Indulge me in this metaphor: In D.C.’s sprawling fast casual landscape, its vegan neighborhood is making quite a bit of noise. They’re the people actually updating Nextdoor. The neighbors that religiously attend ANC meetings. The people that seriously set up neighborhood watches. The research, the advertising and the constant catering to the community is working for them. Little Sesame has lines out the door. People travel from states away to dine on Pow Pow’s giant egg rolls. And diners are so excited about Shouk’s brand new falafel, that in the scant week it has been on the menu it’s already become their most popular sandwich, bowl and topping.
And it’s not just because people like falafel. If you’re looking to fill your stomach with fried chickpea goodness, there are countless options in the District. From OG’s like Amsterdam Falafel to super budget options like Falafel Inc. to fast casual empires like Cava, you could eat falafel morning, noon and night without eating at the same place twice. But Shouk’s falafel is different. Inspired by the falafel from owner Ran Nussbacher’s Israeli upbringing, all of Shouk’s falafel is made to order using fresh chickpeas and a secret mixture of herbs and spices (not unlike the Colonel’s closely guarded 11 herbs and spices).
You can taste the time, effort and heart put into every ball. Nussbacher and his co-owner Dennis Friedman spent months testing 30+ different versions of the falafel, carefully tweaking the herbs, spice levels, moisture and other specifics. Friedman even jokes that he gained 10 lbs of pure falafel during the testing period. Eventually, they brought in a panel of friends and had them blind taste test three different options. As they watched smiles break out over the faces of their trusted testing committee, the winner was obvious.
After nibbling on the pita and bowl options, we can confidently tell you that the best way to eat Shouk’s falafel is naked. Get a side order of the balls, a couple of dips (don’t skip out on their newest offering, a Yemenite schug sauce that’s bright, herby taste pairs exceptionally well with their new falafel) and go to town. Taste it with tahini, taste it with the harissa, cover it with schug and eat it by itself. You’re going to have a good time.
After listening to their diners and six solid months of R&D, D.C.’s most artfully constructed falafel (this is just a guess, but I’m going to roll with it anyway, just watch me) is finally here. Whether it is perched upon a grain filled bowl, purposefully placed in a pita, or served on the side, Shouk’s falafel is exactly what it sets out to be. Solid, dependable and delicious falafel.