Restaurant also has American-style menu items for kids

Published in the February 3-16, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Jimmy Khoury, prep chef, prepares a kebab for Mr. Falafel customers at the downtown eatery. Photo by Marty Cheek

Jimmy Khoury, prep chef, prepares a kebab for Mr. Falafel customers at the downtown eatery.
Photo by Marty Cheek

No doubt Euclid, the ancient Greek guy who invented geometry, would approve of the odd shape of Morgan Hill restaurant Mr. Falafel. The eatery is set in the heart of the downtown in a stand-out triangle-shaped building directly across the street from the Granada Theater. And if he might stop by for a bite, Euclid would no doubt enjoy the Mediterranean cuisine served by owner Art Nazzal and his busy staff.

Mr. Falafel is just one of a line of eateries run by the 41-year-old Nazzal’s family in Morgan Hill. Others include Betsy’s Restaurant, A.J.’s Cheese Steaks and Noah’s Bistro. Nazzal’s Palestinian father, Jesse, came to the community from Jerusalem and put labor and love into building a business feeding the locals in town with hearty and tasty meals.

“My dad opened his first restaurant in Morgan Hill in 1982,” Nazzal said. “I was about 5 years old and I’d go there every day after school and help out.”

There are a couple of tables for patrons to sit inside if it’s cold outside. Most customers enjoy eating on the small patio tables along the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, especially on sunny days when they can watch the downtown action.

The specialty of the restaurant named “Mr. Falafel” is… well, falafels. And what is a falafel? Many Americans are unfamiliar with the food which is a favorite tradition at meals among Middle Eastern cultures. It’s much like a fritter.

“A falafel is pretty much ground chickpeas with other vegetables and it’s ground up and seasoned, Nazzal said. “After it’s mixed, it’s shaped into a ball and deep-fried (in soybean oil). And then we make it into a wrap or a salad. It’s good and it’s really healthy, too.”

The restaurant serves a vegetarian falafel wrap in lavash or pita bread that comes with tomatoes, seasoned onions, cucumber, with tahini (an oily paste made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds) and spicy sauce. Its deluxe version adds hummus, eggplant and potatoes and wraps it in lavash. The menu also offers a falafel plate where customers get four falafel balls served with hummus and pita bread.

Besides its name-sake menu item, Mr. Falafel also serves shawarma wraps which are thinly sliced marinated cuts of lamb and beef, seasoned onions, cucumber, tomatoes with tahini and spicy sauce wrapped in lavash. There’s also a chicken shawarma wrap.

“Shawarmas are kind of like gyros, but in my opinion they taste better,” Nazzal explained.

And kebabs right off the grill are another favorite among patrons. The kefta kebab wrap is made with seasoned ground lamb and sirloin charbroiled to perfection and wrapped in lavash with tomatoes, parsley, seasoned onions, cucumber salad and tahini and spicy sauce.

For kids who might not be daring enough to try the more exotic cuisine of the Middle East, Mr. Falafel has a menu more suitable for American taste. The restaurant also serves old-fashioned hamburgers with fries, cheeseburgers and chicken strips. There are also Mediterranean versions of American-style foods such as a kefta burger with fries and lavash chips.

Mr. Falafel offers a selection of domestic and imported beers as well as standard sodas. Take-out is available as well as delivery in the Morgan Hill and San Martin areas. The restaurant also offers catering.

Nazzal emphasizes quality in the preparation of the cuisine he serves to his customers.

“We do everything here ourselves. We use everything fresh,” he said.