One thing I’ve learned is never to underestimate the human capacity for focus and specialization. And from my perspective, it’s generally a great thing.
When it comes to food, there are two ways this can go. The first is where a restaurateur or a producer focuses like a laser on producing one thing… perfectly. They just get great at it. And once-in-awhile their neighbors, (hopefully in an ever-widening circle) recognize that effort and patronize the producer.
But sometimes, the producer doesn’t always choose what they’re good at. Sometimes, they do their thing and it turns out that one thing they do stands out among the rest. They might know why or they might not. But it doesn’t matter. The customers learn what to order by word of mouth. And the restaurateur learns over time (from their customers) what they’re doing well. In the case of Jerusalem’s Falafel Shuki, that one thing is Falafel balls.
While in some of the neighboring Arab countries (Egypt especially) the falafel is made with fava beans, the Israeli Jews stick with chickpeas exclusively. If you’ve eaten falafel in the United States it’s probably been some chunky, over-cooked, under-flavored affair. Adopted by the vegetarians of the country, falafel has gotten lost amid alfalfa and Tofurkey (just like chummus has been marginalized and misinterpreted in this country). (Veggies send your hate mail… 3-2-1… now!) In the middle east its hot, greasy, street food. And the folks at Falafel Shuki make it well.
A super crisp and gently textured thinner than average shell, and an almost creamy and soft inside makes each ball a little treasure. They’re perfectly deep fried. And in this case burying these beauties is not an insult but a compliment. They’re buried in pita getting chummy with chummus, tahina, pickles, and various salads (the onions with sumach being among my favorite).
Falafel Shuki is located downtown on one of the main thoroughfares (Jaffa street). It’s patronized by many Americans and tourists but don’t hold that against it. My sister, who’s currently a soldier in the Israeli army, told me this was the place to go for great falafel, and she was absolutely right. And their shwarma was quite good as well. So… even if falafel isn’t your thing, you’ll be all set.