Two Falafels: Mediterranean Deli & Gyros and Middle East Market & Deli

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Middle East MarketThe falafel, plus a spinach pie, at Middle East Market.

I was really disappointed that my favorite falafel place, L’As du Fallafel, wasn’t open when I went by on a recent trip to Paris. (And, yes, I understand that that qualifies as a first-world disappointment.)

las du fallafelMy sandwich at L'As du Fallafel in Paris during a visit in 2010.Maybe that’s why I’ve had a hankering for a falafel sandwich lately. When I visited two Middle Eastern eateries lately, that was the only thing on the menus that I considered ordering. I don’t know why, but there’s something about those deep-fried chickpea balls that I love.

The first place I stopped was Mediterranean Deli & Gyros. The & Gyros is meant to distinguish it from Mediterranean Deli, which I told you about here. The two restaurants aren’t related, but their owners are -- they’re brothers.

If I hadn’t known that going in I probably would have guessed it from the warm greeting I received. But I’ll come back to that.

I ordered my falafel sandwich, which included a salad. I chose the tabbouleh, the chopped parsley, tomato and onion salad that has such a sharp and pleasant taste.

The falafel, I thought, was only so so. The pita it was wrapped in was a bit too hard, perhaps from having been placed in a press? But the flavors were good, and it was unmistakably a falafel, with shredded lettuce and tzatziki sauce.

So I was feeling that MD&G wouldn’t be a regular stop for me. The food was acceptable but not outstanding, and the surroundings were a bit worn looking.

But then, when I was leaving, the owner and his assistant thanked me effusively for coming in. They wanted to know how I had found them (“Just driving by,” I lied) and told me that they looked forward to having me come again. And I believe they meant it. I told them I looked forward to returning (another lie).

Then I left, and as I was getting into my car, the assistant came running out to hand me a menu and the restaurant’s business card. Again he told me that they looked forward to seeing me again. I told him that I looked forward to it, too. And this time I meant it.

As I’ve told many a restaurant owner, you can be forgiven for many shortcomings if you have the right guest-relations attitude.

The other place I visited on my falafel quest was Middle East Market. (Neither restaurant has a very creative name, but there you go.) MEM is indeed a market, and includes such candles and hookah pipes. Here the falafel was a bit more substantial, and along with the crispy chickpea fritters and creamy cool tahini sauce were pickles, including some matchsticks of pickled turnips serve on the side with a pepperoncini. 

I also ordered a spinach pie, which had lots of peppery notes. But the pasty shell was rather soggy, perhaps because it was heated in a microwave oven?

Of the two falafels, I enjoyed this one more, but neither came close to satisfying my craving for L’As du Fallafel. Sigh. I’ll just have to book another trip back soon.

Mediterranean Deli & Gyros is at 9430 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. It has no website. My falafel and salad with a drink was $5.99. The phone number is 407-271-8937.

Middle East Market & Deli is at 8100 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando (south of Sand Lake Road across from Florida Mall). It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. It has a website, but the menu posted there has no prices. My falafel was $6.99 and the spinach pie was $1.99. The phone number is 407-855-6555.

Mediterranean falafelMediterranean Deli & Gyros' falafel, plus tabbouleh.

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