Ta-eem Grill’s Laffa is a Surprising Melrose Discovery

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It’s been almost two years since I moved from New York to Los Angeles, and I have to say I’m almost at the point where there is nothing I miss about lunching in the Big Apple. Sure, I’d like to have a decent $2 slice available 15 feet from the front door of my house. And I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there will never be a proper plate of chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce in this city- after all if the Guru can’t really find one, nobody can. But beyond that, I can’t think of too much that NYC has for lunch that L.A. doesn’t do at least as well (if not better, if we’re talking ethnic food.) And that’s especially true now that I’ve discovered Ta-eem on Melrose.

Israeli style falafel is everywhere in Midtown Manhattan, and while I finally found an excellent (albeit expensive) version at Habayit in West L.A., there was still one thing missing from L.A.’s falafel repertoire: laffa. And not the generic, store bought bullshit lavash that a lot of places around here try to pass off as laffa (I’m looking at you Pita Bar & Grill!) I’m talking the fresh baked, super fluffy, gigantic discs of bread that when rolled around falafel make a pita pocket look like a tea sandwich. So when a Kosher friend (apparently real Jews can’t eat pig, but they can have lunch with one) told me that a falafel place on Melrose served up real deal laffa, I got excited. Very excited.

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Ta-eem is a tiny little place on that shitty strip of Melrose that you probably haven’t been to since you were 20. And there is nothing about it that would make you think it is anything other than a crappy Melrose fast food lunch option for people who are too cool for Johnny Rockets, but not cool enough to realize that Melrose sucks.  They have the requisite sandwich board advertising some burrito lunch special, but you’ll want to ignore that and head right in for the regular menu.

There’s falafel, shawarma, schnitzel, and more- available on pita, baguette, platter or laffa (in order of cheapest to most expensive.)

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And in typical Israeli fashion you get to customize your sandwich from their nicely stocked pickle bar, which included a few typical cucumber and tomato salads, as well as hummus, baba ganoush, carrots, beets, eggplant and more.  Your cheapest option is the falafel in pita, which is available solo for $5.99 or in a combo with fries and a soda for $7.95.

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But for $2 more, you can get the same combo with their very tasty chicken shawarma.  (You may say the secret ingredient is the lamb fat that drips down from above the spit.)  The fries are fine, but nothing to write home about.  But in the end, I wasn’t there for the pita combos.  I was there for the laffa.

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Laffa sandwiches are $10.99, and can be stuffed with falafel or any meat.  Seem expensive?  It’s not when you realize how enormous the sandwich is.  Your eyes do not deceive you.  That is 7 (!?!?!?!) falafel balls getting ready to be rolled up in that monstrosity.  It might be the biggest pita based sandwich of all time, and a normal human being could easily share this with a second person.

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That is not an optical illusion.  The sandwich is as big as a human torso.

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And the length of two and half iPhones.

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Did I mention the sandwich is disgustingly big?  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  ”Length and girth don’t matter, Zach!  How were the balls?”  To be honest, it didn’t really matter.  The sandwich was way too big, and had way too many fillings to really be able to taste the falafel.  And while the falafel balls may have been crunchy when they first went into the sandwich, that didn’t last too long.  But the laffa didn’t disappoint.  Fluffy, a bit chewy.  Delicious. The only thing that could have made it better was if they made the laffa on site in a big brick oven, and were willing to stuff french fries into the sandwich (ala Olympic Pita in Midtown Manhattan).  All in all it was still a great lunch.

Obviously if you are very particular about your falafel or your hummus or shawarma, Ta-eem might not be the place for you.  There is better falafel at Habayit, better fries at Pita Bar & Grill, and better shawarma at loads of places, I’m sure.  But if you are all about the laffa, Ta-eem will make you forget how much it sucks to eat lunch on the Melrose strip.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place will say)

  • Love me some laffa!  Bring it on.
  • I used to live in NYC and have been looking for a good Olympic Pita replacement.
  • It’s all about the quantity, not the quality.
  • Love the unlimited Israeli pickle bar!
  • Gotta love a place that flavors their chicken shawarma with lamb fat.

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I like to be able to taste my falafel, thank you!  This is a bit over the top.
  • The laffa might be good, but everything else about this place is kind of mediocre compared to some of the better places in L.A.
  • I’d rather die than eat lunch on that section of Melrose.
  • Being from NYC I was excited to hear L.A. had a Taim!  Too bad it’s actually Ta-eem.

Ta-eem, 7422 Melrose Ave. 323-944-0013

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5 Comments

  • Zach, did you ever know that you’re my hero?

  • Tried Ta-eem the other day and was really impressed! I got a shawarma on laffa, which was good for two meals. I thought the shawarma was excellent — juicy and flavorful without being too gamey. The laffa was nice and pillowy. And the salads were fresh and tasty. I especially like their take on tabouli, which is almost like pico de gallo.

    I also ordered a falafel platter, which was solid. Like Olympic Pita, the falafel balls are one the large side, which can make them a little gummy in the middle. Habayit and Shawarma Palace both have smaller falafels, which helps ensure they cook all the way through. The hummus was excellent — I actually preferred it to the other places mentioned.

    What really set this place apart, though, was how effusively friendly the owner and staff were. As a former patron of Azuri and Olympic, I’ve had my fair share of indifferent or outright bade service at Israeli falafel joints. This place, however, reminded me of the glory days of Pick-A-Pita in Manhattan. Hmmm… I wonder if they do shawafel?

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