Nestled in the sleepy Montclair district is Amba Falafel, a curious hybrid of the commercial and the reverential. Owner Jonathan Wornick has dual ambitions — to create America's first Israeli street food chain, and to make a community hub for the East Bay's significant Jewish population. On one hand, Amba keeps strictly kosher, has a ritual hand-washing station with prayers and yarmulkes, and shuts down on Friday nights and all day Saturday (in observance of the Sabbath). But Amba is also a purveyor of top-notch Israeli street food: crisp but chewy falafel, creamy house-made hummus, and a killer fried eggplant sandwich called a sabich. Wornick has empire-building on the mind, and future Amba outposts may not be as friendly to the religiously observant. But at the original location, Orthodox teenagers can chow on pizza and French fries, Chabad members can knock back a beer or two, and Jews and gentiles alike can feast on affordable, well-prepared Israeli fare.
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