After hearing about Falafel Drive-in on the board, elsewhere and from people I've talked to in SJ, recurring phrases were "San Jose institution" "best falafel in the world" "can't miss spot" "there since 1966" etc... It's even listed as #2 on tripadvisor.com for San Jose (that is my go-to site for hotels but I don't trust it on restos) I was curious about whether I would "get" what the regulars see in the place... this kind of hyperbole can lead to disappointment for an outsider.
So I picked up lunch there for group. I like this place! It's got some of the key ingredients that make local hole-in-the-wall institutions a blast... the "well-worn" location, the either especially personable or surly (in this case personable) staff, and most importantly, the "twist" that makes it unique, in this case the sweet red "secret sauce" on the falafels, baba gahnouj and hummus.
But, really, I hated the sauce. This seems to be part of what makes this place what it is, but, basically to me it was like baba ghanouj with ketchup. Didn't do it for me at all.
I tried the gyro, falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj and pita chips.
I'd say yes, the falafel were on par with the best I've had... they looked overcooked but in fact were wonderfully crispy outisde/moist inside. Indeed, this is excellent falafel.
The baba gahnouj itself was excellent, with a deep and rich smokiness. Hummus was pretty good.
I thought the pita chips were pretty much inedible. Coated with a very, very thick layer of spices (maybe za'atar?), almost black. Did not like them at all. The pitas which came with were also very much nothing special, so I was kind of missing a decent delivery vehicle for the very good hummus/baba... major bummer...
I'd go back for sure, with a better idea now on what to order. And, hold the sauce...
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