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FRESH FACE
FALAFEL BAR IS BRIGHT ADDITION TO ELMWOOD AVENUE

You simply can't miss the Falafel Bar. It's the most brightly painted building on a street of bright buildings, a perfect orange in color.

Understand, please, that this is a very tiny place. This sister restaurant of the highly regarded Greek on Transit Road in Depew occupies the cottage that once housed Edrito's and has space for no more that 20 or so patrons to sit. Table service is available, but there's plenty of takeout also.

If you were going to use one word to describe the food served in this place, that word would be "fresh." Everything we ordered had the unmistaken zing of food that been used within hours of delivery. The Greek Salad ($5.75), for instance, was practically peeping.

Not surprisingly, falafel ("feLAHful"), a sauteed chickpea fritter, can be ordered in many different ways. The Falafel Combo (complete with Hummus, a chickpea dip) and tahini (sesame seed dip) made a terrific lunch one day. The Falafel and Hummus Wrap ($5.75) was just as delicious.

For dinner later in the week, we stuffed in a whole lot more. We started with Maza or traditional Mediterranean appetizers. The Maza Plate ($7.50), a sampler of tabouli (bulghur salad), wonderfully smoky baba ganoush (eggplant dip) and hummus was more than enough for two to savor. But the Chicken Vegetable Soup came as a shock. It was lukewarm and watery.

Platters here are even more substantial. Kufta Kabob Lam ($8.50), seasoned ground lamb patties, were a bit overcooked maybe (the outside was really crisp), but they had good flavor anyway. The patties were served with the traditional garnish of parsley, garlic, onion and lemon and were accompanied by a mixed Greek Salad, crisp pita and fabulous fried ("Greek") potatoes.

I recommend the Mediterranean Chicken ($7.25) as well. Here, the poultry is marinated in paprika, lemon juice and onion before it is grilled with turmeric, giving it a golden hue. The dish had deep flavor.

Desserts include Baklava and Rice Pudding ($2.25), the latter served warm and soothingly, by the way. Think of it as of Mediterranean penicillin.

But the real winner is a dessert called Parfait Halvah, which is a little semifrozen cup, made from ground sesame seeds. Ordinary Halvah is so heavy it can sink to your toes, but this sweet has egg white folded in to act as a lightener.

The whole gorgeous thing is served over creme anglaise or custard sauce. Even though I thought that my particular anglaise was a tad runny, I snarfed the thing up. It's one of the most original desserts in the area.

Other slightly more exotic items on the menu invite sampling next time. Like Turkish Eggplant Salad ($4.50), a kind of stew that involves tomatoes, peppers and garlic, too, and Nutty Hummus (with pine nuts and a hard boiled egg) for $4.50.

There's also a creative covey of wraps for those who aren't quite as hungry. Like Three Sisters (hummus, gyro and fried eggplant with tomato and tahini, $5.99); or the Tunisian (tuna salad, kalamata olives, sliced hard boiled egg and potato with tomato salsa, $5); or an Israeli Wrap (falafel and pickled vegetables with hot sauce, $5.50).

FALAFEL BAR *** *

WHERE: 1009 Elmwood Ave. (884-0444). A brand new informal eat-in/take-out restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean food. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Parfait Halvah.

NEEDS WORK: Chicken Vegetable Soup.

PRICE RANGE: Falafel Combo with side salad $7.99. Wraps from $5. Platters from $7.25.

SERVICE: Good

NOISE LEVEL: High.

HOURS: Monday through Thursday 11 to 9. Friday, Saturday 11 to 10.

HEALTHY CHOICES: Mediterranean Chicken, Greek Salad, Mushroom Hummus.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Tight.

PARKING: Small lot in rear and on the street.

KID APPEAL: Kid's menu for 10 and under.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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