The Great Falafel Bake-Off: Naomi’s versus Shimon’s
Some of the best falafel outside of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv can be found in a small enclave in New York called Kew Gardens Hills. I grew up frequenting several falafel establishments in this area and settled on one, Shimon’s, on Main Street.
Recently, however, my choice was strongly criticized by what is probably the most vocal conversation ever held on my Facebook page. A chorus of posters started to chant “Naomi’s, Naomi’s, Naomi’s.” I had never heard of Naomi’s but, as it turns out, the place was originally called Levy’s, and I do remember it.
Falafel, I should explain to the uninitiated, is a deep-fried ball made from ground chickpeas. It’s Middle Eastern (not unique to Israel), and is usually served in a pita pocket. The term “falafel” can refer either to the sandwich, or the falafel ball itself. Once several falafel balls have been added, the sandwich is usually filled with salad, pickled vegetables, and topped with tahini sauce.
On a hot Sunday afternoon in early August, I headed over to Naomi’s, also on Main Street. The neighborhood was quiet and Naomi’s looked closed from the street, but inside, falafel and kosher pizza were both being served.
I returned to both Shimon’s and Naomi’s once again in the course of preparing this review, both to ascertain that my findings were accurate, as well as to enjoy both of the establishments’ delicious offerings once again.
While both Naomi’s and Shimon’s serve pizza, both offer only a kosher version, and kosher pizza is somewhat of an acquired taste. Therefore I will limit the review to falafel.