Though not by any means a quintessentially Parisian food, falafel sandwiches from the hip Paris neighborhood known as the Marais have become a must-eat tourist destination. No wonder—not only is falafel one of the best foods ever invented, but these messy pita sandwiches are a key opportunity to eat on the Paris street without garnering dirty looks from the locals. But which falafel place should you choose? There are three famous options within a block of each other, and serious falafel eaters have strong opinions about which one is the best. Here are the options.
L'As du Falafel
Paris's most famous falafel joint, this restaurant is item number two on David Lebovitz's list of 10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn't Miss in Paris—pretty high praise from a discerning Paris blogger. Lunch here is definitely an experience, not just because of the sandwich; it has the longest line, the most boisterous staff, and photos of Lenny Kravitz (apparently a loyal customer) on the walls. The falafel, hefty and drenched in tahini and intense in general, matches the zany ambiance. It's definitely good and probably worth getting just for the fun of it, but as falafel goes it's a little bit much for me. 34, rue des Rosiers, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 48 87 63 60
In contrast to L'As du Falafel, the falafel from this across-the-street competitor is elegant, almost delicate, with light, crispy chickpea fritters that are topped with perfectly roasted vegetables and a mild, salsa-like tomato condiment. This is the favorite Parisian falafel of Serious Eater Robyn Lee, who deems it "easily one of the tastiest falafels" she's ever eaten. I won't argue that it is quality stuff, and in a city where "salad" often means cheese and meat decorated a few pieces of lettuce, those roasted vegetables are a real treasure. But despite the restaurant's Hebrew name and probable Israeli ownership, the sandwich didn't quite taste like the ones I ate non-stop in Israel last summer. I'm used to denser, more flavorful balls, and a little more spice in the sauce would have been nice too. 27, rue des Ecouffes, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 42 71 53 72
This is the third party candidate in the falafel world, the Modern Apizza to the Sally's-or-Pepe's debate. Although it's just a few yards away from the other two restaurants, lunch here is a much calmer affair. Falafel comes with a choice of cornichons—Israeli-style, meaning sour and, in my opinion, better than French-style—or pickled peppers, and if you need more lunch than that, there's also a selection of tasty traditional desserts including baklava and strudel. The sandwich itself is nothing out of the ordinary, but the falafel balls were the tastiest ones I'd tried and topped, to my delight, with a hefty amount of eggplant. (2, Rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais 75004 , 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 33 01 42 72 18 86
Each of these falafels was unquestionably worth trying, but if I had to pick one place to go back to, it'd be Chez Marianne. The wait is the shortest and I found their falafel to be the most authentic—and let's not forget the pickles. (Though for the record, I don't think Modern comes close to either Sally's or Pepe's.)