A Foxy Afternoon

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Getting back into the food-adventure swing of things, I’m really hoping to be able to check off some of the close-by Truck-staurants off my list. And lucky me just the other day I finally got to head down to Foxy Falafel’s little café for lunch!

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I imagined it’d be bigger, but I don’t mind, love that small little café atmosphere; these sorts of deals really do fit the food truck persona the best, plus they’re probably a bit easier to afford than the bigger stuff! And Foxy’s is situated in a little brick shop just up from University and Raymond, in a setup that almost looks like it used to hold antiques or a yarn-spinner’s directory. Hooray for setting up a place with some personality!

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20150330_145425Now, for those reading who still haven’t been there yet (I’m sure I’m the last one, but just in case), the menu is set up in an interesting, fun way. Main entrees are chosen a-la Chipotle, where you pick the ideal protein of choice (3 different falafel flavors, a mix of each, and some actual meat options in style of chicken shwarma, gyro, and lamb), figure out if you want it stuffed in a pita, salad, or ‘platter,’ and which of three delicious sauces you want to top it with. One can then choose to accompany this with one or more of various sides (hummus, beet slaw, baba ganoush, etc), cookies and other dessert.

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These can of course be accompanied with some awesome local draft beer, wine, or other drinks. All of which has been drawing up on two very attractive chalk boards! Sadly I wasn’t in the mood for grabbing a refreshment, though I wish I was; they seem to have a very interesting looking Root Beer in their fridge, that always peaks my tastebud curiosity.

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20150330_144347What I DID start off with was a bowl of cheese curds; not what I planned, but seeing them on the menu intrigued me, and I haven’t had any sense the State Fair as it was. And I’m glad, for one thing cuz they’re my favorite style; lightly battered, still warm and gooey with a BIT of grease (but not overly); of course they used amazing local organic curds for it too. They were tossed in Dill before frying, but truth be told I could barely taste that even when looking; I wish they got some fresh dill on it after frying, really bring that fresh flavor in. But oh god, I’m now indebted to the place, because I’ve discovered the wonder that is fresh cheese curds dipped in honey. I’m gonna have to eat them with that every time now.

 

As for the main, I still gotta order the classic street-foodie pita option (hey, it came with fries); Beet Falafel which I’ve been very much wanting to try since I found out about them a few years back; and the Green Tahini sauce (tahini w/ lemon and herbage). Of course the falafels were good; crunchy outside, VERY tender and soft inside, nice little different flavor with the beets (I’m surprised with how ‘fresh’ it felt, vs the deep earthy flavors I normally attribute), and with the other filling ingredients and sauce it made a nice mouthful.

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That said, I’m very glad I was eating this in the café, because that pita did NOT want to stay together! It ripped and tore, fell apart once, and was a bit of a mess even when trying to keep that paper around it. Though, in this setting, I don’t care about that so much, just thought it should be made of note. The tahini was nice, not as vibrant in flavor as I was hoping, but a pleasantly smooth, lightly lemony-herby paste to moisten things up with. It was great with the fries (which were good for soft-style fries, a shame they don’t go for crispy texture on it though). Overall it was a tasty little sandwich lunch, eaten at a time and place that was great for enjoying the good weather day in, and I’m glad I got to go at it again after so long.

 

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Greek Stop

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https://twitter.com/greekstopfoodtr  

Main Location: Minneapolis

              Premiering in the Downtown Minneapolis scene last year, Greek Stop serves Diner/Deli-style Mediterranean cuisine. Despite the obviously cold weather and dwindling street-walkers, Stop decided to open its doors midway through the Fall of 2012. Luckily, they survived the brief season and have returned to take on a full season!

            Apparently the owner (Ahmed Makaraan) is taking this as a first step on the road to restaurant-dom; much like crowd favorite Sushi Fix and somewhat the opposite of Falafel King. It’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination, either, with their Truck menu already filled with Greek Deli staples (well, except for Stuffed Grape Leaves… seriously where are those?).

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            With a wide, WIDE viewing window takes up the Truck’s side, in which customers can oggle and point at the various menu items they’re too ashamed to try and pronounce. Through this, one can easily spot that most ubiquitous of the Mediterranean café, the giant tube of rotating Gyro meat. This is of course joined by the new, giant tube of rotating Chicken meat for shawarma. Of course, it’s not a “traditional” Greek menu without also offering Falafel, Hummus, Greek Salad, and Baklava. And for some reason they also have a burger (at times)…

            Giving a nod to its potential restaurant future, all these main sandwiches can then be purchased solo or as some form of “combo platter.” Now all customers have to do is attempt to navigate the blaring white board menu that’s replaced their previous, easier-to-read one which I assume had an unfortunate accident. In either case, props on not choosing the cliché “block lettering+picture” style employed by other Trucks which I shall not name in this post… again.

