Mamoun's Falafel

Mamoun’s Falafel – Greenwich Village

Mamoun's Falafel
Neighborhood: Greenwich Village
Cuisine: Middle Eastern

The original location of what is now a nine-store empire, I’ve walked by this Greenwich Village location of Mamoun’s a thousand times in my life without ever going in. I feel like in my previous life in the city there were occasionally lines trying to get into the absolutely minuscule store. And other times I peered in through the heavily stickered window into the tiny, sweaty-looking box of a restaurant and thought, “Not today ptomaine. Not today.” But in the year of our lord 2024, caution is out the window because the world is a burning pile of nonsense. So why not?

Because my last consideration of Mamoun’s was probably somewhere in the late 90s, I didn’t realize they’d franchised out Mamoun’s face to joints in NJ and even as far flung as Atlanta. Now, I’m not going to argue the legal entity definition of “franchise” versus “expansion,” but the point is that the proliferation and businessification of this family-owned and run restaurant away from its humble beginnings kind of cheapens the experience for me. Because when you’re in this original, Greenwich Village location, nothing could feel more organic and authentic. The small cave into which you step to order at the well-worn counter feels a bit like a late-60s wood-paneled rec room. Hand-written signs mixed with a simple board above the counter laying out a small menu of either sandwiches or platters of falafel, kebabs and shawarma. This is all after side-stepping the dude drinking some super-alcohol-powered malt beverage sitting at the makeshift table out front, the mouldering ATM machine chained to the exterior and the bustling groups of weed-smoking locals, tourists and tweakers. Not to mention the security guard chilling in front of the COVID-era street shanty set up for the neighborhood restaurants that were once parking spaces or places for assholes to double-park while they ran in to grab a falafel. It’s all very NYC.

In retrospect, I may have ordered wrong. I was hungry, so a falafel sandwich didn’t sound like quite enough. Instead I went with a “Bleecker.” It’s a chicken kebab and falafel sandwich with tomatoes, onions and tahini. I assume they don’t have chicken kebab sitting around — maybe because nobody orders it, or they actually just happen to cook them to order — but I sat at one of the tables/not tables inside the space waiting for about five minutes or so for my sandwich. Watching as the proprietor bellowed out other orders as they came up. His voice is pretty booming in the extremely small space. This is a cash-only business, much like my local falafel shop, which I don’t think I saw written anywhere, but was made obvious as each person pulled out their credit card, only to be admonished by the same bellower. Anyhow, my sandwich eventually came up, I grabbed it and walked the five feet to the aforementioned lean-to/shanty box off the curb. I tried to not think about what exactly the moisture was under my chair. And pretended it didn’t feel like I was in some sort of bizarro drug den, with the smeared windows and diffuse light coming in through the spots placed on Mamoun’s exterior. Again, it all felt very NYC, in that I ignored the disgustingness surrounding me and just focused on my food and the music blaring in my headphones.

Like I said, I may have misordered. I should have gone classic. That said, I found the falafel a little toothier than I generally like it. A little stiff, like it had been sitting for too long. And it was not plentiful. For $11, I kind of expected more. The chicken was well cooked, though, but again the toothiness was little too much for me. I don’t love a chewy chicken. I’m not sure who does. The flavor of the char was good, but it was just the wrong side of chewiness. Not bad, but maybe could have used a few more hours of marination. And more tahini. The onion and tomato mix was good and correctly balanced. What I wish I had done was order something with hummus, however. I felt that missing in my sandwich. Which, ultimately, was more of a chicken kebab sandwich than anything else and was missing some of that nice, silky measure of garlicky chickpea mash and oil. So, moisture, I guess. In any case, I appreciate the old-schoolness of the place. I like the verging-on-unclean aesthetic. I don’t know if the industrialized nature of their falafel creation (there’s a YT video showing that they make the mixture off site in giant batches for their multiple locations) has compromised the quality or freshness of the product, but I’d certainly be willing to come back to test my theory. But, this time, I’m getting the hummus, dammit!

119 Macdougal St. (bet. Minetta Ln and 3rd St.)
no phone