Falafels are hard not to love, richly flavourful, thanks to added herbs and spices, and with the perfect textural contrast between soft interior and crunchy deep-fried shell. The very best are fried fresh to order, leaving them light and crispy rather than greasy -- and fortunately, Victoria has some great options!
At its simplest, a falafel is a deep-fried ball made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Onions, garlic, parsley, and spices like cumin or coriander are often added to the mix so that each vendor’s offering is unique. They’re usually accompanied by a creamy sauce, like hummus or tahini, fresh vegetables, and those hard-to-miss bright pink pickled turnips. Whether wrapped in a warm pita or spread on a base of rice and greens, it makes for a perfectly balanced meal.
Though it’s clear that falafels originated in the Middle East, exactly when and where remains hotly contested. Luckily for us, they made their way to North America in the ‘60s and ‘70s, at first confined to immigrant communities but now as widespread as hamburgers.
Here in Victoria, we have no shortage of authentic eateries for sampling this delicious snack. Here are four of our favourites. Each one is unique, so if you’re a true falafel fan, it’s best to try them all!
The owners of Yalla set out to bring a bit of Tel Aviv to Victoria, highlighting the best of Israeli street food. The menu is small and focused, so each item has been meticulously researched. To perfect their falafel, they tinkered with every component -- salt, spice, garlic -- according to diner feedback. “In doing so,” says owner Joel Pollock, “we created a falafel with the maximum amount of awesomeness.”
Fried fresh to order, the falafels are perfect nestled in a warm pita, but they are also offered as part of a salad bowl for the gluten averse. For the perfect side dish, don’t miss the fried haloumi salad.
Bold Butchery & Grill is a locally-owned full-service butcher shop that just happens to serve a very small and universally delicious menu of Middle Eastern food, including a traditional falafel wrap as well as a falafel bowl and a falafel salad. A great feature of the bowl is that it comes with your choice of one of five daily hummus flavours!
The magic of their falafel is the high ratio of 60:40 herbs to chickpeas, which ensures a moist and flavourful product. In their words, “We believe the greener the falafel, the better it tastes!” Each ball is hand-formed and deep fried to order.
Wrap N Roll has been flying largely under the radar -- they don’t even have a website -- but word is starting to creep out about the delicious and authentic Lebanese food available at this family-run Oak Bay eatery.
The falafels are freshly fried and some of the cheapest in town. You can get one wrapped in a warm pita, with a fresh assortment of veggies and sauces, as a plain side order, or as part of a custom tray. Almost everyone who visits this friendly place comments not only on the authenticity of the food but on the wonderful atmosphere cultivated by staff.
Wrap N Roll 1885 Fort St. @wrapnroll_victoria
Since opening in 2017, Superbaba has become a downtown staple for eat-in and take-out Middle Eastern cuisine. The aim of co-owner Abdallah El Chami, who grew up in Vancouver, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, was to make his food as accessible as possible, and his success speaks for itself.
The herb-filled falafel are fried fresh to order and are available as a wrap, in a gluten-free bowl or salad, or as a side order with a cup of delicious tahini sauce. Order them in a bowl, and you’ll get deep-fried cauliflower in the mix along with the usual fixins’!
Do you have a favourite falafel in town? Did we miss any? Let us know!