Local falafel restaurants offer an array of options
East Annex Parking Lot.
Prices from $2 to $4 per person.
472 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge.
Prices from $6 to $8 per person.
Algiers Coffee House
40 Brattle Street, Cambridge.
Prices from $10 to $12 per person.
472 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.
Prices from $4 to $6 per person.
By Daniel Moriarty
All of us know that the real reason for all the unrest in the Middle East stems from conflicting views on who makes the best falafel. It turns out that next year's Nobel Peace Prize will have to be shared by three separate coffeehouses: Angora Cafe, Algiers Coffee House, and the Middle East.
Moishe's Chicken truck offers and inexpensive and lunch. The truck is also conveniently located at MIT in the food truck lot. Grab a falafel and hummus combo. It's not much, but it does the trick, and it's relatively cheap as well.
Nearby in Central Square is the Middle East. Well known for its selection of live bands, this schizophrenic cafe is the only of the three to offer any alcohol. The dishes on the menu, including Sunday brunch and various middle eastern dishes, are served in the bakery as well as in a separate room two doors down the street. If you want to listen to some music, choose the bakery. But the other room offers cozier tables, two of which are set back in an alcove looking out upon Massachusetts Avenue. The falafel is cheap and is about three times the size of the one from the trucks. It's about as spicy but of course is better blended. The chamomile tea is also pretty good.
Further down Massachusetts Avenue is Algiers Coffee House. The atmosphere goes well with the liberal arts aura of Harvard, which is only a block away. Upstairs is a pleasant setting of bare pine, criss-crossed in a familiar middle-eastern pattern. The original brick completes the appearance of a two-century-old building. There's a 10-foot wide opening in the floor, permitting a view of the patrons coming and going.
The menu offers breakfast all day and many other fine dishes, the most expensive of which is lamb kabob, served with couscous and tabbouleh. The falafel sandwich comes with a salad with a tad too much oil. The falafel itself is the smallest of the three prize winning cafes, even smaller than the inexpensive sandwich from the trucks. However, its flavor is much more concentrated, partly because there is no lettuce or carrots in the pita. The falafel balls are a much darker color and are cooked to a crunchiness requiring some care for the teeth. The chamomile teas is by far some of the best around. It comes in a nicely decorated pot and is brewed from real flowers.
From here it's necessary to hop on the red line to the green line to Kenmore Square's Angora Cafe. There you'll find a small outdoor patio and a smaller indoor area, each set with no-frills metal tables and chairs. Housed in what used to be a frozen yogurt shop, this friendly eatery specializes in healthy sandwiches. Displayed on the ice cream counter are several varieties of Branola bread. Make sure you have a serious appetite. For a relatively low price, you definitely get your money's worth. The falafel balls are surrounded by plenty of lettuce, carrots, and hummus. The flavor is almost lost within the fresh crispiness of the vegetables. But even with a full stomach there's always room for ice cream. There's plenty to choose from, and the best of which is the vanilla frozen yogurt with bananas and granola.