Joe’s Falafel Ends My L.A. Search For Fresh Baked Laffa

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Poor Taeem.  Back in January I was so excited to discover you. Plodding along in the wasteland of Melrose Ave. Quietly serving up a falafel sandwich on that deliciously elusive pita bread of all pita breads: the laffa.  Yours wasn’t baked fresh in house, but I didn’t care. When a dehydrated traveler stumbling through the desert happens upon an oasis, they don’t question how the water was filtered. But sadly, our love affair has come to and end. Because fresh baked laffa does exist in Los Angeles, at a place called Joe’s.  I don’t normally venture to North Hollywood to lunch, but when giant discs of freshly baked pita bread are involved my boundaries tend to become a bit less rigid.

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After two and a half years of searching, I thought I would never see something so beautiful.  It’ll look familiar to anybody who’s been to Olympic Pita in Midtown, only this photo was taken on North Cahuenga- just up the street from Universal Studios.

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In a lot of ways Joe’s Falafel is like most typical Israeli joints in the area.  They refer to themselves as  ”healthy” and “Mediterranean”, offering up falafel, chicken shawarma, kofte, and gyro alongside hummus, tabouleh, and “Greek salads”.  Their pita comes out of a package, but they cook up that laffa fresh to order… and the best part is, the laffa sandwiches are a mind-bogglingly cheap $6.75 to $7.50 (an unheard of price for a sandwich in fresh baked pita so large.)

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Not convinced by what a deal this is?  You will be when you see how big the sandwich is.

Order the chicken shawarma, it gets cut fresh off the spit behind the counter. Order the falafel?  It gets spooned into the fryers seconds after you order it.  And they’re willing to put shoestring french fries in your sandwich for no extra charge!

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The shawarma was tasty but not as much of a flavor bomb as, say, the now shuttered Shawarma Palace on Pico.  But what it lacks in flavor it makes up for in freshness.  Despite only being open less than 6 months Joe’s has already built up a decent enough lunch crowd that the spits can be left on and carved fresh to order (in contrast to the mediocre places that finish the meat on a flat top).  The best gyro and shawarma always comes from places with high turnover, and Joe’s seems to have that down during lunchtime.

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The falafel balls were medium to large sized and super crispy on the outside, but managed to still be moist on the inside.  What more can you ask for?  Like the shawarma, they weren’t the strongest flavored balls of chick pea mush you’ve ever tasted, but the toppings and the fresh bread and the hot sauce more than make up for that.

If you are a falafel and shawarma aficionado I can’t guarantee that Joe’s is going to blow you away enough to make a trip across the city. But if fresh baked laffa is your thing, Joe’s Falafel is now the reigning champ.  Now if only we could get somebody to tackle street meat platters…

THE + (What somebody who loves this place would say)

  • Fresh baked laffa for the win!
  • Everything is so fresh… this place is the real deal.
  • I love that they’ll put french fries in your sandwich
  • Is a laffa sandwich really only $7.50?  That’s insane.
  • I love that during lunch they have enough of a crowd to cut their meats fresh off the heated spit and put it right in the pita, without cooking the meat on the flat top

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

  • I like my chicken shawarma and falafel to have way more spices
  • The french fries are just frozen shoestrings

Joe’s Falafel, 3535 Cahuenga Blvd W. 323-512-4447

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