisted a layer of shredded lettuce at the bottom, some hummus on the corner, a cucumber tomato salad, some pasta bits, some grape-banana salad, 4 fried falafel nuggets, a good amount of charcoal-grilled chicken, a pita bread, two kinds of sauce and a good sprinkle of oregano/parsley. Both CuteCub and I liked the platter a lot, the hummus is mild and pleasant, the falafel is chunky and satisfying, the chicken is well-spiced and crispy from the grill and the fruit salad is quite the perfect touch. I'm scratching my head over the pasta bits though, it's not bad but not quite necessary.

We can see that Gus takes a lot of pride in his food. He has certain standards for his customers to follow and he has to prepare his food just the way he wants. Gus reminded us of Seinfeld's soup Nazy, maybe he is the one who inspired the skit. His food was pricey but worth it, although I didn't care for him not selling drinks or the fact that he doesn't have a price menu so at the end when his customers find out the price it might be too late for them to turn down the prepared food. It's almost an arrogance or his way to tell his customers that you can't assign a price to his art or don't patronize him if you don't think you can afford it. But eccentricity is not a bad thing especially when it benefits the customers that he has a higher standards for his food. If I'm in the area and hungry, I'll definitely seek him out again.

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