Neighbourhood: River Heights
Address: 1101 Corydon Ave
In the yearly surge of trend forecasts that hit at the end of 2016, it was clear that the food world had spoken—Middle Eastern flavours are hot right now. While chefs are busy incorporating za’atar and zhoug into their dishes, flavours from the Middle East are easy to find in the humble, bustling atmosphere of Falafel Place, where owner Ami Hassan has served heaping plates of flavourful falafel, meaty pitas, and spicy baba ghanoush for decades.
It’s been 30 years since the first iteration of Falafel Place (then on Academy Road) opened its doors. Hassan is still at the helm, and his jocular presence—famously chiding customers who linger too long, ribbing diners for Instagramming their food, and swooping from the open kitchen to fill coffee cups—is a big part of the restaurant’s charm. The always-bustling diner is abuzz with a lively clatter of voices.
Breakfast and lunch specialties draw in the crowds, and the titular food can be spotted on nearly every plate. The spot’s famed falafel balls appear in many iterations—sharing a breakfast plate with bacon and eggs, stuffed into a pita, or simply served on a generous dollop of hummus. Served piping hot, the crispy chickpea balls sing with notes of cumin and turmeric.
Though falafels have always been the signature dish, other specialties keep the menu fresh. A version of popular Middle Eastern tomato and egg dish shakshuka is a spicy stewed mix of tomatoes, onions, and banana peppers topped off with runny-yolk eggs. Toasted triangles of pita are perfect for sopping up the mix.
Beet hash, cubed and fried on the grill top, makes a delicious and healthy side. On the more decadent end of things, “meaty pitas” are melanges of meat with tahini, salads, and hummus all piled, shawarma style, into an open pita.
To prove there is such a thing as “breakfast dessert”, top off the morning meal with an order of blintzes, lightly sweet parcels of cottage and cream cheese bundled in soft crepes and served with jam.