Day 11: It’s just another Meatless Monday.
So I’m a devout carnivore, and I feel just incomplete without a healthy portion of animal protein in at least every meal of the day. As I continue to open my palette however, I’m also learning about all the delicious options for meatless StreetGrub in NYC. So on this 11th day in June, I will declare that it’s just another Meatless Monday (did you also sing along to my homegirls the Bangles?). First GrubSpot is a little known halal cart on 50th and Park that I’ve been told makes the freshest falafel pitas. For all you falafel-newbies, it’s basically a ball of ground chickpeas fried up to a dark brown crisp. I’d never had a chickpea by itself before, and haven’t the slightest clue how they look, but deep-frying anything instantly makes it grubworthy in my book.
My platter came with a rich orange-colored rice, a basic salad of lettuce and tomato, the fried falafels and sauteed eggplant (which I’ve refused to eat all my life- not really sure why) – all covered liberally in a blanket of white sauce (I asked for extra!). This second sampling of white sauce was worlds different from my first at Uncle Gussy’s. This was thicker, creamier, and tasted more like heavy sour cream, whereas Uncle Gussy’s was on the lighter, more refreshing, yogurty side, which I actually preferred. Every falafel was covered in sauce, and although I ate them immediately, they were mostly soggy. The parts that were left uncovered did have a nice crunch to it, but the overall sogginess was a different experience I’d imagined when I saw how crispity brown they were out of the fryer. I should have just gone for my usual, and let them decide on the proper sauce ratio, so I feel as much to blame.
The flavor itself was very nice – savory, nutty, earthy, and substantial (almost meaty dare I say) and the insides were crumbly and chewy. The rice was medium grain and was rich and flavorful, like it was cooked in a vegetable broth of carrots, onions and garlic. The creamy tanginess from the sauce, combined with the savory rice and falafel made each bite heavy, but with a taste well-balanced. I have to say, on the texture-enjoyment scale, the falafels scored pretty low (mostly from missing that nice crunch), but the rice and sauce were good. The eggplant, I nibbled on, but just couldn’t finish. It has a very mushy consistency that I find largely unappetizing. These guys had a pretty hefty line of loyal customers, but my feeling is that with a tad less sauce (or possibly on the side), the crunch of a properly-fried falafel would have made for a much yummier meal.
For my midday snack, I found another fruitstand and got myself a bag of bananas and pears (I’d never eaten one of these before). That kept my stomach nicely at bay until dinnertime. So my falafel lunch wasn’t what I’d hoped for, and when I found myself in front of a Rafiqi’s in Tribeca, I just had to try it again. I ordered a falafel sandwich with their meatless toppings and received a large pita encasing falafels, lettuce, tomato, corn, red beans, and onions. I made sure to ask for less white sauce, and it did the trick.
The falafels were super crunchy, and tasted just a tad lighter than the ones at lunch. The flavor was similar, but were less crumbly and a little moist inside, resulting in a smoother bite. The salad of veggies, surprisingly, reminded me nothing of salad. With the pita and falafel, I felt like I was eating a sandwich of meaty heft, and I actually enjoyed it! I’d figured that for dinner, my inner carnivore would have long awoken but I was wrong, and with a day full of veggies and fruit, I actually felt satiated, and immensely satisfied. I suddenly remembered a reader’s NOMination for Crisp on Wheels‘ falafels, and coupled with Diana from Bian Dang’s recommendation for Cinnamon Snail, I’ll gladly devote next Monday to another day of meatless grubbery.