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Food: 8

                Grabbing a Gyro on my recent trip and a Chicken Shawarma (or sandwich… it’s been a while) plate back in the fall, I can safely say these are definitely the items to watch. Pita bread used is pretty big and soft, though obviously not handmade they use a decent product.

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                I’m certainly not an expert on gyro meat, but I found I enjoyed what they put out; it feels a bit better quality than a couple other general gyros I’ve found through the city. Though this could easily be from how THICK they slice their meat in comparison to others! All in all, it made scrumptious and enjoyable lunch experience. As for the chicken, it was rich, it was juicy, and it’s definitely something I would suggest getting in the gyro-like wrap.

              It was a while back, but I do believe I had Pita Chips and Hummus as well with that chicken… if I did, I’m pretty sure it was good, but not really “fantastic” in any way. Something tells me one could also say the same about their Salad, and possibly the baklava (so hard to find really GOOD baklava… even in international stores/cafes).

Holdability: 7

            Tightly wrapped in a roll of foil, they make their sandwiches easy to transport to one’s various destinations. As for the actual eating, the tzaziki and veggies can be a touch loose and messy, but they still stay within the large pita pretty well. Two hands are required for consumption-on-the-go, though. Platters quite obviously require sitting down, along with that salad which I still don’t understand the reason for buying.

Price: 8

             Solo sandwiches stay at $7 or $8, with subsequent combos adding on extra depending on quantity; highest price so far in that sense is $11. Both sides of Samosa and Baklava stay a $2.

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Speed: 8.5

              Average speed, in fact probably a bit quicker due to the ready-to-cut meat tubes and other ready-to-assemble products. Plus, with the viewing window, the wait becomes more enjoyable.

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The TOE: 6.5

             Basing it off of the future restaurant they hope to have, one of course loses many of the feelings of a typical Truck. Compared to the menu-similar Falafel King, however, they clearly show a better direction towards the Street Food movement; a slightly higher focus/smaller menu, bit more in portability, not to mention that giant window on the side giving us a view into their soul… and gyros.

             I wish they had some Stuffed Grape Leaves though… put them on a stick/toothpicks for a perfect street food item!

                        Tally: 38/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            Certainly a fun little stop, perfect for those who feel the need to actually watch something while waiting for their food. Definitely stick with the Gyro or Chicken; probably one of the best options for them within the city (Truck or Non). Though two hands ARE required to eat as a just in case, these certainly qualify as a stop for those requiring eating-on-the-go. Unless of course one decides to get a platter… which may be okay for bringing back to the office, but I firmly believe the sandwiches are the stand-alone here compared to the rest. I’d say ignore the Falafels, there are a few better options.

Falafel King

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(No useful links one can use for updating Truck location)

Main Location: Minneapolis

            With a group of 3 storefronts already under their belt, Foxy Falafel makes its entrance into the Food Truck scene in the season of 2013. Those familiar with the popular café will find no surprise in their Middle Eastern-based cuisine, using many of the same items listed on their non-mobile menu.

            As name suggests, Falafel forms the main grace of the menu, standing next to that other Mid-Eastern favorite in the US, the Gyro. A small plethora of other items fill the rest of the menu, from Hummus dip to Greek Salad, from Shawirma to Philly Cheese Sandwiches, Combo Platters, even two burgers (one Lamb, the other “Falafel”).

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           The menu itself reads much like Holy Land at the State Fair, covered in semi-gaudy pictures of Mediterranean fair with bright blue descriptor boxes hanging below. Lucky for most customers, though, they don’t have to worry about accidentally ingesting lamb testicles at King.

 

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Food: 7

             I myself went for that intriguing Falafel Burger. In terms of the namesake, the outer shell was very nice, crunchy and thick without any sense of burning, with a fluffy inside standing up to it nicely. They make the burger much like how one envisions; one larger, flat patty of the falafel; at first I thought they just fried a few and smushed them all on a burger bun, but that was just the big flakes of crispy shell. The toppings, however, all have this feeling of mediocrity; cheap tomatoes and lettuce, basic flat burger bun… tatziki was decent though. When gotten all together, though, it made for a very nice, tasty mouthful; at least when you CAN get it all together, halfway through most of the toppings went in my stomach (see Holdability).

