Paris: L'As du Fallafel

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fallafelThis was the best thing I ate during my recent trip to Paris, hands down and hands full. Actually, it’s a ritual each time I visit, and I’m never disappointed. It’s a falafel sandwich from L‘As du Fallafel, a popular spot with a walk-up window in the Marais, on Rue des Rosiers, once the center of the city’s Jewish neighborhood.

The place has an inside dining room, and it has other items on its menu, but I never go inside and I never order anything else. This is perfection; why screw with it?

Here’s how it works. You order your sandwich and pay for it from one guy -- sometimes he might be in the window, or, when it’s busy, out on the street. You give him your money -- 5 euros, or a little over six bucks, and he gives you a ticket. Then you move to the next guy in the window. (The tickets are numbered, so if it’s crowded don’t try to move in front of someone with a lower number -- they will point out your faux pas to you.) You hand your ticket to the sandwich maker and he goes to work. He widens to pocket of the pita by shoving his fist inside to stretch it out. Then he throws in a few of the falafel balls, deep-fried fritters made with chickpeas and garlic, then some pickled red cabbage, matchsticks of salted cucumbers, some more falafel, some fried eggplant, and tops it off with two kinds of sauces: creamy yogurt and red, slightly hot, harissa, a chili sauce.

This is a walking food, but it requires some coordination between bites of the sandwich and wipes with the napkins. You may just want to step to the side or sit on the curb and enjoy it in full concentration. Don’t attempt to eat it in your best clothes, you’re almost certain to have some dribble on you.

L’As du Fallafel is easily the biggest food landmark on the street, which also has some other Middle Eastern restaurants and a number of patisseries and chocolatiers. That title used to belong to Jo Goldenberg’s, a full-service deli that closed a few years ago. Although the name is still over the door, the Goldenberg’s space now sells clothing.

L’As du Fallafel is at 34, Rue des Rosiers, Paris. It’s open Sunday through Friday. Like most other businesses on the street, it is shuttered Saturdays.