Kadhim Alzubaidy emigrated from Iraq to Massachusetts in 1994, and two years later he opened Falafel King in Downtown Crossing, filling a niche in an area of Boston lacking in Middle Eastern cuisine. " Food is love, " Alzubaidy says matter-of-factly, and if his long lunchtime lines are any indication, he’s not the only one who believes it.
Don’t expect frills: Falafel King is a take-out-only, lunch-only stand tucked away in a food court that’s way more New York City than Mall of America (that’s a good thing). But if you want solid Middle Eastern cuisine for under six dollars, and quick, the King rarely disappoints. Alzubaidy is arguably the fastest plate-lunch slinger in Boston, doling out salutations — " How are you today, my friend? Excellent! " — as furiously as he does trays. One suspects that the time-pressed lunch crowd appreciates the efficiency of Falafel King’s staff of five as much as it does the consistently good food. Repeat customers often receive a falafel with hummus, gratis.
Falafel King offers salads, vegetarian and meat wraps, and plate specials that feature the usual Middle Eastern fare: lightly seasoned chicken or lamb and beef for meat lovers, and falafel, tabouleh, baba ghanoosh, and grape leaves for vegetarians. Standouts include crispy but not overcooked falafel and tabouleh that isn’t overpowered by the greens — in this case, the ingredients stand on their own. Crisp dills make the otherwise ordinary shwarma sandwiches ($4.50–$5.50) memorable, lending a tangy accent to the soft but not overly dry pita. The vegetarian and kebab-meat plates ($5.50–$5.75) boast a flavorful rice pilaf cooked in chicken stock with bits of noodle. No matter how busy things get behind the counter, the romaine lettuce is always crisp, providing a solid foundation for Greek, hummus, baba ghanoosh, and chicken or lamb salads ($3.75–$5.75).
Here’s hoping this King remains in the building.
Falafel King, located at 48 Winter Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (617) 338-8355.