Washington, D.C.-based Amsterdam Falafelshop is expanding to Miami.
The small chain started in 2004 in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood by Scott and Arianne Bennett, who were inspired by the many falafel and chip shops found throughout Amsterdam and throughout Europe, combining Middle Eastern flavors with famous Dutch-style frieten.
Now, the restaurant is coming to South Florida. Ajay Patel, a Florida restaurateur, has signed a multi-unit franchise deal with the chain to bring four locations to Miami-Dade and Broward over the next few years, with the first shop opening in Miami Beach late 2015 or early 2016. Other potential locations include Downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale, with all four shops completed by 2018.
The restaurants feature Amsterdam murals and European motifs, with a help yourself topping bar as the focal point of the cozy cafes. As with any restaurant, there are some rules — including not stuffing your falafel balls into your purse to leave no room for more toppings. A sign warns that doing so might result in YouTube shaming and/or the restaurant having to morph into yet another pizzeria.
The Naples-based entrepreneur who owns and operates nearly two dozen restaurants, says that he was particularly impressed with Amsterdam Falafelshop and saw a need for it here in Miami. "I always come to Miami with my family and found that many of the restaurants serve pre-packaged or frozen foods. You can tell when you're eating it.
I wanted to open restaurants that serve fresh food, prepared in-house. I spoke to a lot of friends and colleagues and they all agreed that the trend is to eat healthier. People are aware of what they are eating."
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Patel explains the concept of the fast-casual restaurant. "You order your falafel sandwich and then you take it to the topping bar. We have almost 20 toppings and each one is hand made in the kitchen of that restaurant each day. There are also half a dozen dressings. You can take your time, no rush and add whatever you like. There are a lot of options and may combinations."
In addition to the falafels, served as sandwiches or in bowls, Amsterdam Falafelshop offers Dutch fries. Patel says these are different than the typical American offerings in that they are double fried and have a different seasoning blend. Although he wouldn't divulge the secret, he did say that a blend of five or six different spices was the key to the unique flavor profile.
More news from Amsterdam Falafelshop, including locations, as we receive it.