Philly falafel guide: 27 places to get the crispy Middle Eastern fritters

Don’t want to wait in a long line like the one at Goldie? Your options are plentiful.

Falafel platter at Sahara Grill

Falafel platter at Sahara Grill

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
danya

Updated 10 a.m.

Philadelphia is what you might call falafel rich. The chickpea fritters are a staple in countries across the Middle East, from Turkey to Greece to Egypt to Israel to Iraq, and Philly is home to falafel spots representing all of these cultures and more. The plenitude is actually one of the reasons it took Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook a dozen years to move forward with Goldie. But now that the vegan fast casual on Sansom Street has launched, its carefully constructed falafel pita pockets draw crowds, leading to regular lunchtime lines out the door.

Don’t want to wait? You can always try one of the various hit-or-miss halal carts scattered throughout Center City, but if you want a sure thing, here are 26 other places to find hot, crisp falafel in Philly (in alphabetical order).

Note: Did we miss your favorite go-to falafel joint? Send an email and we’ll add to the list.

Agno Grill

This fast casual from the folks behind healthy-everything shop Pure Fare is all about Mediterranean cuisine, which of course means fawning over falafel. It’s one of the “protein” options you can choose as you build your own bowl, salad or wrap. Be forewarned — the balls are baked, not fried, so they won’t have quite the same texture as usual.
2104 Chestnut St., 19103

Al-Sham Halal Restaurant

“American” dishes like pizza and burgers are popular at this Oxford Circle spot, because the kitchen follows strict halal rules, but the Middle Eastern side of the menu also has fans. Falafel are small, garlicky and served with a spicy white yogurt sauce. Also available: Post-meal puffs from a hookah.
6738 Bustleton Ave., 215-332-5000

Al Zaytouna

Adding some Middle Eastern flair to the Mexican and Italian spots that fill the Ninth Street Market is this narrow BYOB with a cheerful blue and white facade. The parsley-flecked, deep-fried falafel are one of the most-ordered dishes, and while you can get them to go, the most enjoyment will come from scarfing them down hot and fresh at one of the several tables set up outside.
906 Christian St., 215-574-5040

Alyan’s Restaurant

For nearly 40 years, South Street strollers in search of falafel have turned to this small dining room tucked behind Copa next to the TLA. During the day it’s a great place for a calm and quiet lunch, but at night the party gets going, with regulars filling outdoor tables with boisterous conversations and general good vibes.
603 S. 4th St., 215-922-3553

Apricot Stone

An Armenian woman who emigrated here from Syria, chef Fimy Ishkhanian weaves threads of many Middle Eastern cuisines into the menu at this Liberties Walk BYOB. It’s easy to start dinner with an appetizer plate of her herbed chickpea fritters, or turn them into the main event by adding salad, housemade hummus and the special red pepper-walnut dip known as muhamara.
1040 N. 2nd St., 267-606-6596

Aya’s Cafe

It’s easy to miss this petite Egyptian bistro, which is hidden in the pocket behind Logan Circle next to the Schuylkill. Chef-owner Tarek AlBasti does the rounds in the style of his native Egypt, which means they’re made with fava beans only, and coated in sesame seeds. It makes for an interesting variation on the chickpea-filled classic.
2129 Arch St., 215-567-1555

Bitar’s

One side of this two-decade-old Bella Vista shop is a full-on Middle Eastern grocery store, with shelves full of hard-to-find canned and packaged goods. The other half is where the hot food is served, including falafel balls that are grilled instead of fried — a preparation that favors extra-savory flavor over a crunchy texture.
947 Federal St., 215-755-1121

Cedars

The first of several restaurants run by the Sawan brothers, who fled the war in Lebanon and arrived in Philly in the in1980s, this South Street lounge is still going strong. Visit for falafel in a more upscale setting, where the fritters — on the large side, made with both fava and garbanzo — come as an app, platter or sandwich.
616 S. 2nd St., 215-925-4950

