If you love falafel, dolma (grape leaves), Jerusalem salad, and other Middle Eastern foods, you need to thank the real estate fallout for Wicker Park’s newest restaurant, Falafel & Grill, at 1317 N. Milwaukee Ave, which opened this past Tuesday in the former 7-D Restaurant space at the northeast corner of Paulina and Milwaukee, near the Jewel/K-Mart shopping complex.
When the building that housed southwest suburban Tinley Park’s Pita Wrap, at 159th and Harlem, went into foreclosure last year, owner/chef Baker Ali, a native of Jerusalem, whose been cooking his family’s unique recipes for over 10 years, needed to find a new home for his restaurant.
Baker wanted to move to the city, and since he shared the same beverage salesman as Wicker Park’s 7-D restaurant, owned by Grace, pictured, who closed her business about a year ago, he had an “in” to a long established high traffic location that perhaps needed a new and healthier kind of food to entice the health conscious eaters in our somewhat gentrifying neighborhood.
After a build-out that took six months, the newly named Falafel & Grill quietly opened this past week and already has attracted regulars, like Patrick of 826CHI up the street, who reported that he was already on his third or so visit this week!
We enjoyed a $3.75 falafel wrap, which was very different from our favorite neighborhood Middle Eastern standby, Sultan’s Market on North Ave. The wrap was, like Sultan’s, also curiously priced at $3,75. Whereas Sultan’s piles on generous smears of hummus which causes the pita to often break, Falafel & Grill’s wrap was cut into two neat portions, with the insides all blended together and then pressed (similar to Damen Avenue’s Babylon, now under new management), so that you could hold one half of the wrap in one hand rather than the two hands required to eat a pita from Sultan’s.
The falafel balls at Falafel & Grill were not as dry (or as heavily fried) as those at Babylon, as well as slightly larger. They also contained a bit of a flavor kick, which we were told is a pickle juice, which gives the falafel a hint of natural salty brine to balance out the chickpeas, which can taste bland if not executed correctly. For the record, we believe that the falafel at F&G came very close to being as good as Sultan Market’s falafel, but not quite as good. Don’t trust our opinion, though… Go ahead and make your own and let us know via a comment what your thoughts are on our ‘hood’s falafel options, all delicious in their own way. Check out Sultan’s Market (2057 W. North, Wicker Park), Babylon (2023 N. Damen, Bucktown), Ameer Kabob (1050 N. Milwaukee, in Noble Square), and newcomer Falafel & Grill (1317 N. Milwaukee, East Wicker Park).
Falafel & Grill, 1317 N. Milwaukee. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11AM-12AM, Fri.-Sat 11AM-3AM. Ph: 773-292-8888. Delivery not yet available but coming soon.