I went to a place called Falafill the other day. It's a tiny, modern falafel joint with a name that's trying way too hard to be wink-wink clever. I should confess here that I'm particularly sensitive about names, thanks to all the naming sessions I had to endure in advertising. We creatives always got suckered into it by weaselly research people who spent weeks planning the event (if you looked at their day planner, it would read IDEATION SESSION IN SIX DAYS!!!!!! and count down from there). The winning name would always have "craves" in it (e.g. PuddinCraves) - an ass-smooching move if there ever was one. Clients love to think - and most of the time actually believe - that people crave their product, mostly because one lonely housewife in a Romeoville focus group said she did, therefore the entire population must. I love advertising.
But we're talking about Falafill, and the name is exactly what happens there: you get a falafel and then you fill it up with a variety of colorful condiments. And - here's the triple entendre - it consequently fills you up.
I checked it out on Yelp first. There were a lot of complaints about the incidentals: there were no trays, the place is too small, they wouldn't give one disgruntled guy extra condiments. It would take a lot - a curly hair in my baba ganoush, witnessing the cook in the bathroom using his bare hand to wipe - for me to focus on incidentals. I always focus on the food, especially in a place like this, which is just fast food when it comes down to it.
But it's good fast food, and different than any other fast food place I've been to in a while. The menu is small - falafels in pitas and in a salad, fries (both "potato" fries and sweet potato fries, or a mix), and a United Nations sampler of drinks. You can get add-ons like hummus and tahini, but this is unnecessary because after you get your falafel, the next stop is the condiment bar.
As far as condiment bars go, this may be the most exciting one ever, an exotic tapestry of well-executed middle eastern flavors. There, I said it. You can choose from 30 different salads, sauces and relishes, but because there isn't a ton of room in the pita, you have to choose wisely.
I did not choose wisely. I put 3 Tbs. of zhug on mine to start. Zhug is a jalapeno cilantro sauce, the ratio being 99.9% jalapeno to .01% cilantro. It's pretty freakin' hot. Then I added hot pink pickled turnips, Jerusalem salad (tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley), and a chopped red pepper relish. The good news is, I knocked off 6 servings of vegetables in one fell swoop. The bad news: I singed off my taste buds in the process. Not helping the heat index was the harissa ketchup I got for my fries. Every recipe for harissa I've ever seen has the word "fiery" preceding it. I'm much better today, thanks.
The place, itself, is eh. The ambience...there is no ambience. The service....eh. But the falafel is pretty great, and the fact that I can create different falafels every time is my kind of thing. A few Yelpers complained about the price (around $9 for a falafel pita, fries and a fountain drink); I say, welcome to 2009. Such is life.