Falafel Exotic Cuisine

Opened in 2012, this Spruce Hill shop does its namesake dish Lebanese style, with broad beans joining garbanzos in the mix, and the resulting small rounds fried to an extra-crunchy dark brown. If you like what you try, ask about catering — apparently the owners do Arabic versions of Village People routines.
4403 Chestnut St., 215-222-1415

Falafel Hummus

No need to guess the specialties at this aptly-named Fishtown counter-service spot. The no-frills decor — plain brick front, simple, cloth-draped counter inside — belies a relatively robust menu of Middle Eastern eats. The falafel are small but served generously; you get at least seven fritters in a platter or stuffed into a giant pita sandwich.
402 E. Girard Ave., 215-291-5066

Giovani’s Bar & Grill

Always feel like Center City Sips would be great if only it included falafel? Well, this mish-mosh of a sports bar — Cheesesteaks! Pizza! Hummus! — tucked into the eclectic Chestnut Street facade is for you. Seriously though, the spot was known as a falafel destination before it branched into booze, and a six-ball platter goes for just $7.50.
1533 Chestnut St., 215-568-0800

Goldie

If you plan well and arrive early, you might not have to actually wait too long for the CookNSolo chickpea creation. The pita it’s packed in is baked fresh to order, and the sandwich is purposely constructed so it’s not a big mess. Bonus: The tehina shakes that have become the city’s hottest vegan dessert.
1526 Sansom St., 267-239-0777

The 'small' falafel platter at Halal Guys

The 'small' falafel platter at Halal Guys

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Halal Guys

The original NYC food cart was so popular that the brand was turned into a franchise, and the first area location landed in Chinatown Square earlier this year. A few licks of the famous “white” sauce and ultra-spicy red sauce are enough to explain the popularity, and so is the amount of food that comes with your falafel platter ($8 for a small) — five balls, a hefty helping of flavored rice, a heap of salad and soft wedges of pita.
1016 Race St., 215-925-2225

Hamifgash

This gem of a lunch spot has sustained hungry workers and visitors to Jewelers Row for nearly a decade, with a fully kosher menu that abstains from any dairy but pleases with both Israeli and Turkish specialties. The falafel sandwich is a monster, exploding from its pita container with salad and tahini surrounding the spiced hunks of fried chickpea flour.
811 Sansom St., 215-925-3550

Jerry’s Bar

It’s an unorthodox preparation in an unlikely place, but one so good it deserves a mention. The falafel burger at this Northern Liberties lounge sees chickpea batter pressed into a single, sandwich-sized patty, which is then fried up so light and fluffy it will disappear before you even realize you took the second bite.
129 W. Laurel St., 267-273-1632

Falafel burger at Jerry's Bar

Falafel burger at Jerry's Bar

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Judah Mediterranean Grille

This Israeli cafe in Bustleton’s Krewstown Shopping Center serves the area’s strictly kosher clientele — you can BYO, but only mevushal wine. Others visit anyway for chef Mike Avitan’s dishes like the falafel, best wrapped in giant laffa bread with hummus, tahini and vegetables.
9311 Krewstown Rd., 215-613-6110

Kamal’s Middle Eastern Cuisine

The Syrian owner of this Reading Terminal Market stand uses both chickpeas and favas for his popular falafel, available in platters or pita wraps to go or to stay — there’s a sit-down counter along one side. Open for lunch and breakfast seven days a week.
51 N. 12th St., 215-925-1511

Kanella Grill

The casual offshoot that Konstantinos Pitsillides opened in the original home of his famed Cypriot restaurant uses its namesake grill to great effect for kebabs, but the cilantro-and-fennel-filled chickpea rounds that chef Dominic Santora sends out crisp from the kitchen are perhaps an even better reason to visit.
1001 Spruce St., 267-928-2085

