A former Tratto chef is making perfect Israeli falafel sandwiches in downtown Phoenix
File this one under "surprising places to get a perfect falafel."
I found Miles Palmer frying heavenly spheres of homemade chickpea batter in a tent in front of The Theodore, a beer bar on Roosevelt Row. Palmer also sells at Wren House brewery and offers home delivery through his pop-up Falaf.A.Lot, but I was glad I got to enjoy mine fresh out of the fryer.
Palmer was formerlya sous chef at Chris Bianco's Tratto restaurant. When he started his pop-up, he enlisted the help of his friend, roommate and fellow Tratto veteran, Cassie Shortino, who has also shifted gears to concentrate on a pop-up of her own.
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Does Phoenix really need a gourmet falafel?
Palmer fell in love with herby, green-hued, Israeli-style falafel while working at a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. When he came back to his hometown of Phoenix three years ago, he wasn't able to find any falafel made the same way.
At first, he was worried about starting his own gourmet falafel concept, but judging by the quality of his falafel, it was an excellent idea. Palmer's $12 pita sandwich is indeed one of the best I've ever tried. With a deep, dark brown exterior, the falafel looks at first glance like it might have spent too much time in the fryer, but looks can be deceiving. Under the crisp crust, the interior is vividly green with a light texture, thanks in part to the quality of the small-batch garbanzos from Napa Valley's Rancho Gordo, which are ground together with a healthy dose of fresh parsley, cilantro, mint and fresh fenugreek, and dried spices like coriander and cumin. Palmer grinds the raw spices himself, which he says makes them much more flavorful.
Perfection lies not only in the falafel itself, but the combination of condiments — sweet and tang from pickles, freshness from cucumber, richness from tahini and housemade hummus and herbal crunch from the fantastic falafel itself.
Palmer often switches up the ingredients in the pita, but during my visit he was stuffing his sandwiches with a cucumber and tomato Israeli salad, pickles, hummus, tahini and a Middle Eastern pickled mango condiment called amba.
In addition to the chickpea fritters layered inside the sandwich, Palmer garnishes each pita with a single falafel sphere to enjoy unadorned. It's the perfect opportunity to appreciate the subtle flavors and beautiful green color of the falafel before diving into the complex, sensory overload of one of the best Israeli falafel sandwiches in town.
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Details: Follow the @falaf.a.lot Instagram page to view the current menu and upcoming locations.