My longtime favorite falafel place has been Mamouns, in NYC’s Greenwich Village. I’m probably not alone in this, because everyone knows about Mamouns and its two-dolla falafel sandwiches whose prices haven’t gone up in the past thirty years or something (maybe more, maybe less, I’m not sure). Anyway, I like Mamouns because 1. it’s cheap 2. the falafels are tasty and hot 3. it comes in a pita (this is a big deal- falafel in Baltimore came on french bread) 4. they put onions and enough tahini in the sandwich 5. it’s filling and 6. they always put a perfect amount of hot sauce- enough that it seeps through the whole sandwich, but doesn’t overpower it. It also has a really nice flavor that is complementary to the falafel instead of a strange addition.
I was on McDougal St. with Waqas once (where Mamouns is located) and he claimed that Ali Baba’s falafel was better than Mamouns! (Ali Baba’s is the falafel place right across the street from Mamouns- the one with the green sign that always looks tempting as you’re standing in line for Mamouns, because Mamouns always has a line, and Ali Baba’s is always empty). Naturally, I didn’t believe him, because I trust my food opinion more than I do his, but we decided to have a competition- I would buy Mamouns, and he would by Ali Baba’s, and we would each take bites of our own sandwich and then the other persons, for the most accurate and fresh opinion. (We also decided that if I did like Ali Baba’s falafel better than Mamouns, he would have to trade me his sandwich and eat the disgraced Mamouns one- a condition to which he initially agreed but then failed to follow…dum dum dum*). So we commenced the competition. I got my sandwich in two minutes (two dollars, two minutes) and waited for him outside. Then we each took our first bites. Mine was good. Waqas said his was “so good.” Then we traded sandwiches and took second bites. Then I took a third bite from his sandwich because it tasted really good, but I needed to make sure I was tasting the deliciousness, and not imagining it, from what Waq had said. Surprisingly enough, he was right- Ali Baba’s falafel was really amazing. Waqas kept saying “Ali Baba’s falafel is fresher than Mamouns,” when we were arguing about this earlier, and I kept dismissing him. But upon trying it, I think I agree with him: it was as tasty and with as many onions and as hot as Mamouns, but there was SOMETHIING different, and that, I think, was the freshness of it.
*Waqas later commented that since he won the competition, it proved that Pakis were better than Indians. (I think the name “Ali Baba” and the green sign helped in this association.)