At some point in your life you’ve probably eaten at some sort of Mediterranean food shop, whether it’s been a locally run Albanian Coney or a Jordanian-run Pita shop in Dearborn.
Almost everyone has had a taste of the region, and more specifically each restaurant’s special techniques and sauces. So when Haifa Falafel opened up next to the Starbucks near the Glencoe Hills apartment facility, I expected no different than any other falafel joint—and I couldn’t have been any more correct in my assumption.
First I noticed their smaller sized menu, which is conveniently displayed on a giant chalkboard above the fry cook’s alcove. I was dismayed that nearly the entire menu consisted of sandwiches, and to be honest, I was expecting something a bit more thorough in terms of a menu like Pita-Pita down the street. I ordered a chicken shawarma sandwich with some fried falafel and my friend got a fattoush salad, also with some falafel on the side.
After first glance at what I ordered, I was rather impressed at both preparation and speed of delivery. The sandwich itself was prepared in an uncommon way for me, stuffed inside the pita, which was cut open. Typically a shawarma is just rolled up inside a pita or lafa, resulting in you sometimes losing your sandwich’s contents on your plate or tray, which for me is kind of annoying.
This was nice. After the first bite, I was impressed with the flavor. The chicken has a lot of flavor but doesn’t steal the show from the pickles and other veggies that typically form a shawarma sandwich’s innards. Not a bad sandwich.
My side of falafel was arguably even more surprising than my shawarma-stuffed pita bread. Typical falafel comes to you heavily deep-fried with a consistency closely resembling that of a hushpuppy.
Haifa Falafel’s falafel balls, however, are composed of a lighter, fluffier batter, which to me was kind of refreshing. They were served with their ‘Haifa Sauce’ and were overall pretty good.
My friend’s fatoush salad impressed me quite a bit as well, especially in the realm of size. To be completely realistic, you cannot get a better deal for the meager $3.50 that it costs. I, however, did not have a chance to taste the dish, so not much could be made on the taste of it other than my companion mentioning that it was probably some of the best fatoush that she’s had in a while. Not too descriptive or informative on the finer details and tastes, but I’ll take her word for it.
My first visit merited a second visit with a third opinion, and I ventured back out to U.S. 23 to take another stab at Haifa Falafel’s limited menu—this time going for their beef shawarma, some lentil soup and again Haifa’s fried falafel. My new dining partner ordered their namesake sandwich, the Haifa Falafel.
Unfortunately, my second visit wasn’t as impressive as my first one. It wasn’t bad, at least not one to complain about, but I’m a critic and it’s my job to nitpick at the little stuff.
The beef shawarma was, much like its chicken counterpart, a very delicious sandwich, but with one fatal flaw: the beef strips used were a little on the tough side.
This is possibly a byproduct of being cooked in a timely manner. But long story short, I had to chew a bit, which overall distracted me from the meat’s marinade and the rest of the shawarma’s veggies.
My counterpart’s sandwich, the Haifa Falafel, featured their falafel chopped up and stuffed inside a pita. This was mixed with lettuce and other veggies along with their Haifa Sauce. I was only able to steal one bite of my companion’s sandwich, but that one bite was satisfactory enough to try the sandwich the next time I might visit the restaurant.
Overall, Haifa Falafel’s menu items aren’t too shabby. The only problem that the place has is a lack of selection, but it’s a falafel shop. And to be completely honest, that’s something I didn’t come to terms with until I started writing this review.
Another thing that was brought to my attention by a friend who happens to be an avid consumer of Middle Eastern foods was the light and fluffy falafel. Her complaint was of the falafel’s lack of consistency, which leads to a less satiating dish. I agree, but because I didn’t come there to just eat falafel, I didn’t mind them. I suppose this is left to personal preference.
As far as the beef from my second shawarma goes, I honestly have never had a beef shawarma with soft tender meat and I’ve been to a lot of Mediterranean food shops that serve them in the Ann Arbor and greater-Detroit areas.
I contribute the toughness of the beef from these sandwiches as a byproduct of being cooked on the spot rather than slowly cooked all day, but I can’t really assume one way or the other.
Although they don’t offer the billion menu items that their competitor Pita-Pita has down the street, Haifa Falafel does offer some delicious sandwiches and salads, albeit there are only about twelve total.
With the sandwiches being rather flavorful and decent prices, Haifa Falafel is the place to go for a quick lunch break from work or if you have just finished guzzling some overly commercialized coffee next door. I give Haifa Falafel a 4 out of 5.