We don't blame you for missing National Falafel Day on June 12; it's not exactly the kind of holiday that attracts attention. But falafel is street food, and street food is summer food, so what better time to declare your love for these Mediterranean deep-fried balls of garbanzo goodness — the fried chicken of the vegetarian world? With so many great Mediterranean restaurants and food carts in Denver, how can you decide? We've done the hard work for you so you can stop searching and start eating. Here are the ten best places to get falafel in Denver, presented in alphabetical order.
The Caprese Falafeldilla at Baba's.
Westword file photo.
10. Baba's Falafel
Baba's hit the streets at the end of 2012 and has been serving up creative falafel fare ever since. Not content with simple garbanzo balls on a plate, owners Dalia Hannah and Chris Hernandez serve falafel cones, boats, spring rolls and nachos. And if each delicious bite isn't enough of a mouthful for you, try saying "Falafeldilla." Still not enough? Dare to whisper the words "Caprese Falafeldilla" for a ridiculously tasty Med-Mex mashup of fresh mozzarella and savory falafel patties soaking up the goodness of tomato and basil.
Crunchy falafel at Damascus Grill in Littleton.
9. Damascus Grill
1399 West Littleton Boulevard, Littleton
This popular Denver restaurant trio boasts some of the most delicious Mediterranean plates in the city. The Littleton location is a personal favorite; it's a hole in the wall, formerly Maynard Farms, transformed into Damascus in 2012. Colorful tapestry hanging from the ceiling sets the ambience, and a painted mural on the wall explains Damascus as the oldest city on Earth. The food speaks for itself. Do what we do, and build a perfect (and filling) meal with a hummus appetizer, grilled mushrooms and an aromatic falafel sandwich.
The king of falafel? Perhaps.
8. Falafel King
825 Colorado Boulevard
We all know that Falafel King once ruled the plant-based food empire in Denver, but it's gotten some increasing competition of late. Still, you can't go wrong with these steaming balls of spicy goodness, whether on a platter, in a wrap or atop a crisp salad. The joint isn't called the King for nothing.
Farmer Girl's falafel may be in Lyons, but they're worth the trek.
7. Farmer Girl
432 Main Street Lyons, CO
These falafel are unlike any on the list so far, because they incorporate an unusual blend of seasonal ingredients that somehow work in harmony — just like the bluegrass bands you'rel likely o encounter if you hang around Lyons long enough. Seasonal ingredients might include sweet butternut squash or carrots fresh from the field, served with a pesto made from the tops of those same carrots. We recommend frequent visits so you don't miss a single falafel.
6. Garbanzo's Mediterranean Grill
1350 16th Street (and multiple other locations)
This beloved Colorado-born fast-casual spot knows its way around a falafel. You'll even be handed one for free each time you walk in the door and step in line. It's a shrewd marketing tactic with a goal of early addiction — and it works like a charm. For the rest of June, Garbanzo wants to Free the Falafel. “We wanted to pay homage to the falafel this year by rolling out three extraordinary new flavors that we think everyone will love,” says James Park, CEO. "Free" falafel flavors will run from June 13 to 19 for cream-cheese falafel, June 20 to 26 for jalapeño falafel, and June 27 to July 3 for sweet-potato falafel.
A veggie platter at Jerusalem comes complete with falafel.
1890 East Evans Avenue
Jesusalem has been slingin' falafel in its packed University of Denver shack since the 1980s. Late-night cravings draw bleary-eyed students and weary partiers to this haven of Middle Eastern delights. No combo plate is complete without the little flavor bombs with the hard crust and tender center. Or just get a plate of falafel for the patio and enjoy the South Denver nightlife.
Linger serves its falafel in lettuce wraps.
2030 West 30th Avenue
Yes, Linger kills it — we all know this, but in a former mortuary where all the food is, as they say, to die for, the falafel lettuce wraps are one of the most underappreciated items on the menu. Appreciate most the moist interior, as the addition of cashews prevents a crumbly texture common in lesser falafel. It's as if you'd died and gone to falafel heaven.
The falafel sandwich — in the background (thats a gyros pita in the forground) at Melita's is amazing.
3. Melita's Greek Cafe
1035 Lincoln Street
Melita's leaves the pressure of city life outside the door, even if this urban Greek diner bustles with customers vying for some of Denver's meanest falafel. Family owned, quaint, comfortable, and just up the street from the Westword offices, we love this place as much for its perfect location (jealous?) as for its craveable, crunchable falafel and other Mediterranean fare.
2. Phoenician Kabob Grill
5709 East Colfax Avenue
Murals on the walls feature an Arabian sunset. Belly dancers wind their way from time to time among the tables in this East Colfax spot. The falafel here offer a hard crunch to contrast hummus so smooth and silky it almost defies the laws of physics. Dip the saucer-shaped nuggets alternately into cool yogurt sauce, hummus or even a little baba ghanouj to mix up the flavors and textures.
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Falafel from Shondiz on the 16th Street Mall are the quintessential street food.
480 16th Street Mall
Falafel is street food no better exemplified than at the Shondiz kiosk on the 16th Street Mall. Place your order and watch as the little chickpea pucks are formed and fried to order from a fresh batter speckled with herbs and tinged with garlic. Pop them in your mouth — careful, they're hot — as you stroll down the mall enjoying the sight of Denver street life and tourists peering about for someplace good to eat (shhhh... keep this one to yourself!).