Travel Tuesday: How I Became the Falafel Queen

Tuesday, September 8, 2020


You know the line in Hamilton when Angelica says to Alexander, “I’m about to change your life” and then introduces him to Eliza?

That’s what my oldest son could have ceremoniously announced the day he was born.  It’s what my husband could have warned me the night he met me (and honestly, maybe he did - but his overconfidence is another story for another day).  It's what my college advisor could have told me in undergrad., when she approved me to go abroad to University Salzburg.

It is also what the Jerusalem Cafe employee could have said to me in the early 2000’s when my sister and I stepped inside for lunch on an otherwise ordinary September day.

Jerusalem Cafe is an eclectic restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri that serves Middle Eastern Cuisine like hummus, baba ghanouj, pita bread, gyros, and.......falafel.

I ate falafel for the very first time that day at Jerusalem Cafe somewhere around 2004 or 2005, and while maybe it didn’t necessarily change my life, it did instantly become my favorite food.

Throughout the next decade, I would go on to order falafel anywhere I could (which isn’t saying much, it’s not widely available in Oklahoma or thereabouts), becoming quite the falafel expert.  We're talking such sophisticated expertise that prior to 2008, my go-to falafel spot was.... Pita Pit on Campus Corner in Norman.  That was, of course, until I traveled abroad and discovered Falafel King, which I have blogged about no less than four times (here, here, here and here).

Located on Portobello Road, Falafel King is reason enough to make a trip to Notting Hill -- maybe even to  London.  Reason enough to go to Europe, maybe?  To get out of bed in the morning....?  It's worth debating.

When you step into Falafel King, you have 2 options: a full portion of falafel for 6 GBP, or a half-portion for 3.50 GBP (get the full portion, you must).  The best part?  Either one comes with complimentary mint lemonade.  And it is good.

Falafel King may or may not be the reason I booked our Airbnb on Portobello Road directly (well, it wasn't the whole reason, but it played a big role).  We headed there for an early lunch our first day in Notting Hill and I was thrilled when Joe affirmed that it was the best falafel he'd ever eaten.  Following our lunch date there, we stopped by Coffee Republic, just down the road, for Cookies & Cream shakes.  This drink consists of: a vanilla frappé + Oreos + whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top.  The best part?  It's only 588 calories!  Pretty sure the calorie amount and ingredient profile render it compliant with all mainstream diets of the moment, right?  They should hire me for their marketing.

Some time after our trip, I Googled 'Falafel King Portobello Road' (presumably just to check in on them and see how they were doing -- totally normal), and lo and behold, IT WAS CLOSED.  PERMANENTLY.  The pain and betrayal I felt was downright irrational; why hadn't they called to let me know?  Surely I could have booked a last minute trip to London to bid them a proper farewell?  Or maybe I could have given them a loan and helped sustain their business -- did they not think to ask me?!  Had they not read my multiple blog posts?  

In acts of protest and disbelief, I periodically Googled 'Falafel King Portobello Road' - whilst praying 5x a day for its return (okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration) - for months thereafter.  I just couldn't imagine ever returning to London without Falafel King.  Maybe I should just move there and open my own?  Sell all my possessions and relocate my family to Notting Hill so we could spend the rest of our lives recreating the recipe?  Or maybe I should just never visit London again?  Never travel again?  Never eat again?

Rest assured, none of those super reasonable plans ever materialized, nor did they need to - Falafel King is BACK!  In a different location (though still in Notting Hill), they have officially reopened their doors.  I don't know yet if the prices are still the same, if the mint lemonade is still free, or if it's still within walking distance from Coffee Republic.  I could probably Google all of these things, but I think a return trip there is a better idea. 

Who wants to come with?!









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