Monday, July 9, 2012

Amsterdam Falafelshop: First Impressions

About three weeks ago, I met a friend for dinner at Diva in Davis Square, and I noticed that Diva's former lounge space was under construction. Signs on the window indicated that a Washington, DC-based restaurant called Amsterdam Falafelshop would be opening soon, and a posted menu confirmed that the shop would (obviously) specialize in falafel. I had just begun contributing to Eater Boston and figured the opening would make a good first story, so I went back the next day to shoot a photo of the exterior and see if I could find anything out. Conveniently enough, the door was wide open and the friendly-looking owner was inside, perfectly willing to answer questions and allow me to shoot some photos of the near-complete construction. (Check out the photos and my initial Eater post here.)

Over the next couple weeks, I wrote updates as the opening grew closer, got delayed, and grew closer again. It wasn't until recently that I realized I even liked falafel, and even then, I wouldn't consider it a dish I'd regularly crave, yet I found myself growing increasingly excited at the prospect of devouring falafel and fries at Amsterdam Falafelshop.

Finally, according to posts on the Amsterdam Falafelshop Facebook page, they soft-opened this weekend, allowing in people who had tried the original location in DC. Today, they opened to the public, and I knew I had to go.

We got there just in time to beat the rush; as we ate, the line grew until it was more than 30 people deep and quite literally out the door. Everything is dropped in the fryer when you order it, which is great for taste but maybe not so great for moving through such a long line quickly. People ended up waiting quite awhile, but since this was the first day, I assume they'll figure out a good way to speed up the flow. In any case, it was worth the wait.

There are two choices to make when you get in line: how many falafel do you want (three or five)? And do you want your falafel in a pita (whole wheat or white) or on a salad? At this stage of the process, you can also place an order for fries (two size orders available, small or regular). Joel and I both opted for a wheat pita with three falafel balls (plenty for lunch), and we split a regular order of fries. After a few minutes, we were each handed our falafel-filled pita, and then we were free to move through the DIY toppings bar, which features more than 20 toppings, most made in-house. I opted for a yogurt sauce, tomatoes, parsley, and a few other things. At the start of this section, you can get garlic cream sauce and tahini; if you want more of these two later, they're also located beyond the line, by the fountain drinks and fry sauces.

I'll admit my falafel experience is limited since I've only just recently begun to eat it, but this was definitely the best I've had so far. While some falafel tends towards dryness, not at Amsterdam Falafelshop. No, these balls were moist and flavorful, the toppings were fresh, and the pita was soft and pillowy. Two big thumbs up.

The fries were decent on their own; they're twice-fried in the Dutch style, the owner told me when I barged onto the construction site a few weeks ago, so they're pretty crispy. It's the sauces that really elevate them to the next level, though. I was particularly fond of the peanut sauce (ever so slightly spicy) and the curried ketchup.

Overall, I was ridiculously pleased with my meal. The place is small, but it was still navigable even with the out-the-door line. There are a few tables, and the decor is quite nice (large photographs of Amsterdam scenes), but this is perfect on-the-go food if you don't want to stay. Amsterdam Falafelshop is open seven days a week, from 11am until midnight, although if they were ever to stay open even later, I have no doubt the bar crowds would be all over this on the way home. Fries and falafel are perfect late night foods.

I do hope they figure out a way to speed up service during peak times, and I'd love to see signs next to all the toppings so I know what I'm eating, but otherwise, everything was outstanding for the first day in business. I think this will become a very popular spot, and I will definitely return. Probably embarrassingly soon.

Amsterdam Falafelshop on UrbanspoonSee my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu

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