Tel-Aviv was my chosen destination for the start of the summer 2012. My itinerary included two weddings, a day trip to Jerusalem, a dip in the Dead Sea and time to relax with family, friends and my fiancé in the sunshine.
I stumbled across Shlomo Falafel King, situated on the corner of Nordau Street and Ben-Yehudah, whilst walking to the local supermarket a stone throw away from the Grand Beach Hotel where we were staying.
At the street food stand, you are asked “Kama?” translating to “how many?” You pay, you eat, and then you tell the next person you see “oooh I just had a great falafel”. There is no menu as they mainly sell falafel, aside from a couple of alternatives including latkes (potato cakes) and shakshuka (Middle Eastern poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce.)
This impressive business has thrived for 45 years. I spoke with Gabi the owner, who has carried on the successful falafel making tradition from his parents. It is a no frills, simple street shop selling one of the most popular tastes of Israel.
I arrived during the lunchtime rush, where I watched dozens of people casually hover around the serving stand in no kind of orderly fashion. There are no such things as a queue or line in Israel! Some passers-by pulled up on motorbikes to collect their order and then sped off, whilst others relaxed, and enjoyed eating the contents of the wax paper parcel on some nearby wooden benches. The smell of falafel was in the air on Ben Yehudah!
The operation starts with the star of the show- the falafel. These are cooked fresh to order, a batch at a time. I watched the young boy working alongside Gabi take a utensil just smaller than an ice-cream scoop and fill it with the raw falafel mixture. Traditional falafels are a delicate mix of chick peas and Middle Eastern spices. As a vegetarian dish, this is really satisfying. The falafel ball is then dropped into the hot oil for some deep frying action. Whilst cooking, a fluffy, fresh white pita is carefully slit open to make a pocket for the filling. Humous lines the bottom, and then let the falafels see the pita! Israeli salad which is a mix of diced tomatoes and cucumber is added, as well as finely shredded white cabbage and salty pickled cucumbers. The pita’s are packed to perfection, and are piled high with all the fresh ingredients.
Just like the saying “roast beef and all the trimmings”, the traditional falafel has its own additions which completes the masterpiece. These include tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds and olive oil), mild or fiery red or green chilli sauce, and plump picked chillies for an extra kick! All of this for 15 shekels which equates to £2.50!!! You just cannot go wrong!
This is street food served at its best. The falafel king has continued to be successful over the years as its customers enjoy this simple snack, whether it is for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in fact any time of the day, and certainly gets my recommendation.
After my first sampling, I shared my “find” with friends and relatives holidaying in the city. When I returned the next day, I found them all outside at lunchtime eager to try for themselves with my brother in law first up!
Out of the many food stands in the area, there are very few which have a long standing reputation, such as Schlomo’s, as most seem to only last a year or so before they need to reinvent themselves as something new.
If you do find yourself in Tel-Aviv, and fancy ‘fressing’ (meaning - to eat a lot without restraint) a good falafel, head in the direction of Shlomo Falafel King and you will not be disappointed!
Falafel Shlomo & Sons, corner of Nordau Street and Ben Yehudah Street, Tel Aviv