First Impression: Chickpea’s Baked Falafel Won’t Fool You Into Thinking They’re Fried
I don’t really know what voodoo I was expecting Chickpea to perform with its baked falafel to make me forget it wasn’t fried, but it didn’t happen. The chain is focused on healthy eating, and nothing there is fried. Don’t get me wrong, in the absence of Maoz way downtown, I’ll take Chickpea if I’m not in the mood to eat outside or at my desk. What can I say, I’m a sucker for falafel chains with fixin’s bars?
The annoying TV screens in the front window are still there flashing pictures of falafel and shawarma, but now there’s also a sign alerting people that Chickpea is there. Since you have to go up a set of stairs to get to the dining room, it’s not the most visible restaurant.
Since I was a little taken aback that they were actually open (three weeks late), and the staff was still working out some kinks, I was a little flustered when asked what I wanted. It’s one of those places that has an ordering process that requires “steps” (find the menu here). You have four choices for how you want your meal (sandwich, salad, hummus or platter), four choices of hummus, and then a bunch of choices like falafel, shawarma and other meat products. Then you have to decide on toppings… This is the indecisive person’s nightmare!
I ended up with the shawafel sandwich ($6.95) which involves chicken shawarma and falafel. I chose regular hummus because the flavored ones weren’t my cup of tea.
Although the fixings bar isn’t serve yourself like at Maoz, you can essentially ask for everything to be shoved into your sandwich. I made the foolish mistake of not doing that and thus, the top of my sandwich was empty and bready. I underestimated the stuffing capability of the pita, clearly.
And there’s a salad and generic sandwich station, which was awesomely free of a line on opening day. Thank you downtown lunch’ers for showing me that while you may eat at chains, you at least don’t go for a salad.
Back to the sandwich. The falafel look like and taste like someone removed the insides from a fried falafel ball because there’s not the usual crust on the outside. Basically it was like eating two sandwiches in one because the three falafel were put on top and then I didn’t get to the chicken until I was all the way down to the bottom of the sandwich and my hunger was flagging. The regular shawarma was unseasoned, but there were two other chicken varieties that had spices on them. Again, it was opening day so I’m not going to get too bothered by the sandwich construction. I do like that hummus is included in the sandwich and that you essentially have free reign over the salads that go in it.
Since I work close to here I could see myself getting a sandwich or hummus from time to time if I’m wanting to be healthy. Otherwise I’ll be in line at one of the carts on Liberty plaza to get my fried chickpea ball fix.
Chickpea, 110 William St., (212) 566-5666