           On my visit, they also had a sample tray of their hummus, “spicy sauce” (an oil of herbs and spices, which I also had on the burger, which was nice), and the fried pita sticks used for dipping. Hummus was smooth, very pleasant traditional flavors, a nice enjoyable version. With this and the falafel, one can safely assume many of the Middle Eastern-based items are likely to retain the similar level of pleasant quality.

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           Other dishes make me highly cautious of not only flavor but their reason for being on the menu: Philly Steak and Chicken, a Lamb Burger which looks like a Mcdonald’s commercial on a bad day, and an oddly unadorned Garlic Chicken. Maybe they’re good, but this sense of odd dubiousness is why, as mentioned in Motley’s review, I rarely if ever suggest grabbing Philly Steak sandwiches from ANYWHERE outside of the actual city.

Holdability: 6

            Highly variable depending on the item. The Falafel Burger I got, even with a solid foil wrap around its base to hold, was quite the messy beast; not to mention I basically consumed all the yogurt and tomatoes in the first half of eating, leaving the latter just falafel, bun, and lettuce. Regular Falafels and Gyros are of course going to be very easy to on-the-go, though it seems they may pack them with sides of sauces and possible other things. Then there are the salads and platters, which are likely to hang in the category of “take it back to the office/park/etc.”Then there are the spreads, set in the side of a to-go box with Pita Sticks to dip, sort of in the middle for walkability. As I believe the real focal point of this long menu centers around the falafels, gyros, and possibly burgers, I’ve made the choice to score them slightly higher than mid-way.

Price: 9.5

            Easily one of, if not THE, best point. Entreee items range from $5-$9, and that’s only due to the $9 combo plates. Most sandwiches stay around the $7/$8 range. An extra dollar can be added for sides of Fries and Rice, though considering the type and quality of place I would highly recommend steering from either (much better fries in other trucks), so I don’t even count it. Two Baklava desserts are also offered at $2.75.

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Speed: 7.5

             Also highly variable and dependant. Gyros are likely to be particularly quick along with salads, spreads, and other pre-made products, while the falafel and burgers can be a while. The Falafel burger took a noted amount of time. 

The TOE: 4

              Though many of the main items fit the “street food” mantra pretty well, it’s difficult to visit here without one feeling that they just walked into the actual Mid-Eastern café. The menu simply has too many items on it, and though pictures of the food could be a nice addition if done right, here it just feels tacky and exponentially grows the “Café” feeling.

            Which is really disappointing, as I actually like the idea of the “Falafel Burger;” unintentionally (one can’t help but feel this was created in the restaurant as another menu item, with little to no thought towards the actual Truck), I believe they have introduced an amazing concept for a unique Food Truck item. A traditional dish molded into the form of another local favorite which has proven to hold a high potential for handheld street eating. Sad to say, though, their version could really use a lot of improvement, and does not illicit near the levels of excitement as the original idea.

            If they were to probably fix this item to a more holdable and flavor-focused (again, it’s still very good, but maybe a few titches in size, spice, and toppings) version, along with scaling down the extensive menu to purely Street Food-Accessible items (seriously, ditch the salads and combo platters… also that philly sandwich, don’t see what that has to do with Mid-Eastern fare), they could quite easily be transformed into one of the better trucks in the city. Not to mention actually pose a chance at actually competing with Foxy Falafel (sorry, had to bring them up at least once in this review, and I wish I could have done it on a more positive note).

                      Tally: 34/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            If in Minneapolis for lunch and craving for that Mid-Eastern style, this is a good Truck to stop by. Any Money-concious foodie would find a lot of delight in the Falafel Burger, so long as they don’t need to eat while walking. The simple, traditional items are the best to focus on outside of this: Falafels, Gyro, and Lamb Burger, even the Hummus and Baba Ghanoush if one wants to walk and dip.

            As for anything else, I wouldn’t even consider it unless one already planned on bringing food back to someplace they can sit down. Even at that point I’m unsure this is the best location (though the Combos offer a good way to try multiple aspects of the menu). Overall, though, after trying the mains, I would suggest not even bothering with the Truck until they take actual steps to improve their Street Food focus.

            Something tells me some readers may not let me leave here alive without doing this, so here it goes: Foxy vs King, Falafel on Falafel, my suggestion. It’s very close (prices are the same), but here are my thoughts: King’s quality of Crunchy Outside and Fluffy In is probably a bit higher than Foxy’s, however Foxy truly delivers the effort in creating 3 separate, very quality flavors. In terms of the basic falafel, Foxy’s stays on the lighter, fresher herb-focused flavors, while the traditional, cumin-based spices come out very noticeably in King. As such, I would point one to King when looking for the pure, simple, traditional flavors and style Falafel, King edges out Foxy’s just a bit. On any other kind of experience, most Foodie’s would agree, Foxy clearly outshines the competition.

