The top 25 falafel in Toronto by neighbourhood
Falafel shops in Toronto have proliferated to such a degree that there's very few neighbourhoods left without at least one trusty standby, if not a handful of solid contenders. The vegetarian street food is a favourite for being fast, cheap, and filling, accompanied by fresh vibrant ingredients.
Here are my top picks for 25 stellar falafel that rule their respective Toronto neighbourhoods.
Sarah's Shawarma & Falafel has been my go-to falafel joint in The Annex for years, even with Ghazale and Pita-Q in close proximity. I like the pita slathered with hummus and packed with falafel, pickled turnips and smothered in hot sauce and tahini - adding on extra fried eggplant is worthwhile too. Shout outs go to to Fat Pasha on Dupont too - though pricey, it's a great spot to sit down for a falafel dinner with drinks.
Delina is a local gem where falafel balls and shawarma are among the house specialties. Choose from the varied array of salads and fresh chopped vegetables to accompany your falafel balls and be sure to opt for the house garlic sauce if you like a little extra kick.
BLOOR WEST VILLAGE
Notably friendly and family-run, Falafel World is a stalwart in Bloor West Village that beats out Tasty Falafel for top honours in this neighbourhood. The Lebanese eatery makes big moist falafel browned to a crisp; wrapped in puffy pitas with salad, crunchy cabbage, tabouleh, hummus and hot sauce, or on plates to be swiped up with pita. The combination sandwich with hummus and shawarma is a thing of beauty that, inexplicably, hasn't caught on elsewhere.
Sultan Shawarma & Falafel on The Danforth is home to hearty vegetarian meals served with a half dozen falafel, fattoush salad, cabbage, mixed pickles, hummus, and pita. Falafel wraps with hummus, minced garlic, turnips, chopped onions, tomatoes, lettuce and hot sauce are excellent value for just $4, but better still, you can have it all with eggplant and cauliflower for under $4.50.
Essen is a charming family style restaurant where the falafel plate, served with chopped salad, a dollop of paprika-dusted hummus, olives and house-pickled turnips, is among the house specialties. The first-rate falafel here are petite but plentiful, boasting a crunchy crust and soft, fluffy interior.
The closures of Etobicoke's long-standing Falafel Royal and the shorter-lived Mezza Lebanese Kitchen leaves a void that Middle Eastern fast food counters like Shawarma Grill Xpress and Ghazale (Lakeshore) can only hope to quell. In the absence of my former favourites, I'd eat at Ghazale for their reliably filling wraps that I like packed with tabouleh, fried eggplant and cauliflower, in addition the regular fixings.
Located on Bloor West, Mersin is a Mediterranean grill where Turkish specialties mingle on the menu with Middle Eastern staples. Crunchy-shelled falafel are available solo for $1 each or wrapped in pita with the usual toppings including chopped tomatoes, onions, tabouleh, crunchy cabbage slaw, tahini, hot sauce and the signature housemade garlic sauce.
Akram's Shoppe is a stalwart in Kensington Market that sells nuts and baklava, and serves authentic Middle Eastern staples made from scratch. Falafel here are a mix of mung beans and fava spiced with garlic, cumin and coriander. Fried to order for maximum crispness, they're assembled in to sandwiches or packed on to combo plates.
KING EAST & CORKTOWN
Shawarma House on the Esplanade might seem like the obvious choice in this neighbourhood, but Mystic Muffin is an unlikely winner. Don't be deterred by the grungy storefront; inside you'll find it's an inviting, warm space. Order falafel on top of salads, or packed with eggplant and fresh vegetables into hummus-smeared pitas.
Anoush Shawarma isn't especially remarkable, but its location in the vicinity of the Rogers Centre makes it a noteworthy spot for cheap and cheerful pre- or post-game grub. It beats out nearby Liberty Shawarma for sure, considering the recent string of DineSafe infractions.
Liberty Shawarma in this 'hood is still a good bet, though the folks behind Paramount Fine Foods are soon to introduce a new contender. Fresh East, a Middle Eastern sandwich shop, is due to open on Lynn Williams in the very near future - we'll have to wait and see if this upsets local allegiances.
Skip Ghazale in Little Italy and head further west where better options include College Falafel and District Oven - keep going further still to the very edge of the neighbourhood to find my top pick, Arabesque, a quaint unassuming Middle Eastern cafe where crisp falafel are nestled into pitas with lemony hummus, chopped veggies and deliciously zippy hot sauce.
