I like falafel as much as the next foodie, but until last week I wouldn’t have gone as far as to say that I love it. It’s always been a take-it-or-leave-it kind of “meh” food for me. Now I finally know why, I wasn’t eating good falafel. I didn’t even know what good falafel was. I don’t know what the hell I was being served on the streets of Europe at all hours of the night while studying abroad, or whatever Trader Joe’s thinks falafel is, or what I ate at some solid to-go spots in NY, because none of it compared to East Side Pockets, it wasn’t even in the same realm. Now I really knew the deal with great falafel. While visiting my brother in Providence, he insisted we get falafel for my one meal in the city. I probably would have argued it if he wasn’t a great chef and I didn’t trust his chef judgement, but he is and I do, so I went with it. When we walked into East Side Pockets I knew I was somewhere special, the walls are lined with awards from every food publication I’ve heard of (and some I haven’t heard of), some even naming their sandwiches TOP TEN in the entire US! It’s located on Thayer St. right in the middle of the Brown University and RISD campuses. Apparently it’s never not crowded. On weekend nights around 2am it’s typical to find a line of 40+ people eagerly waiting to feed their drunk munchies with the best possible thing they could do it with, perfection in falafel.
Per my brother’s orders (literally, he ordered for me), I went with the falafel with everything plus extra hot sauce. They load the pita up with veggies (pickles, hot peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions), a spread of hummus, a little tabouleh, hot sauce and yogurt cucumber tahini sauce.
As you can see, it doesn’t look like anything mind-blowing at first. The falafel looks so innocent, sitting there about to be rolled up, like it isn’t about to explode Middle Eastern flavor goodness all up in your mouth. The texture was the first thing I noticed that separated it from other falafels. The outside was crispy and the inside gooey, not granular and dry like all those impostors I mentioned before. It wasn’t over-spiced, either, another common problem with falafel. The hot sauce wasn’t that hot, but it added a unique flavor that brought out the flavors of the other ingredients, and it mixed perfectly with the tahini to create the falafel version of the Big Mac’s special sauce.
I could not have been happier with our meal choice that day. They even did a great job rolling it up so it didn’t leak. A pretty insignificant detail overall, but messy wraps can make good wraps not as good. Definitely make a point to get to East Side Pockets next time you are in providence, you won’t regret it!
*my apologies for the quality of the phone photos, I didn’t have my real camera that day but it was impossible not to document!
278 Thayer St
Providence, RI 02906