2013 Begins

            After many long months, including two that shouldn’t have even come into the picture, the Food Truck Season is once more upon us! The sun is shining, the snow is gone (finally), and we no longer need to waist that precious minute wondering if we need a hat before going outside. This Thursday marks the year’s first Lunch by the River, WITH MUSIC, as St. Paul’s parks once again become filled with various vendors (for those curious, this week’s River mix includes Neato’s, Home Street Home, Café Racer, and Cupcake Social).

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            My first day back in the city from my trip, and I was treated to one of my favorite sites: clear, sunny Minneapolis streets, with the now-nostalgic site of Trucks lining Marquette between 7th n 8th (with of course the random few on various blocks around).

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            It was great to see some of our old originals back in their proper spots once more. Hola hanging out on the side, Chef Shack in the back, and World Street taking a surprise vacation from their popular spot near the lightrail to stand front and central near 6th on Marquette. Gotta say I love the menu I saw on them yesterday; it’s actually somewhat refreshing to see the YumYum Bowl absent, letting the other items shine ever more.

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            These weren’t the only fun things I was able to see, though; besides four, count them, FOUR new Trucks all on the street at the same time, my eyes caught something… interesting. Walking down the street, just about to cross 7th, and right in front of my eyes I see a car turning the light, and what’s it dragging behind it but this big orange cart (think Dandelion Kitchen-style construction) with the word “Em-Con-Ada” written in blue across the sides. Before speeding away I was able to make out “Empanadas in a Cone,” or something like that, just underneath. I apologize for not being able to snag a picture; believe me I tried, my very first reaction being to turn around and run after it down the street with phone-camera fumbling in my hands. But alas, lost it in traffic before I could snap anything decent.

            HOWEVER! I’ve done a bit of searching and found a promising facebook page (link here), signifying a just-beginning, soon-to-start Truck operation. Now, if only they actually had some information and posts on the site and we wouldn’t be so in the dark…

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            Walking along Marquette for lunch, I shared a little convo with Racer’s main guy (tried to key him for info on Emconada, but he was just as stumped as myself), and continued to my exploration of some of our new additions to the line-up. Mustachios and Moral Omnivore immediately took hold of my attention, and thus tempted me into sampling both of them. As such, look forward to reviews of each within the next couple days.

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            Standing out like a giant packet of Lifesavers, “Lulu’s Street Food” is probably the most colorful and psychedelic Truck design I’ve ever seen in the state (sorry Sauced, they’ve got you beat; don’t worry, your artwork is still my favorite in overall design). It was hard to tell if there’s any theme, as 4 of their menu items were already crossed off and sold out by the time I arrived(thus why I didn’t eat and review; I want to ensure I do it when everything is there, thus getting as close to an accurate review for readers as I can). I did get a glance at Ahi Tuna sliders along with their Cubano, so I’m guessing just a simple keeping to different forms of holdable items.

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            With a few storefronts to their name already, and from what I’ve heard a bit of a fan base, “Falafel King” has now come out with their very own Truck. Set up like Tacqueria, the new Greek-based Truck I’ve seen around, and Holy Land when it was at the Fair, the menu stays to a full display of all their offerings. As such it’s less like a Food Truck and more like a mobile version of the actual restaurant, from what I can see; pricing seems very fitting to the street though. Considering things, I think I can safely assume they have quite the uphill battle in fighting through the many comparisons we are likely to make with Foxy. It’ll be interesting to see what they have to truly differentiate themselves from this already well-engrained favorite of the city.

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            Though, trucks weren’t the only things new today. AZCanteen, hanging out with Chef Shack in sharing 8th/9th street, has added a Hot Dog and Potato Side to their menu. Not too sure about the dog, apparently it’s sourced from a good butcher and paired with a Mustard made from Indeed beer. I’m sure it’s good, but being regular sized (as the chefs told me), I find the pricing of $7 a little unappealing. The Smashed Potatoes though… I heard them describe these, and they are a MUST get for anyone visiting. I’ve seen the technique a couple times, and it always yields an amazingly crispy, crunchy, fantastic potato. The little guys a gently simmered, smushed down so the flesh bursts out, then fried with the skin still on. Trust me when I say, these are amazing… better than most fries.