Liberty Choice

Walk to the back of this Kensington minimart-slash-convenience store under the El to find a deli counter offering a wide selection of ultra-cheap lunch options, including craggy, crunchy falafel balls. Get three for a dollar if you’re just looking for a snack, or load up a sandwich topped with hummus or baba ganoush for $5.50.
1939 N. Front St., 215-423-4500

Mama’s Vegetarian

This tiny Rittenhouse storefront has been providing Philly with Israeli-style falafel for nearly two decades. The free toppings bar, where you can load up your sandwich or salad with extra pickled vegetables and chunky sauces, makes the cheap prices an even better deal. (Note: Closed Friday nights and Saturdays in observance of the Jewish sabbath.)
18 S. 20th St., 215-751-0477

Manakeesh Cafe

Housemade Lebanese flatbreads and sweet and savory pastries catapulted this six-year-old Spruce Hill spot to modest fame, but the falafel game is also strong. The patties — semi-flattened orbs around the size of golf balls — have a distinctive speckle throughout their brown crust. It’s sesame seeds, which add an extra-nutty punch to the classic chickpea flavor.
4420 Walnut St., 215-921-2135

Naf Naf Grill

Unlike at some chains, the counter cooks at this Chicago-based fast casual are instructed to not let their falafel sit in on the line more than a few minutes. That’s good news, because it means whatever you do with your chickpea hunks — build them into a salad, sandwich or bowl — they’ll be hot, fresh and crunchy.
1919 Market St., 267-930-4002

Saad’s Halal Restaurant

Since 1996, this brightly-lit corner cafe has delighted West Philadelphians with its signature “maroosh” sandwiches, named in homage of a restaurant in the owner’s home country of Lebanon. The falafel is locally famous, too, always hot and fresh instead of mealy and dry.
4500 Walnut St., 215-222-7223

Sahara Grill

Step out of the craziness that surrounds the hot “Midtown Village” restaurant strip and take refuge in this under-appreciated dark-wood dining room. The Lebanese family that runs it is not in a rush, so don’t expect an express lunch, but do expect some of the best falafel in the city, with a shatteringly crisp shell surrounding a fine-ground interior that melts quickly away.
1334 Walnut St., 215-985-4155

Falafel platter at Sahara Grill

Falafel platter at Sahara Grill

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Sancho Pistola’s

What’s a Mexican-themed restaurant doing on this list? Ever since it opened, one of chef-partner Adan Trinidad’s most popular dishes at the Fishtown tavern has been his “Falafel Tafel” — aka a Middle Eastern take on a taco, with feta, veggies and jalapeno yogurt surrounding the fried chickpea nuggets.
19 W. Girard Ave., 267-324-3530

Smiley’s Cafe

The name of this petite cafe in just off Manayunk’s busy Main Street corridor comes from its owner, whose perpetual expression is always one of good humor. He serves coffee, smoothies and a selection of Middle Eastern bites, including housemade falafel balls, fried in misshapen nugs that taste 10x better than they look.
110 Cotton St., 267-323-2098

South Street Souvlaki

Proprietor Tom Vasiliades has had 41 years to work on the recipe for his Greek falafel, which is served out the quick-service window or in the sit-down dining room. The resulting fritters are much larger than many others in the city, with a golden brown crust that gives way to a flaky center. Best topped with cucumber-filled tzatziki sauce.
509 South St., 215-925-3026

Falafel on a salad bowl at Verts Mediterranean Grill

Falafel on a salad bowl at Verts Mediterranean Grill

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Verts Mediterranean Grill

Philly’s downtown office lunch crowd appears to be having a love affair with this first area outpost of the Texas-based chain, which serves a medium-sized falafel ball that’s full of garlic and onion. The Penn Center spot is absolutely packed during the midday rush, but the assembly-line service counter keeps the build-your-own bowls and pockets zipping quickly out the door.
1601 Market St., 215-563-8373

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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