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Falafel balls (Courtesy Arianne Bennet of Amsterdam Falafelshop)

Falafel balls (Courtesy Arianne Bennett of Amsterdam Falafelshop)

The “strip” on 18th Street in Adams Morgan is a favorite party destination for locals and visitors alike. Amsterdam Falafelshop is a long-standing favorite of the night-lurkers who frequent the neighborhood’s bars. But unlike other establishments in the area that cater almost exclusively to the inebriated (such as Jumbo Slice), Amsterdam Falafelshop presents a product you would thoroughly enjoy sober.

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Photo courtesy Amsterdam Falafelshop’s facebook page

The entire resturant, as can be assumed from the name, is modeled after the Amsterdam coffeeshop (which is why Falafelshop is all one word). Instead of slinging grass, however, they are serving up delcious falafel sandwiches and french fries with a condiment bar that lets you create a unique and surprisingly nutritious eating experience.

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The key to the whole operation, of course, is the falafel balls themselves. Crunchy on the outside and full of crumbly-moist, herby goodness on the inside, they’re happily devoured by vegans and non-vegans alike.

Arianne Bennett, the President and CEO of Amsterdam Falafelshop, still lives above the shop with her husband Scott Bennett, the Chairman of the Board. They started the restaurant after being inspired by falafel shops in Amsterdam. “We were surprised by the fact that there were so many,” she said. “They all had amazingly fresh toppings.”

Toppings bar

Toppings bar (Photo courtesy Amsterdam Falafelshop’s facebook page)

They interviewed several chefs and tried their falafel recipes, then went to work with the one who had come up with the closest match to the falafel they remembered in Amsterdam. They adjusted the mixture until they were satisfied before opening the shop, and that same chef worked for Arianne and Scott for some time. Now, all of the employees know the proportions of chickpeas and vegetables that go in the falafel mixture and how to grind it, but the spice mixtures that go into the falafel and salads are secret recipes made offsite.

If you’re like Meera, you might be a bit miffed that they no longer have fried cauliflower in the toppings bar. They had to remove it to make room for some other goodies, but they do still fry up eggplant every morning and afternoon. It goes like hotcakes, though, so go by noon for lunch or before 6pm for dinner (Arianne calls this the “young people’s early bird special”) to get some.

Falafel sandwich with baba ghanoush and cabbage slaw

Falafel sandwich with baba ghanoush and cabbage slaw

Be forewarned the space is limited, the staff can be less than pleasant, and that it doesn’t take much for the place to turn into a madhouse. You won’t find plates, and this is on purpose – they don’t want you loading up on the toppings. I wish they’d revise the plate policy, though, given the limited seating. It’s nearly impossible to eat standing up when you have a coneful of fries in one hand and a sandwich in the other. Alas, the food is so good that we go anyway.

Freshly fried fries

Freshly fried fries

Meera and I take Amsterdam Falafelshop for granted since we live here but if you are visiting DC, don’t miss it. If not, don’t give up hope. There’s already a shop in Somerville, MA and new locations are coming soon!

Amsterdam Falafelshop
2425 18th Street NW
Washington DC 20009
202-234-1969

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