There Must Be 50 Ways to Eat Falafel at Crisp

This week,  Luncher John gets after the falafel at Crisp.

I probably only ate my first falafel sandwich a couple of years ago. Being a big meat eater, I wasn’t sure what the fascination was with a vegetarian sandwich. Then I discovered it, and now, rarely does a week go by without eating a falafel meal of some sort. Working in Center City, I have plenty of options of where to go for a good falafel sandwich or platter. One of the more recent openings is Crisp on 18th Street, between Market and Chestnut, and as a converted falafel enthusiast, I couldn’t wait to try to see how it stacked up with other area offerings.

Crisp opened up its Philadelphia location as its first outpost outside New York City. It prides itself on being 100 percent vegetarian, with its ingredients made daily. Not surprisingly, Crisp also is committed to being green, using recycled packaging and having separate recycling bins in its clean, bright space.

Perhaps the most noticeable characteristics about Crisp is its menu. If you thought that a falafel could only be served in a couple of manners, Crisp will enlighten you with its plethora of options. I’m reminded of that scene in Forrest Gump, when Bubba is trying to teach Forrest the multitude of ways to serve shrimp, like shrimp kebabs, shrimp creole, and shrimp gumbo. At Crisp, there’s the Authentic (basic falafel sandwich), Africa, Parisian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Athenian, Casblancan, and Design-Your-Own (if somehow, you don’t like any of those items). Those options are also available in Crisp’s falafel salad bowls. Then there’s the crispy falafel burger choices, including classic, baba, chili chesse, and crisp nouveau. To top it off, there are even flat bread pizza selections.

Since you can’t try falafel burgers in many (ok, I can’t think of any) places, I ordered the Crisp classic burger ($5.95) with a side of fries ($1.95). The burger takes a couple of minutes to be made to order and comes with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions, American cheese and dressing on a whole wheat bun. Instead of the traditional round shape, the falafels are shaped like patties. The first taste is similar to your first bite of a veggie or turkey burger; it’s a little different from what you would expect. Still, the patty and toppings were pretty good, though the cheese could have been melted better. As far as the fries, which are cut relatively thick, they totally hit the spot and were not even too greasy.

What about the regularly-shaped falafel balls? I gave the Authentic sandwich ($6.95) on wheat pita a try. All Crisp falafel sandwiches are served in a neat little container. The package can either be opened at the top or “unzipped” in the middle. You can then remove the sandwich to eat it in your hands, or you can leave it in the unzipped half container and hold the package instead. Either way, it’s going to be a little messy. This sandwich, served on a wheat pita, was filled pretty full of ingredients. Crisp’s commitment to freshness is evident, as the greens tasted great, and he falafel balls also were solid. My main critique was that the hummus in the sandwich could have been distributed better. Almost all of my hummus was on the bottom of the pita.

Crisp is a nice addition to Center City. While there are so many other area establishments (like Mama’s Vegetarian, King of Falafel, and Christo’s Falafel Truck) serving falafels, Crisp offers a lot of variety of flavors and options. I might even be convinced to eat vegetarian lunches more than once a week.

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

  • Falafels served in a sandwich, burger or salad bowl
  • Offers a healthy burger option

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

  • A little pricey for a falafel sandwich
  • Vegetarian burgers are not for everybody

Crisp, 32 South 18th Street, 267-324-3936


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