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            I did end up getting something; with the Dulce Ice on the menu, I took the chance to finally try it out. And it IS good; layered with the many small cubes of poundcake and leche caramel, carefully stirred (cuz that thing is loaded… can be quite messy if not taking time), it created a fun homage to the traditional Spanish Granita. At the end, I actually found it quite nostalgic; it sort of reminded me of my days as a kid, going to Dairy Queen and getting my favorite “Butterscotch Dilly Bar” out of the freezer. The ice still hanging on the bar, the interesting caramel, even the taste of the stick is reminiscent in the poundcake (which I think was actually a bit overcooked in this batch… was quite dry unless REALLY soaked in caramel and melted ice). Overall I was quite the happy camper.

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            The season has started out with a bang, much as the year before it. If that was any indication, I shake in excitement just considering the potential growth our Culture shall experience over the coming season. Until then, I wish good luck to the many new Trucks to hit the street, and Good Eating to the rest of us!

Foxy Falafel

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foxyfalafel.com/

https://twitter.com/FoxyFalafel

 

 Main Location: Minneapolis, Markets, Etc

            Located at a variety of set scheduled locations during the warmer seasons, Foxy Falafel has quickly become one of the cities’ favorite stands. Quickly evident as Citypage recently named them the best Falafel in MN

            A student of holistic health and lover of falafels (street foods too), Erica Strait sprouts her own chickpeas for the middle-eastern delight (currently I am doubting it is used for every single falafel, especially after the restaurant opened, but still). These little balls of ground chickpeas and spices are then fried crispy and place in a hollowed out half-pita, ready to be topped with her homemade sauces and pickles.

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            Besides the regular falafel, they also serve up ones flavored with Curry and Beets; though they aren’t always in rotation. I didn’t see them the day I was finally able to make the trip. Hummus and pita chips are served as-is or as a combo platter with the falafel, not surprisingly.

            The ingredients are fresh, the food is spicy and flavorful, and the textures are that fun blend between crisp and fluffy. Foxy Falafel is a sure can’t-miss team in the world of street food.

Food: 8.5

            They use good pita bread, which is then filled with exactly the sort of thing one wants for a falafel. On the front of the truck are three different sauces paired alongside a few seasonal pickles. I suggest you dab a little sauce on a finger and try it out to determine which one you want. Oh, and just put every single pickle you can find on there; which are always sooooo good no matter what food truck does them.

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            I haven’t had the beet or curry, but the beet falafels have such a deep, inviting color to them; I can’t imagine that they’re screwing them up.

           My one concern is that, for whatever reason, when I got mine they sort of “shoved” the falafels, smushing them together into mostly one form. It really deserved the name “Falafel Burger” that was written on the blackboard. It still tasted fantastic, but ended up taking away a decent amount of that great crispiness factor that a good falafel is known for, which there already wasn’t much of anyway (despite taking so long to fry for some reason).

Holdability: 8.5

           An iconic street food, falafels in pita bread has great transportative capabilities. With the pita’s width and the sauces, not to mention the paper lining which covers it almost entirely, you’ll probably wind up needing both hands for some of it. However, still an easy and enjoyable experience it is.

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Price: 8.5

           $7 is the price for each of their falafels, hummus and pita are less, and the combo of course comes at more. All in all, a pretty good deal for such a quality product.

Speed: 5

            I actually find myself very perplexed at this score myself. For whatever reason,  the day I visited, despite being the only one in line, it took quite a while to make my very simple falafel. I would expect, with how many they have to make, that it wouldn’t really need that long to fry (if they form it in balls to order, that experience in doing it quickly is assumed). My guess is that it was a random thing, however my score must still be affected by it; especially since after all that wait my falafels had barely any real crispiness to them.

             If you find most of your experiences are much different than mine, please inform me and I will gladly change this rating.

The TOE: 9.5

            Not only is Foxy Falafel selling a ubiquitous street food that no other truck has even touched, they are doing it WELL. The simple act of having such a large, colorful and well known falafel stand, offering up different flavors, embodies many core attributes of what makes many successful and loved Food Trucks. Proof of this simple fact is shown in their ability and NEED to open up a restaurant based on the same foods, getting the culture following to fill it up.

            Foxy Falafel is another true pinnacle in MN’s Food Truck scene. It stands alongside so many others as an example of what great people can do.

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                        Tally: 40/50

Final Thoughts

            If they’re nearby, it is absolutely worth the trip to drive down in the summer, order a falafel and snack on its deliciousness while enjoying the open market sun. Definitely try the Beet or Curry versions if they have them. I’m not much of a pita and hummus person when it comes to restaurants. If you don’t mind spending a bit more, the combo platter is a good COMPLETE meal.

            Ignore the lemon-basil water unless it’s really hot and you need/want a drink with your food. It is probably quite tasty, but otherwise I don’t see a need to actually order it.