There's good falafel, there's great falafel, and there's excellent falafel. Then there's fantastic falafel that's unbelievably cheap, to boot. The ultimate? "Famous falafel," which you'll get at Taste of Lebanon, according to the neon sign that blazes in the window. The tiny kitchen of this modest restaurant serves possibly the best deep-fried fritters of ground chickpeas that you'll find: substantial without being heavy, and crispy without being oily. The patties arrive drizzled with tahini (sesame seed sauce) and served with fresh pita bread.
Taste of Lebanon offers more than just falafel, of course. There is creamy hummus (chickpea and tahini) and smoky baba ghannouj to eat with your basket of pita. There are grape leaves stuffed with rice. There are salads such as fatoush (vegetable and bread) and taboule (parsley and cracked wheat), as well as lentil soup. If that's not enough choices for vegetarians, there are two sampler plates available. There are also lamb kabobs and chicken or beef shawarma (thinly sliced strips of marinated meat served with tahini). Honeyed phyllo pastries like baklava take care of dessert. (If you're lucky, your server might even hand you a pastry as you pay at the register.) Food is plentiful, fresh, and simply presented. It's also inexpensive, with the costliest item on the menu running $6.99.
You might struggle with your plastic utensils, and you'll certainly bemoan the kitchen's ventilation when you emerge from lunch redolent of deep-fry. (You might want to consider takeout, or perhaps a backup shirt.) You'll forgive much, though, when you can eat this heartily and this well so cheaply.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Alan Simmons