Falafel Salad Flourishes at Miami Squeeze, West Dixie's Hidden Gem
Falafel Salad at Miami Squeeze
Photo by Maureen Aimee Mariano
Trendy salad and juice spots have become commonplace in Miami. Lean, green eateries and fresh feel-good juice bars are popping up on every corner. But before there were place like Jugofresh and Market at the Edition, there was Miami Squeeze (18315 W. Dixie Hwy., 305-935-9544). Right off the train tracks on West Dixie, this farm-to-table hideaway, often overlooked by passersby, has been serving an eclectic menu of fresh Mediterranean, Asian, and pan-American fare to locals for more than 30 years.
Six years ago, owner Leron Shaaltiel bought the open-air rustic cabin from its previous owners and made a comeback through a more modernized, pocket-friendly menu of healthy meal and snack options, smoothies, and juices. But there is one stand-out dish Shaaltiel swears by — the falafel salad ($8.95). “This is our most sold dish,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you go; you’re not going to find a falafel like ours.”
As you can expect, it’s not the lettuce that makes this dish a must-try. The built-in components include tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and feta cheese topped with alfalfa sprouts, and, as the menu states, “the best falafel in town.” Slightly grainy yet nicely crisp, this authentic Middle Eastern staple is packed with satisfying flavor stemming from chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, garlic, and spices.
And the dressing? Unlike most restaurants with pre-fixed dressings, Miami Squeeze lets you choose from a lineup of sauces that is brought to your table with each dish ordered. Top it off with your choice of spicy mayo, tahini, balsamic vinaigrette, ginger, garlic dill mayo, curry, tzatziki, spicy peppers, or chipotle. Shaaltiel says people love the idea of choosing your own sauce.
“Everybody likes different tastes of food,” he said. “So as you eat, if someone likes more of the curry flavor, they can mix their salad with the curry sauce. Someone likes spicy flavors, we have those too. It’s what you want!”
Vegetarian Platter at Miami Squeeze
Courtesy of Miami Squeeze
You can also try the falafel on its own or paired with other dishes. Miami Squeeze offers both fresh and warm wraps, pita sandwiches, melts, paninis, and other platters including the fish of the day and veggie burgers. You can also grab a 16-ounce smoothie like the Fiji Breeze ($5.95) with bananas, pineapples, and coconut milk or pick a sweeter treat like the Heaven Ice Coffee ($6.95) with dates, cashews, peanut butter, coffee, and your of choice milk, perfect for hot Miami days.
But Miami Squeeze didn’t earn its name from the falafel. The juice bar features a selection of wheatgrass concoctions and fresh-squeezed juices available in 16-ounce cups for $5.95 and half-gallons for $24.95. Designed to cure any ailment, the Cleanout, as its moniker suggests, is a cleansing cocktail with apple, ginger, carrots, and beets. Or try the Stress Relief with garlic, parsley, carrots, and celery. And if you’re feeling under the weather, Shaaltiel recommends a kind of dosage that the nearest CVS can’t provide.
“We have the Flu Shot with ginger, lemon, and honey,” he said. “It’s really healthy and strong. Right after people take it, they’re like, ‘Oh my God. I feel a lot better!’ It helps a lot.”
It’s a place swarming with locals. There are workers on their lunch break seeking a brief getaway from the mundane office life. There are fitness junkies who’ve made this their pit stop after the gym, waiting to take a shot of wheatgrass. And then there are those who have never been to this breezy bungalow, looking to change their unhealthy eating habits, Shaaltiel says.
“I have a lot of people come in for the first time and they don’t know what to eat,” he said. “They don’t want to go fully healthy because they think the food won’t be good. But here, they realize the food is healthy and it tastes good.”
So the next time you’re in the mood for a fine assortment of leafy greens or other health-conscious selections, curb your cravings with a trip to Miami Squeeze. “I know it’s not out there,” Shaaltiel said. “A lot of people come here to run away from the city, and there are also a lot of people who don’t know about it, but once they come here, they’re going to fall in love and keep on coming. I guarantee it."
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