Concentrated around Bathurst in North York are a number of top-notch falafel spots, including King David, Tov-Li, Orly and Jerusalem. The winner for me is Dr. Laffa with its fresh-made flatbreads slathered with hummus and packed with crispy fried falafel, fresh veggies, tahini and fiery zhoug (hot sauce).
Get your falafel fix at Alexandria Falafel in Parkdale where a rainbow of fresh toppings, including tabouleh, chopped onions, pink pickled turnips, shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes are available to customize deep fried chickpea balls nestled into flat bread.
Queen West is bookended by Me Va Me and Rose City Kitchen. Admittedly, I frequent both spots because they bake bread fresh on-site (laffa at the former, pita at the latter), a huge perk in my eyes. While the laffa wraps at Me Va Me satisfy seriously big appetites, I'm going to give this one to RCK for original snack-sized variations including the signature with tabouleh, carrots, lettuce, garlic oil, cherry harissa and home fries, (OMG I love fries in my falafel). Also noteworthy: you can get a falafel-topped poutine or salad.
Liberty Shawarma on Queen East has also been troubled by recent DineSafe issues. Tabule, a vibrant sit-down eatery, is the better alternative. Here, falafel can be ordered among an array of dips and salads, to be shared around the table with cocktails in hand.
Scarborough is a big place where great falafel abound - among them are Aldar Shawarma, Mr. Shawarma, Amazing Shawarma, and Shawarma Empire. The winner for me is Armenian Kitchen on Victoria Park north of Eglinton. The casual Middle Eastern eatery makes an excellent hummus which perfectly complements its crispy, fresh falafel, either wrapped in pita or served atop a collection of dips like the aforementioned hummus, labeneh and babaganoush.
ST. CLAIR WEST
Mezzetta Restaurant & Tapas Bar is a unique restaurant on St. Clair where the menu comprises various small plates like salads, dips, stewed or fried vegetables and grilled meats. Each dish is priced at $3.75, and guests are advised to consume a spread of five selections at a time. Not to be missed are the tahini-dressed falafel, best paired with goodies like fried eggplant, tabouleh, hummus, harissa and mixed pickles.
Thornhill and the surrounding area is rich with good falafel - shoutouts to Me Va Me, Sofra Grill and Yehudale. My No. 1 is unquestionably Sababa, part restaurant, part Middle Eastern grocer - I like to order at the take-out counter where falafel are fried fresh to order and then packed into exceptionally fresh pitas that are wood-fired on-site daily. The standard dressings include hummus, tabouleh, pickled turnips, tahini and hot sauce, but the counter packed with salads and dips always beckons me to add in the fiery Turkish salad (a garlicky tomato paste-like dip) and creamy babaganoush.
YONGE & BLOOR
Falafel House is not fancy, but still gets an A+ for frying its falafel to order. Opt for the "super falafel" all dressed and with the deliciousness of roasted eggplant tossed into the mix.
YONGE & COLLEGE
Lebanon Express and Pita Way are solid picks for standard pita-wrapped falafel sandwiches, though newcomer, Just Falafel is offering an interesting non-traditional take on its falafel-focused menu. As an arm of an international chain of vegetarian fast food eateries that originated in Abu Dhabi, Just Falafel serves classic flatbread wraps as well as cross-cultural variations like the Italiano, Indian masala, or el picante Mexican.
YONGE & DUNDAS
Paramount Fine Foods, located across from the Eaton Centre, is by no means my favourite falafel in the city, but it's one of the fastest, freshest and most affordable foods in the hood. The pita wraps here are packed with the classics; crispy falafel, fresh parsley, onions, pickles, turnips and tahini. While the sandwiches are solid, for me the main attraction here is the fresh baked manakeesh, which I like slathered with labneh and za'tar, then paired with tabouleh and a couple a la carte falafel.
YONGE & EGLINTON
Flaming Stove is a hidden gem at the corner of Yonge and Davisville that's tucked into back of a Hasty Mart. The lunch counter stocks ready-made delicacies like a crispy, puck-shaped falafel that comes paired with roasted eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and cauliflower and tightly wrapped in sheets of markouk bread with tabouleh, turnips, tahini and amba, a tangy pickled mango condiment.
YONGE & WELLESLEY
Vegetarian platters at M'Zaar on Yonge St. come loaded with half a dozen freshly fried falafel composed of mashed chickpeas, parsley and onions. Served with hummus, chopped salad and mixed pickles, the platter makes for a hearty meal, while the handheld pita wrap is a satisfying option to go.
What did I miss? Disagree with my selections in the comments.
Top photo of Dr. Laffa.
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