VEGGING: Maoz Vegetarian

LOCATION: 3rd and South or between 11th and 12th on Walnut.

CUISINE: Falafel pitas and Belgian fries.

MENU: The Maoz sandwich consists of a fresh pita pocket, overstuffed with falafel balls, hummus and an optional helping of eggplant. If you don’t know what falafel balls are, well, they are really hard to explain, but if you think of them as a magical, fried and spiced, spheres of ecstasy that are somehow, inexplicably made out of chickpeas, you are getting close. Very close.

Although Maoz isn’t long on variety — the menu pretty much begins and ends with falafel sandwiches, falafel salads, and fries — it compensates for this by having an extremely diverse and surprisingly extensive salad bar. I find myself going for the veggie salad every time, which is essentially diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, which add just the right amount of veggie sweetness to the falafel sandwich. The cilantro sauce is also a big winner in my eyes, along with the classic tahini sauce. Maoz provides dressing cups so you can stock up on sauces and salsas and sample them all. Also, I know everyone describes salads as being fresh, but this stuff is really fresh, and on top of that, the salad bar always appears virginal, as if the staff are these magical elves, immediately wiping down and refilling the second after anyone touches it.

VIBE: Maoz is a franchise, so it can feel a little bit, well, franchisee. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since being somewhat corporate often offers a guarantee of consistent quality. The South St. location is super tiny, like a broom closet with a kitchen in it tiny. The food is always good but you may find yourself weaving through the crowd, trying to balance an overstuffed pita pocket, looking for a place to sit down. In the summer, you can usually duck down a side street and find a stranger’s stoop to eat on but in the winter the lack of comfortably seating becomes more of an annoyance.

The Chestnut St. location offers much more seating, which adds an entirely new level of ease to the experience. It can get pretty busy during lunch and dinner hours but I have never had trouble finding somewhere to squeeze in. The big, heavy, wooden box chairs and tables, in combination with the bright green, funky, tiled walls don’t exactly scream class and elegance, but I don’t think that’s what you are looking for in a neighborhood falafel shop anyway. Right? Right.

PRICE RANGE: Fairly low dough. A falafel fries and a drink is about eight dollars and the falafel salad is around nine dollars and comes with freshly squeezed juice. They also offer a junior meal deal which includes a smaller sandwich, fries and a drink for about seven dollars.

RATING: 7/10