Curiously enough, Paris is home to some of the best falafel in the world: that prized, cheap, naturally vegan, and oddly delicious Middle-Eastern sandwich composed of deep-fried chickpea or fava bean balls, vegetables of some kind, sesame tahini and/or hummus, and other ingredients, depending on the regional version. Paris is most famous for its Israeli-style falafels, with several competitors found along the Rue des Rosiers in the old Jewish quarter of the Marais district.
Of course, delicious Lebanese and Syrian varieties also abound in the city, and I'm just as big a fan of some of these. As a flexitarian who eats very little meat, a weekend falafel in Paris has become a predictable ritual of mine, and even meat-eating friends and family have become enthusiasts of these favorite Paris falafel joints. Enjoy, but try to avoid dribbling tahini down your shirt, now-- that's so very gauche. Eating your falafel on the street, or in a nearby public garden, however, is entirely acceptable by Parisian standards, so not to worry.
I've tested most of the well-known falafel places in the city, but for some reason, L'as du Fallafel-- L'as meaning "ace"-- always comes out as the gold standard. The boasting name therefore seems warranted. Perfectly fresh ingredients come together in just the right proportions to yield a falafel sandwich that combines crunch, creaminess, and a perfect marriage of flavors and textures. It's consistently identified as one of the best food items Paris has to offer, and yet it'll cost you around $6 if you take it out on the street to eat. The lines may be long and the style of the staff a little brusque at times, but getting that sandwich in hand and digging into it with your fork is all worth it. Read my full review to find out why, and to find out how to get there.
Only a couple of corners down from "L'as" is my second-favorite place for a take-out falafel. Chez H'Anna's version is similar to the aforementioned one, but, to the delight of some, includes more crunchy vegetables like shredded carrots and cabbage, and is slightly less greasy. I also prefer eating in here if I want to enjoy a full sit-down meal, since the dining room at L'as is noisy and the atmosphere too hurried for my taste. Note that the falafel plate at Chez H'Anna is giant and can easily be shared by two people, if you're not famished.
Address: 54 Rue des Rosiers, 4th arrondissement
Metro: St. Paul
Opening Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 12:00 pm to 12:00 am. Closed on Mondays.
Wedged in between the first two restaurants on this list is Chez Marianne, also a very good choice. I personally am less a fan of their take-out falafel sandwich, as I've found the ingredients to be a bit less fresh, and clearly not always made to order. However, the restaurant experience there is of a much higher order. The dining room inside is pleasant and calm, and the falafel plates are delicious and beautifully presented. Chez Marianne will also please those of you with a sweet tooth: they have a large variety of traditional, primarily Eastern European Jewish, cakes, strudels and sweets. Another plus is that it's open every day of the week, unlike many neighboring falafel restaurants in the Rue des Rosiers.
Address: 2 rue des Hospitaliéres St. Gervais, 4th arrondissement
Metro: St. Paul
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday, 12:00 pm-12:00 a.m.
Heading over the Seine river to the Latin Quarter, and to a very different version of the falafel, one of my favorite places for the Lebanese-style version of the sandwich is the Comptoir Mediterranee, owned by an eccentric, warm, and polyglot Franco-Lebanese guy named Richard Sahlani who has run the place for years. He also owns the gastronomic Lebanese restaurant Savannah, nearby at 27 rue descartes and also in the 5th arrondissement. If you're looking for a light lunch or snack, though, head to the traiteur at the Comptoir Mediterranee. The Lebanese falafel is generally lighter than the Israeli counterpart, wrapped in a thin, traditional bread called "lavash", and complemented by parsley, tomato, cumin and onion salad or tabbouleh.
Address: 42 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, 5th arrondissement
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine or Jussieu
Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11:00 am-10:00 pm. Closed on Sundays.
Travel Tip: There are also several good Lebanese restaurants I also recommend for falafel on Rue Rambuteau, heading toward the Centre Georges Pompidou from Les Halles shopping center. (Metro: Rambuteau or Les Halles)
If you're touring around the center of the city, near Notre Dame Cathedral or St-Michel, and want a healthy vegetarian snack, consider heading to Maoz. This global chain gets a lower rating for flavor and overall scrumptiousness, but it's a healthy, satisfying meal. At Maoz you assemble your own falafel, so you can pile that pita high with as many goodies as you like-- not to mention leave anything out that you don't care for.
Address: 36 rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts, 6th arrondissement
Metro: Odeon or St-Michel
Opening Hours: Sunday to Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
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