BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Just Falafel is located in the downtown tunnel, off Dallas Street. The downtown tunnel is mostly forgotten by anyone who doesn’t work downtown, but it has a number of great restaurants. Well, I tell you what… it’s well worth the drive in!
For those of you who are unaware, the downtown tunnel connects several buildings and is filled with some of the best places to eat in Houston. Just Falafel is one of those eateries. This locally-sourced, fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant is the perfect place to grab a fabulous quick lunch downtown.
I was confused at first, thinking Just Falafel might actually JUST have Falafel. Ha! Come to find out, the “Just” in Just Falafel means “Just” as in fair or honest – the principles they live by. Just Falafel takes pride in their relationships with local farmers, quality suppliers and the social causes they support. And, you can taste it in every bite.
The first thing you notice as you walk up to order is how clean everything is. This is very important – it shows attention to detail. You can expect that if they put that much attention into keeping the kitchen clean, then they probably put the same care into everything else they do. That puts a smile on my face.
What a friendly bunch here at Just Falafel! As I walked in, I was quickly greeted with some big hellos and even bigger smiles. I love this – it can really brighten your day and always adds to the culinary experience!
Looking through the glass partition, you can see all the different options. What beautiful colors! Everything looks so fresh – I can’t wait to dive in!
I noticed a bunch of different sauces and found out that at Just Falafel they create their own sauces in house – from scratch – based on family recipes. Choose any of them to add to your wrap, salad or bowl.
If you have been following me very long, then you know I have an infatuation with salsas, sauces and condiments. Every Mexican restaurant I go to I ask them to build me a salsa flight so I can try all their creations. Well, at Just Falafel I found it only fitting to try all their sauces, too.
My off-the-menu Sauce Flight (which I highly recommend) consisted of Sriracha, Tzatziki, Tahina, Garlic, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Spicy Indian, Tomato Salsa, JF Special, Honey Mustard and Ranch served up with a mound of Falafels and hand-cut fries. Ahhmazing is an understatement! All these sauces had a special place in my heart, but my favorites were the Tahina, Tzatziki, Spicy Indian, Garlic and JF Special. You can taste the hard work and passion that is put into every sauce. Loved it!
We wanted to get a feel for the whole menu, so we tried a little bit of everything. After the Sauce Flight, we ordered the Original Falafel, Original Lamb Gyro, Chicken Shawarma, Original Beef Shawarma Wrap and the Chicken & Rice bowl – a dish that is perfect for those who are gluten-free.
I am a sucker for a Lamb Gyro, so, of course, this gem was a sure favorite. The Original Lamb Gyro was packed and filled with thinly-sliced Lamb, Spring Mix, Tomatoes, Red Onions, Cucumber, Pickles and Tzatziki Sauce. We also added a side of Greek Fries. The combination of flavors – along with the house-made Tzatziki Sauce – was like fireworks exploding on every taste bud! Creamy, crunchy and chewy all at the same time. A definite go-to for me here at Just Falafel!
The Greek Fries are another one of my favorites here at Just Falafel. I added them as a side, but I have to tell you it is more like an entrée. These hand-cut fries are topped with a mound of Chopped Lamb, Green Onions, Feta Cheese and drizzled with Tzatziki Sauce. I could not put my fork down… it just kept diving back in like a shovel into the mound of greatness! Each bite was better than the last. I like… I like a lot!
Some of the recommendations I received mentioned that Just Falafel had some of the healthiest Chicken Shawarma in Houston. I enquired why this was and Shadi, one of the owners, explained that the Chicken Shawarma is Halal, meaning it is permissible to eat under Islamic law. They use de-boned, de-skinned and de-fatted chicken breast which is then marinated in the finest herbs and spices. And, each skewer is made by hand in-house from scratch. Sooooo… guess what I ordered next! Ha!
The Original Chicken Shawarma Wrap is built with Chicken, Cucumber, Pickles, Lettuce, Skin-on Fries and Garlic Sauce. We had it served with Falafels. Take a look at the photography and see for yourself. Incredible! All the vegetables were really fresh and had a nice crunch. The chicken was extremely flavorful and that Garlic Sauce just really put it over the top!
At the last minute, I noticed what looked like a couple of tacos being served up to someone at the counter. Hmmmm… interesting. I quickly found out they serve Falafel Tacos here at Just Falafel. Only in Texas – ha! We had to try them for ourselves. The flour tortilla is filled with wonderful Falafel, Natural Cage-free Egg, Tomato and Parsley and drizzled with Tahini Sauce. Not only is this taco perfect for Vegans, but it’s also full of flavor. Unique AND tasty!
I didn’t think my experience at Just Falafel could get any better… and then it did! For dessert, I was served up a Nutella Quesadilla. It’s prepared like you would imagine – a Tortilla filled with Nutella and Graham Cracker Crumbles. OMG… another unique and very sweet addition to the menu! Again, letting me know I am in the Lone Star State with this Tex-Mex influence. Not sure it gets much better!
Wow! That is the first word that comes to mind when I think about my first of many experiences at Just Falafel. This unique style of Mediterranean cuisine in a fast-casual environment is incredible. They really are redefining street food here and my quick culinary vacation to the Middle East via Just Falafel was filled with savory herbs and exotic spices with flavors that I truly love! And for that, I thank you guys.
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Original Falafel (Wrap)
Falafels, fresh mint, parsley, cucumber pickles, radish, tomato, hummus, tahina
Served with Hand Cut Fries
Original Chicken Shawarma Wrap
Chicken, cucumber pickles, lettuce, skin on fries, garlic sauce
Served with Falafels
Original Lamb Gyro
Lamb,Tzatziki sauce, Spring Mix, Tomatoes, Red Onions, Cucumber pickles
Served with Greek Fries
Hand-cut fries, chopped lamb, green onion, feta cheese, tzatziki sauce
Original Beef Shawarma Wrap
Beef, onion, parsley, sumac, tomato, cucumber pickles, hummus, tahina
Served with Sweet Potato Fries
Chicken & Rice Bowl
Chicken, rice, spring mix, tomato, green onion, parsley, jalapeno, garlic sauce, JF special sauce, hummus
Flour tortilla. falafel, natural cage free egg, tomato, parsley, tahini sauce
Nutella, graham cracker, tortilla
Sriracha, Tzatziki, Tahina, Garlic, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Spicy Indian, Tomato Salsa, JF Special, Honey Mustard, Ranch
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
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