After being ever so subtly taken to task for declaring Salam's falafel the best in the city prior to doing a hard target search of every backdoor, alley and grandmother's kitchen in Skokie, Kedzie/Lawrence and 95th and Western I decided a bit more research was in order.
Seeing as how RST latest falafel recommendations were a bit vague, and I don't need the services of Israeli furniture movers at the moment, I thought I'd try Madd's recommendation of Feyrous Pastry and RST via Da Mayor, Vital Information's, recommendation of Al Ameer.
Feyrous Pastry is a small jam-packed store front, stuffed to the gills with Middle Eastern food products, made in-house pastry, prepared food, pickles, deli products, legumes, pita and even tins of Al Haloub processed corned beef with Arabic writing on one side and an image of a cow on the other. Feyrous, of course, has falafel. Even though I was a bit out of place at Feyrous they were, if not exactly friendly, accommodating with the owner engaging me in conversation as I waited for my falafel.
My standard falafel order, especially at new places, is one falafel sandwich and 4 additional falafel balls. This allows me an opportunity to taste how they prepare the sandwich and also an unadulterated taste of the falafel itself. There is no doubt that the best tasting falafel comes straight from the fryer and as I waited approximately 15-minutes for my Feyrous falafel I had high hopes for a nice crisp hot falafel, this was not to be.
Feyrous's falafel prep area is not in view from the store so I have no idea what they were doing back there for 15-20 minutes, but it sure as heck wasn't cooking my falafel, with was cold with a slightly greasy mouth feel. The flavor was good, once you got past the grease aspect, but overall the cold, not room temperature, but actually chilled, aspect detracted from the falafel. The sandwich itself was good, but, as I tasted the individual falafel first, I simply could not enjoy the sandwich.
Al Ameer fared quite a bit better as the falafel came straight from the fryer, but, as Jim S mentioned, it is a bit poofy, but not to the point of distraction. The falafel themselves are moderately spiced, crisp and greaseless, and I quite enjoyed the sandwich, mainly due to the fact that Al Ameer has various vegetables available for the falafel chef to add, at your direction, to the sandwich. I opted for thinly sliced radishes, which complimented the tahini sauce, tomatoes, cucumber and shredded lettuce.
I did run into one little wrinkle at Al Ameer, I asked for one falafel sandwich and 4 individual falafel, the counter man asked, "4 falafel?" I responded yes, 4 falafel, which proved to be a mistake as, you guessed it, I received 4 falafel sandwiches, not 1 sandwich and 4 individual falafel.
As the mistake was 90% my fault, the counter man had almost no command of English and I responded yes to his confirmation of 4 falafel, I simply paid for 4 falafel sandwiches and left, no problem. Chrislrob's Jerry's Deli encounter flashed through my head for a second, but that's most certainly not my style.
I've had falafel in a number of other places, Pita Inn, George's, Oasis in the Jeweler's mart and many (many) I can't think of at the moment, and I am prepared to say, with only 349 more city of Chicago falafel joints to go, Salam is still the clear winner.
Oh, by the way, to the person who wrote me an anonymous private email taking me to task for declaring Vita, in my Lincolnwood VFW Fish Fry post, the cutest 80-year-old in a bunny suit, without proper research into the various Chicago based assisted living centers, phhhhhhht. ;-)~
4510 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
4821 N. Kedzie
4636 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
3216 W Lawrence
Chicago, IL. 60625
3910 Dempster St
Skokie, IL 60076