Best Falafel

Chick-O-Pea's

On a wedding-anniversary trip to Paris, Kamran Nassiri and his wife watched lines of eager customers winding out of popular falafel spots into the streets of the Latin Quarter. Back home in the East Bay, Nassiri — who immigrated from Iran to Walnut Creek in the 1970s — resolved to open his own falafel shop following the Parisian model, featuring an array of toppings that patrons could add to their falafels as they wished. A Bay Area restaurant-business veteran and a strict vegetarian, Nassiri resolved to make his shop entirely meatless — not a gyro in sight — and use only biodegradable servingware and bags. A dozen different and mainly Lebanese-inspired options comprise Chick-O-Pea's falafel bar, from black-eyed-pea relish to herbed cauliflower to scorching-hot harissa, sweet roasted beets, pickled red onions, pickled celeriac, taratour tahini sauce, and mixed beans made elegant with garlic and gourmet-grade olive oil. Any or all of these can be ladled atop falafel balls in a startlingly thick crescent of freshly house-baked pillowy-soft-but-pliable pita for a juicy-chewy-crunchy-hot delight.

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