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Fresno has no shortage of falafel joints. They're not quite as ubiquitous as tacos, but if you're craving some crunchy middle eastern goodness it's not hard to find. Put the images of Bill O'Reilly out of your head and munch on the tastiest snack this side of Jerusalem at our favorite falafelerias. (And for a good history about the Israeli-Palestinian falafel conflict, check out e-cookbooks.net).
Mediterranean Grill makes a huge falafel sandwich. Packed with patties of fried dried chick peas, the gyro-like Mediterranean falafel is rolled up in a pita, not stuffed inside of it. It's topped with a generous helping of tahini, a creamy (yet non-dairy) sesame sauce, plus tomatoes, lettuce, and parsley. It comes out to your table warm and wrapped in aluminum foil. At $4.55 for the sandwich, you can splurge on some baklava for dessert. The busy lunch crowd ensures your falafel is made fresh.
Mediterranean Grill, 1025 U Street, 559-441-7050. Lunch only.
The newest falafel downtown, Checkers Melting Pot offers several options to suit your falafel needs. The falafel sandwich is three patties of fried spiced chick peas and fava beans tucked inside a pick pocket, with tahini and lettuce on top. Or there's the falafel plate, which is falafel patties served with hummus and stuffed grape leaves. Checkers has a wide variety of other sandwich stalwarts, from grilled cheese to chili dogs. Falafel will set you back $3.95, and a plate goes for $5.95. Hours vary, but last we checked they were experimenting with serving dinner. Free delivery.
Checkers Melting Pot, 2011 Tuolmne St, 559-233-2233. Call for hours.
Tower Express serves the odd combo of Mediterranean food and pizza. Their super-cheap $2.95 falafel sandwich is one of the best in town, with perfectly fresh fried chick peas. The falafel plate comes with six crunchy on the outside, soft and savory on the inside patties, hummus, tahini, side salad, and pita bread. If you're craving falafel for dinner, this is your joint. Open 7 days a week, 11am to 8pm.
Tower Express, 3139 N. Maroa at Shields, 559-241-0498. 11am - 8pm.
Mediterranean Restaurant, not related to Mediterranean Grill, is known for its mix of middle eastern businessmen and belly dancers. More of a dine-in place, Mediterranean Restaurant makes up for its unfortunate decor by providing free entertainment on weekend nights and offering up a wide array of middle eastern options. The falafel is served like a gyro, with the pleasant addition of peppers and onions. A dinner sandwich will set you back $6.50 and comes with a green house salad.
Mediterranean Restaurant, 4631 N. Fresno St. at Gettysburg, 559-226-7856.
Aladdin Shish Kebab is a Fresno State favorite. A good spot for a quick sit-down lunch or take-out early dinner, Aladdin falafel is served on pita bread with onions, tomatoes, and pickles for a fun twist. Bigger appetites will want to opt for the falafel plate, with rice, hummus, green salad, and pita bread. Just the sandwich is $4.15,
Aladdin Shish Kebab, 1782 E. Barstow, 559-447-8382.
House of Kebab offers a more refined strip mall middle eastern experience. House of Kebab has lots more than just kebabs: seafood, curry, and burgers in addition to all the middle easter favorites. More of a complete meal than a quick bite, a lunch falafel plate is $7.95, and is served with pilaf, salad bread, and butter. Dinner is a few bucks more.
House of Kebab, 7258 N. Fresno St., 559-449-1344