Falafel Might Not Be the Best Thing at Arax
For fancified Israeli falafel, you could do a lot worse than Pita Bar & Grill on Fairfax, and for a cheap, no frills, good if you’re-starving-and-in-college-on-the-west-side falafel, Hungry Pocket is your spot. But what about some authentic Lebanese falafel action? For that, all signs pointed to Falafel Arax in Hollywood, the next stop on my quest to find LA’s best falafel. Situated right next to Spicy BBQ in Thai Town (on Santa Monica and Normandie), my first Falafel Arax recommendation came in the comments courtesy of Lunch’er Katherine, and since then a bunch more people have mentioned that it could be the best falafel in all of L.A. (most agree it’s the best in Hollywood.) Clearly it was time to check it out.
Falafel Arax doesn’t look like much from the outside (or the inside for that matter). You order and pay at the counter, and they make everything fresh. To go is the best option, but there are a few small tables for you to sit with your food.
For $5 it’s a decent deal. Not huge, but not tiny either, the sandwich comes on a pretty standard pita bread. Slightly thicker than the a standard Lebanese lavash/wrap, but not as puffy as a Greek style pita bread (which I love.) The falafel themselves were great, but there was way too much tahini on the sandwich (maybe it was just a hummus with too much tahini in it?) and not enough lettuce and onions and falafel to counter balance the spread. Then again this falafel is clearly less about composing a perfectly structured sandwich, than it is about eating something that’s been done the same way for years and years. Best falafel sandwich in L.A.? Doubtful, but it’s rustic, cheap, and tasty. How can you complain about that?
Want something a bit meatier? Their shawarma is pretty damn good as well (the secret ingredient is pork fat), and the beefy chunks of flavorful meat stand up a bit better to the sludge of tahimmus (I just made that word up.)
They also have pressed sandwiches on french bread, which I liked a bit better than the pita. It was my first time trying soujouk, an Armenian sausage that I’m guessing is available all over Thai Town/Little Armenia. It had the consistency of pre-fabricated gyro meat, and there wasn’t enough of it in the sandwich to balance the bread, but the flavor was really interesting and the lady behind the counter said that it’s homemade. How can that be bad?
Like any worthwhile ethnic restaurant in the city, Falafel Arax has an L.A. Weekly review by The Guru pinned up behind the counter. It’s over 3 1/2 years old but his lamb’s tongue sandwich recommendation is still on point. So tender, like the best pulled pork you’ve ever had, I still can’t understand why people think that this is some kind of strange thing to eat. And unlike the soujouk sandwich, which was kind of dry, the juices from the tongue seep into the bread, turning it into a moist on the inside, crusty on the outside, pressed sandwich masterpiece. Ask them to add their garlic spread, and you’ve got, hands down, one of the best sandwiches in the city.
Minor quibbles aside, it’s hard not love a place like Falafel Arax. According to the Guru, they’ve been in business almost 30 years, and the little storefront looks every bit its age. But you get a great feeling eating in this place, where everything is made to order (and clearly done with love.) It’s worth going at least once just for the falafel. But you’ll go back again and again for the lamb’s tongue.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- The falafel balls themselves are really great
- Everything is made fresh to order
- Falafel Arax has been their forever! Love that place…
- Best falafel in Hollywood, hands down
- Their beef shawarma is glazed with pork fat!? That’s amazing…
- Their lamb’s tongue sandwich gives any of the Westwood places a run for their money
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- The pita bread is just ok
- They put waaay too much tahini on their pita sandwiches
- Their garlic spread isn’t as good as Zankou (but it still makes everything taste better!)
- Everything is made to order, so sometimes the food can take awhile if they’re backed up
- Cash only!? That sucks.
- Sorry, but if I’m going to that strip mall I’m getting some Khao Soi!
Falafel Arax, 5101 Santa Monica Blvd (on Normandie), 323-663-9687