Review: Sabra Grill! »
You climb a narrow staircase to get in here, and the noise from Chinatown/FiDi/Union Square fades away. The walls are covered with Jewish and/or Israeli art/photography/iconography (the Dalí print is a highlight). The owner is a big, friendly, intimidating man. The last time I was there, the waiter’s yarmulke had Mario (as in, one of the Super Nintendo Brothers) embroidered on it.
Important note: They close two hours before sundown on Fridays for the sabbath, and they close for Jewish holidays, too. I recommend checking an online calendar before getting your hopes all up for the food. I have made this mistake, and it’s crushing.
I have eaten there about 10 times now, at first during my painful FiDi lunchbreaks, and most recently with my cousin who had never had falafel before. Sabra probably ruined him, as it is doubtful he will ever find such divine little falafels outside of the Holy Land. The service is not the fastest, but everyone is so polite, and I think the prices are quite reasonable. One of my omnivorous friends got the lamb sandwich, and sang its praises to the heavens.
The lamb, friends, is not what I am here to tell you about.
THIS IS THE BEST FALAFEL I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. It has ruined me for all other falafels, and I have eaten a lot of balls of fried chickpeas in my life. I had NO IDEA that falafel could be so fucking moist and crispy and delicate and goddamn, just thinking about it has started me salivating like Pavlov’s dog, the falafel is just so fantastic. Not kidding.
But! I completely forgot about my other favorite part of Sabra: the pickles. I am barely a pickle person; sometimes I can choke down a few bites of a sweet pickle, and I generally have no problem with relish in and on the many things you can put it. Real pickley pickles, though, much like raw cherry tomatoes and soft grapes, make me absolutely gag. Biting into one of those things is one of my worst food experiences ever. This is why I like sweet; they’re teeny, unintimidating, pleasant every once in awhile. What Milka is to Lindt 70 percent, so is the sweet pickle to the dill.
Sabra’s pickles are no wussy-baby sweet pickles: they are thick slices of juicy, salty dill pickles that they give you on a plate before bringing you your precious falafel. And I love them. I could, and once almost did, eat myself sick on them. It’s hard to share them. Just these lovely pickle slices in front of you, calling your name. Sabra changed my life, or at the very least, changed my palate.
If you are visiting the city, it is just inside the famous Chinatown gates on Grant Avenue, and after an hour (read: more than one minute) wandering around that neighborhood, an hour of quiet upstairs at Sabra with the city’s best falafel is exactly the remedy for your case of exhaustion/overstimulation. Tip: If you only want a falafel-in-a-pita lunch, order the falafel sandwich. It is not on the big menu, but sometimes they forget to give you the small sandwich menu, so be sure to ask for it.
[external photo by Brett L.]