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You can tell the difference immediately between Amsterdam Falafelshop and almost every other falafel shop you’ve been to: the quality and value of the food is unparalleled. Amsterdam Falafelshop places a premium on consumer choice, providing a self-serve salad bar featuring 25 different toppings and sauces that are made from scratch in-house each and every day. The falafels and fries are fried fresh to-order, not sitting under a heat lamp. All of the ingredients are vegetarian and sourced from a local produce distributor that delivers to the restaurant every day.

Amsterdam Falafelshop began eight years ago in Washington D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and was created by Scott Arianne Bennett. Matt D’Alessio, the owner of the shop in Davis Square, quickly became friends with Bennett while he was studying in D.C. After living in Boston for five years, D’Alessio believed Boston could use a quick-service cuisine that was inexpensive, delicious and healthy. With small business in his blood, D’Alessio had always wanted to own and operate a business that provided a high-quality service to the local community. Voilà: Amsterdam Falafelshop in Davis Square.

For those familiar with the D.C. location, there are a few differences between the two locations. The Davis Square hub is more spacious and has added the falafel bowl in addition to the pita. D’Alessio added the falafel bowls and trays in order to “bring falafels to the mainstream.” This transformation makes the falafel more user-friendly by offering bowls for people who do not necessarily want to go through the pita “ball-crushing” ritual (see below). In addition, although the artwork largely remains the same, there is one new picture: an image of a storefront window with a view that gives diners the illusion of people-watching in an Amsterdam café.

When you first get to the restaurant, head to the front of the line and decide if you want a pita or a bowl. If you want a pita, there’s a (suggested) strategy involved. “Crush your Falafel Balls” to flatten your pita in order to maximize interior space for all of the delicious toppings. Then open up the pita and slip the toppings down the sides. In addition to the 25 fresh and homemade toppings and sauces, you can also season your dish with Old Bay, salt and pepper, malt vinegar and various Tabasco sauces. All of the toppings and sauces are simple, fresh and pack a ton of flavor in each and every bite. The pitas and the bowls are customizable so you can have a different meal each time: the choice is yours.

The falafel balls are perfectly crisp with a crunchy exterior and a chewy interior formed of chickpeas, garlic, onions, parsley, and jalapeño. My personal favorite is the Peanut Sauce, packed with lots of peanut butter, a bit of soy sauce, and a slight spicy kick at the end. The Turkish Salad is also delicious: sweet, tangy, and subtly spiced with tomatoes and onions, and flecks of parsley. Just a little bit on your falafel will pack in a wallop of flavor. The Baba Ganoush is incredible: perfectly smoky and beautifully creamy. But my favorite topping is the Fried Eggplant, which features a slightly smoky and crunchy exterior with a luscious and creamy interior – a MUST for all eggplant lovers.

Although the restaurant only opened two months ago, it already has 90 reviews on Yelp and a 4.5 (out of 5) star rating. In addition, the restaurant has been well received by media outlets such as The Boston Globe, multiple food blogs and the Somerville Scout. D’Alessio hopes to expand Amsterdam Falafelshop in the Boston area.

This restaurant is perfect for a quick lunch or dinner, people on a budget and for those who enjoy inexpensive food that is fresh and delicious!

Amsterdam Falafelshop – FIVE STARS

248 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144 (Davis Square), (617) 764-3334, www.falafelshop.com

Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Vegetarian

Prices: Falafel sandwich: small ($4.95), regular ($5.95). Falafel Bowl: $6.95/lb, add a pita to your bowl for $1. Fries: small ($2.95), regular ($3.95). Brownies: $2.50.

Hours: Mon – Sun., 11 a.m. – Midnight

Features: Takeout

Recommendations: Falafel with peanut sauce, Tahini, Fried eggplant, Turkish tomato salad, Beets, Baba ganoush

Payment Options: Cash, credit cards, checks

Parking: Street

WHY IT’S AN HKS FAVORITE: Located in Davis Square and only a short walk from Porter Square, Amsterdam Falafelshop offers both convenience and fresh delicious food for a customizable experience every time.

★  Poor ★★  Mediocre ★★★  Acceptable ★★★★ Very Good  ★★★★★ Outstanding

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: Ratings reflect my reaction primarily to food, with ambience, service, and price taken into consideration.

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