Walk down the famed Rue des Rosiers in the Marais district of Paris on a half-sunny afternoon and you're sure to encounter lines snaking down the street, then ending at a restaurant with a bright green and yellow facade. What's it all about, exactly?
You've stumbled upon hordes of hungry tourists eager to scarf down what's reputed to be the best falafel in town.
Located in the heart of the pletzl, or old Jewish quarter, L'as du Fallafel (spelled with a double "l" in French) is one of several falafel restaurants crowding the street. It lies at the heart of a quarter that boasts a lively array of Yiddish bakeries, Jewish bookshops, and, more recently, in the wake of the area's accelerating gentrification, fashion and luxury-goods boutiques. But despite some pretty stiff competition, L'As seems to maintain its status as reigning champion of the iconic Mediterranean sandwich.
I've tried most of the other versions at rival restaurants on Rue des Rosiers, and I always end up preferring (and hankering for) the "L'As" version. Here's why.
The Sandwich: A Near-Perfect Formula
It was over a decade ago that I tasted my first "L'As" falafel, and it's become a weekend staple of mine ever since (generally followed by a stroll and, if I have space or gluttonous bravery available, gelato). I can't quite articulate why the formula here is so golden, but I'll give it a stab: the sandwich, featuring a perfectly warm, soft, and thick pita, manages a seemingly perfect ratio of crispy, made-to-order falafel balls, crunchy carrot, red cabbage, warm, delightfully greasy slices of fried eggplant, and a generous smothering of tahini, hummous, and spicy sauce (if desired).
While devouring this marvel of Mediterranean fast food proves something of a feat-- it's an art that generally requires some practice if you want to avoid dribbling tahini down your shirt, or worse, spilling the contents of your pita onto the ground-- daintily digging into the sandwich with a fork first is always helpful. This is a real Parisian street-food favorite: The tradition is generally to cluster around street corners or huddle under doorways or in courtyards to eat, hopefully away from crowds and aggressive sparrows.
It's delicious and inexpensive. And for the vegetarians and vegans among you, you'll be delighted to know that it's a "naturally" vegan specialty. It's also entirely kosher, for those who observe those rules.
Location and Contact Information
- Address: 34 rue des Rosiers, 4th arrondissement
- Tel: +33 (0)1 48 87 63 60
- Metro: St-Paul (Line 1)
Other Dishes to Try at "L'As"
I admit that I've never tried the other sandwiches and dishes available at L'As, but friends have reported that the lamb shawarma, curry chicken, and other sandwiches are also delicious. In general, what I appreciate about L'As is that, unlike certain competitors, falafel balls, eggplant and other ingredients are made to order here, and have invariably tasted quite fresh.
I admit that while I tend to concur with L'As' proud claim to making the best falafel in Paris, I'm not a big fan of eating in at this restaurant. The dining room is cramped, hot, and you pay a lot more for very little ambiance in return. I have also found myself a bit frustrated in the past by the sense that the patrons are trying to rush patrons sitting in to eat quickly and leave so they can free up the tables for more customers. It's admittedly not a particularly relaxing experience. If you'd like to eat in and enjoy a more formal meal of falafel and other specialties, I recommend Chez Marianne or Chez Hannah, both offering excellent fare and right around the corner.
The ambiance at these two restaurants is generally far more relaxed.
My Bottom Line?
If you're looking for some great Paris street food, "L'As" is a must. It's a great way to fuel up during an afternoon exploring the gorgeous Marais, historic Jewish quarter, shopping and wandering. Stop by there on the way to the Centre Pompidou or the Musee Carnavalet (Museum of Paris History) perhaps, or for lunch afterwards.
Also read our complete guide to the best falafels in Paris for more ideas on where to procure the best versions of this addictive sandwich.