I was making my way down 14th Street towards Union Square in late January when I stumbled upon a brand new sign where the 5 Napkin Burger Express shop once was.
The sign was yellow and blue, and right below the words “Tamam Falafel” stood a smaller sign which read “vegan.” I immediately stopped in my tracks. My eyes widened in disbelief and the corners of my mouth jolted upwards. It felt good to be in New York.
One of the most exciting things about going to school in New York City is that you’re always within walking distance of a wide variety of restaurants. As someone who has been vegan for over three years, having the chance to try out so many local restaurants that I saw online was appealing. After all, New York was ranked the 7th most vegan-friendly city in the United States last year.
On the days in which I cannot handle another dining hall meal, I make my way to the closest vegan restaurant — or at least a restaurant with good vegan options. Usually, it’s Beyond Sushi, the only other vegan restaurant that’s within walking distance from my dorm at Third North Residence Hall. Beyond Sushi’s mouth-watering menu certainly goes beyond their vegan sushi, serving pasta, burgers, even crab cakes. Since the opening of Tamam Falafel, my food options have widened.
Tamam Falafel is a more expensive option compared to other falal shops around the city, though it still remains affordable on a college student budget. One falafel sandwich at Tamam Falafel is $9.50, whereas a variation of the same vegan falafel sandwich at Taïm is $8.95 and at Mamoun’s Falafel it’s $6.35. The sandwich did not disappoint.
The first thing I noticed was the consistency of the pita. It was thick and fluffy with a slightly charred surface, just like freshly-baked pizza crust. Inside the pocket was a concoction of Israeli salad, pickles, herbs and tahini — which was smooth and creamy but not too runny. This mixture of fillings balanced out the indulgent pita, making each bite just as refreshing as the one before it.
The star of the show, of course, was the falafel itself. Crispy and not overly oily, the falafel balls at the bottom of the pita pocket added a richness in flavor and texture — it was like stumbling upon buried gold after hours of wishful digging. On the other hand, I was disheartened to see that the sandwich contained only three falafel balls. Three were not enough to satisfy my craving. I guess that just means I’ll have to order another sandwich soon.
To me, part of what makes a great falafel sandwich is not only how good it tastes, but also how well it holds up as you eat it. If you’ve ever had a falafel sandwich, you know the struggle of trying to take a bite without tahini dripping down your hands and the fillings falling onto your lap or worse, onto the floor. With the Tamam sandwich, that wasn’t a problem. I was pleasantly surprised by the meal’s compactness and how easy it was to eat. Perhaps it was the one-time personal technique of the employee who, while putting it together, paid special attention to the ratio and order of the pita’s contents. Or maybe it is simply another great Tamam falafel sandwich feature to love. Either way, I appreciated not having to sacrifice a good outfit in exchange for good food.
If falafel sandwiches aren’t your thing, don’t fret! Tamam Falafel also offers platters, salad bowls and hummus bowls, each of which comes with your choice of falafel, crispy eggplant or shawarma-spiced cauliflower. While I personally didn’t try these menu items, the photos on the restaurant’s Instagram page are promising, and any one of them seems like a great option if you’re in the mood for a lighter meal.
I’m glad to see a rising number of vegan restaurants around the NYU area, as this gives both vegan and non-vegan students the opportunity to try out a variety of plant-based foods — along with a much-needed break from the regular dining hall meal. If you find yourself on 14th Street and are feeling indulgent, Tamam Falafel is a great place to try out. It is quick, relatively inexpensive and absolutely delicious.
Email Natalie Melendez at [email protected]