Best Vegetarian Lunch, Except on Saturdays

Amba

As falafel joints go, Amba approaches greatness: It's quick, fresh, inexpensive, and clean as a whistle, with food so good carnivores won't even miss the meat. Just one caveat: It's also kosher, so don't expect to find them open for business on Friday nights or Saturdays. With electric orange walls and a communal table, this spot exudes a welcoming buzz in Montclair, an Oakland neighborhood that's notoriously underserved by forward-thinking restaurants. Amba's huge hummus bowls are drizzled with copious amounts of olive oil, served with pillowy pita, and topped with something warm; choose from chickpeas, fava beans, mushrooms, or deep golden rounds of fried eggplant. Keep it simple with a couple of falafel balls and hot sauce, or cool off on a hot summer day with the Israeli salad, made with crisp cukes, tomatoes, parsley, and onions tossed with lemon and olive oil. Rotating specials like bourekas (cheese turnovers), moussaka, and flatbread keep the menu lively. Desserts aren't the focus here, but don't pass up a couple of crescents of warm, cinnamon-flecked rugalach to finish things off.

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