I have to say I came a bit late to learning about falafel, but when I did I happened to find the best place in the city to get it and that is the Sunrise Deli. They specialize in Middle-Eastern cuisine which means it could be based on just about any country there so expect to see a few variations [definitely not Egyptian based as those falafel are made with fava beans]. Opening in 1984 at 2115 Irving Street this location has expanded to serve a total of three locations in San Francisco and one in Berkeley.
Falafel tends to be on the greasy side and should be eaten as soon as it comes out of the fryer. I’m not sure what type of oil they use here, but it not greasy compared to other places and the taste holds up even after it’s sat for awhile. I know this because we were looking for an inexpensive way to serve up food to people at my daughter’s first birthday so we decided to go to the Sunrise Deli.
There is a lot more to this place than just falafel, but that’s what brings you into the store usually. I’ve gotten a lot of my friends hooked on the fried paste that’s made from dried chickpeas [garbanzo beans], onion, garlic, parsley and a few other spices and fried up into little hockey pucks as my cousin who’d never had them before called them. I like to dip them in hummus which is actually a little like falafel that hasn’t been fried with more olive oil mixed in, but they can be stuffed into pita bread with a host of other ingredients and served as a sandwich.
Speaking of sandwiches, I tried the shawarma one day that in some places looks more like a middle eastern burrito rather than the way they are truly made, but stuffing the contents into a half a pita bread. There’s usually some chicken or lamb involved with onions, tomatoes and other grilled vegetables topped with some tahini sauce and pickles and these are wonderful. Their vegetarian plate will appeal to vegans since there are no animal products involved at all.
The best part about the Irving Street location is the price. I won’t knock them because I know that downtown rents are expensive, but a half dozen falafel is less expensive on Irving Street than it is downtown and since they’re so close to us that makes it an even better bargain. When we called in the order for my daughter’s party we had more than enough to feed a crowd of about 30 people for a little over $50. Of course we had the tabouli, babaganoush and olives as well as the pickled turnips [those are the pink strips in the picture that if you don’t tell someone what they are they’ll try them and tell you they’re quite good]. We rounded it out with several of their fresh sesame seed bread rings.
On a weekend when you want something that you can say it fried, but light the falafel at the Sunrise Deli is the place to go.
[gmap width=”650px” height=”200px” type=”satellite” visible=”true” static=”true” zoom=”16″ lat=”37.7634255″ lon=”-122.48048570000003″]