Monday, October 12, 2009

Naples Falafel Grill - Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Delights!

Val enjoyed Naples’ Falafel Grill, so I had to visit -just a few doors away from Saffron Indian Restaurant, and from Mimi’s and Asia Pok Market. Hidden in the angle of the L-shaped strip center behind the Hess gas station, it’s one for insiders! Charleston foodie Rya was telling owner Feibi (Phoebe) how she enjoyed her meal. She said she’d email me, so I could come taste it, and blog about it...and in I walked, right on cue! Blew my cover, and it didn't matter!

Fresh Carrots, Broccoli, Green Beans and Pita Bread
Ashraf and Feibi holding Falafel Sampler
It's only been open a few weeks, and already the customer demand has them staffing up for dinner It’s a couple’s spot, a family spot, and a popular take out delight. I enjoyed dining and people watching, while talking with nearby people. It is very casual- come as you are, and you’re fine. The interior is simple, not fancy, with pale green walls, tan tile floors, and comfortable seating at six gray topped tables. There's no definite "atmosphere" yet, that will follow.

Fresh, wonderfully spiced food is the magnet. It’s authentic, and the prices are 1/2 of some of Naples prices. Owners Feibi covers the front of the house, and husband-chef Raaf Gouda covers the back, along with Chef Ashraf. Lucinda, who visited Egypt years ago, is the general manager. The Goudas hail from Egypt. Raaf was at the Registry Hotel years ago. They bake the bread daily, and wash the chickpeas several times, till just right for the next step. A peek in the open kitchen shows fresh, plump eggplant, zucchini, carrots, and tomatoes.

Middle Eastern food is vegetarian friendly. There’s also chicken, beef and shrimp selections. Portions are big, prices small. Perfect for any budget. Three people can eat well, and still get change from a $20 bill-top that!

I had a bowl of the freshly made vegetarian lentil soup ($2.95 cup, 3.75 bowl), It has a delicious mix of seasonal vegetables, such as zucchini, carrots and tomato, and tasted of garlic, cilantro and cumin. A great start. Feibi Shows How to Wash ChickpeasFalafel is a vegetarian tradition. Chick peas are soaked overnight, crushed, and combined with onion, cilantro, parsley, and garlic. There may be caramelized onions, olive oil, and other local ingredients. Cumin and coriander are popular spices. Egyptian style favors fava beans Coptic Christians take credit for starting falafel. It has become a favorite of Palestinians, Israelis, and Syrians. A patty, cylinder, or more commonly a ping pong ball sized portion is quickly deep fried at about 370 degrees F., The falafel thus cooked have crispy goodness outside, and are luscious inside. Serve them plain, drizzled with tahina/tahini, or wrapped in a pita with lettuce and tomato. Falafel Grill’s Classic Falafel dish serves falafel with a mix or organic greens, tomatoes, onions and tahina sauce ($4.95).

The Supreme Falafel has falafel and minced garlic, and eggplante added to the Classic, for $5.95. I like the $5.95 Sampler, below, with hummus, tabouleh, and baba ghanoush in cups; the falafel patties aredrizzled with tahina. Deep fried pita bread wedges are wonderful on their own, or with the dips!

Falafel can even come with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese (5.95); there’s no end to the variations.

The Greek Gyro’s sliced lamb, with onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce (5.95), or the Kofta Kebab’s grilled spiced ground beef , are popular, along with grilled Mediterranean Chicken Breast (6.5), Spicy Shrimp (6.95) and the Fish Sandwich’s fried tilapia with signature sauce (6.95). Sides include Hummus’s pureed garbanzo beans, Baba Ghanaush’s spiced roasted eggplant, and Tabouli Salad’s cracked bulgur wheat, parsley, tomato and cucumber.

Dinners come with rice and a salad or vegetable. Tonight’s specials are Kofta Kebab for $9..95, Chicken Kabab (10.95, and Beef Kabab for $12.95. Mix and match!

Feibi and Family, Lucinda, Chef Ashraf, Mahesh and Partner
Feibi (pronounced like Phoebe, the bird) says, “ This is our first restaurant! There was no similar authentic Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food in SW Florida, so we wanted to start.” I asked the obvious next question, and she replied, “We may start a second restaurant in Fort Myers, or near Florida Gulf Coast University, we shall see!”

For dessert, I had the basbosa, a semolina flour-based dish with sort of a cornbread-like texture, with sliced coconut, hint of vanilla, eggs and nuts cooked, then drizzled with simple syrup. This is best paired with a dollop of its whipped cream in every bite. Baklava is also available.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner, are served, 10:30 am till 9 pm, closed Sundays. Call in an order, and pick it up, if on a tight schedule. There's kids meals with chicken nuggets, or hamburger and fries, each is $2.99.

2075 Pine Ridge Road, behind the Hess gas station, 514-1787


val said...

HAHAHA!! What a nice write-up!! Love it but sooooo embarassed that you mentioned my, get over it, Val! That sampler is my next one to try ... last Friday, I had the Falafel Supreme with the eggplant and adored it to pieces. There was a Lebanese patron in there, too, who was exuberant. A simple but genuine & healthy little place!

Ivan Seligman said...

I couldn't finish my falafel sampler, after having the lentil soup.
It's all so tasty!

I wonder if ther'a nay other gems out there to "discover". During season, I and others cook more at home, to avoid restaurant waits.
I've sent folks to Whole Foods cooking classes- the price is right and the food is healthy.

Ivan Seligman said...

I'd like to see more Mom and Pop places have cooking classes, too.

Malina said...

I'm sorry to say that my experience with Falafel Grill was a bit different than yours. Being originally from the Detroit area, home to the largest Middle Eastern population in the world (besides, of course, the Middle East), I have eaten boatloads of amazing ME cuisine. So, I decided to try Falafel Grill for the first time this weekend with an open and hopeful mind. In a nutshell: Disappointing. The falafel patties on the sandwich were tasteless, the hummous had too much tahini in it and the vegetarian dolmas were piping hot...they are a lot tastier served at room temperature or cold. I really wanted to like it, as the guy who served me was so friendly and I love supporting small businesses like Falafel Grill, so I'm definitely going to give it one more try...

Anonymous said...

The Gyro is presliced pieces of brown specked spam like stuff likely microwaved. Inedible.This is not a restaurant.

Ivan Seligman said...

It may look Spammy -that's what the meat and spice mix has looked like for years! It is formed into a "log" which rotates in front of a flame. The cook slices off slices as it's cooked and ready.

A few different families of Middle Easterners who were there when I visited buy it and other dishes because they consider it a tasty version and certainly the real thing.