Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tall, Dark, and Yummy (Shawarmy)

I’ve been looking for a good falafel joint to call my own for years, but it wasn’t until someone served me some sweet talk with my shawarma that I found one I could call my own. In my NYU days, I went to Mamoon’s on occasion, but in truth, it’s fast food rather than fresh food, and more than a little too greasy and haphazard for my liking. And the lines are unbearable, especially if you go after dark (which of course, I always did). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll wait for something that’s worth it, but even as a broke college student I was sure that there was something better out there.

“Something better” came in the form of a bright, pastel, polka-dotted shop by the name of Yummy Shawarmy. It’s hard to miss. Even on the busy corner of Bleecker and 7th Ave, near its no less-flashy neighbors Sushi Samba and the inimitable Jekyll and Hyde. Of course, Bleeker Street Pizza sits right next door, in close proximity to both my ‘hood and my heart, but I think I first noticed Yummy for its wide-open, welcoming glass doors, and was glad to see a new, cheap, neighborhood Middle Eastern.

I was craving some baklava, so I popped in. The guy behind the counter looked a little bit like Jimmy Fallon, except less boyish and a lot more Israeli; and he was very, very polite. To tell the truth, I was having a lousy day, running late to some boring cocktail hour that promised to be a mediocre wine and cheese affair, so Jimmy Israeli’s smile and request that I come back soon went down just as fulfilling as the pastry. The baklava was good, not amazing, but good. What I wanted. The warm, gooey honey-and-nut medley hit just the right notes to make me want to come back and see what else this guy—I mean, this eatery—had up its sleeve….

The next time I went back, my cute SNL Jew was there, and he greeted me with a smile that told me he wasn’t just being a good employee when he told me to visit them again. But this time, I wasn’t really in the mood to flirt, I was in the mood to eat, and so I had to cut to the chase.

I went simple and ordered a falafel pita with hummus. Mr. Fallon then gave me the choice of whole-wheat or white pita—not an unusual question per se, but appreciated from an ostensibly fast food joint—and then proceeded to walk me through their list of options for sides and toppings. There were the usual suspects: raw onion, pickles, tahini, olives, cucumber/tomato/iceberg salad, you name it; and they were all vividly hued and enticing. What’s more, when he handed me my bag and my change, he grinned nervously and told me that I looked pretty! I smiled graciously, left my dollar fifty-three change in the tip jar, and told him I’d see him soon, figuring if even the falafel was bad, perhaps I’d need to stop in for a bottle of water or something…

But, I was not disappointed with the sandwich! Falafel was fresh and moist, no hint of that been-sitting-in-a-vat-of-old-oil-all-week taste. The hummus was divine, everything that hummus should be: creamy, smooth, and subtlely nutty, with a decent zing of flavor from lemon juice and black pepper.

I’ve since been back a million times, and by now I know my Yummy crush’s name to be Yoni (my cousin, who took a class on Hinduism, tells me this means “vagina” in Sanskrit, but I don’t think I’ll tell him that one any time soon) and I’ve struck up a friendship with the rest of the guys there. They all seem pretty happy when I show up, so now whenever I need a pick-me-up, from hummus or humans, I head right around the corner.

And to the East…

When in the East Village with Celest, she always takes me to Chickpea, her favorite neighborhood falafel spot. The falafel there is unfailingly fresh, crisp, with a bright green center, and the homemade pita is a real standout—chewy with nooks and crannies to rival an English muffin—perfect for letting the house-blended hummus work its way into every bite of the turkey or chicken “Shawafel” (you get it: half shawarma/ half falafel) sandwich. The service there can be exasperating, but the tang of the tahini will bring you back again and again!

Yummy Shawarmy ($)
Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Kosher
71 7th Ave S, @ Bleecker St

chickpea ($)
Middle Eastern, Kosher
23 3rd Ave, Btwn St Marks Pl & 9th St,
210 E 14th St | Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave

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