Last summer, while walking through Paris's trendy neighborhood Saint-Germaine-des-Prés, I came across a petite falafel shop named Maoz Vegetarian. Inside was a long line of Parisians loading up falafel sandwiches with tabouli, tahini, and greenery from an expansive salad bar. And it cost less than 5 euros.
Then, after sampling the tender pita bread, the crisp vegetables, and delectable falafel balls, I realized Maoz was much more than just a cheap fast-food joint. It was fresh fare at a reasonable price. Immediately, I thought a Miami franchise of the Amsterdam-founded restaurant would be a great success.
A year and a half later, a Boca Raton couple named Rob and Leslie Ginberg have done exactly that. The South Beach locale for Maoz Vegetarian opened this week.
Like me, the couple first sampled the eatery while vacationing in Europe. In their case, it was at a Maoz location near Barcelona's popular street, La Rambla. They instantly saw potential for success in South Florida.
In 2008, they opened a franchise in Boca Raton's Town Center mall. It was a hit. This year, they brought the eatery to South Beach. Already, they have signed a lease to expand to Chicago. They hope to follow with other locations across Miami.
Maoz Vegetarian already has a presence in New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Located on Washington Avenue, right off of Lincoln Road, the restaurant is entirely vegetarian and certified Kosher. It offers a wide array of vegan and gluten-free options.
Like in Paris, prices are a great lure. Patrons can select either a falafel sandwich, which costs $5.95, or a falafel salad box, which costs $7.95. Both items include unlimited salad toppings from the self-serve bar. The toppings features red cabbage, carrots, tabouli, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, avocado, hummus, feta cheese and more. There are also a variety of sauces made out of yogurt, tahini, garlic, cilantro or tomato and onion.
The menu includes freshly squeezed juices for $3.50 to $4.50 and vegan soups for $3.75 (small) or $4.75 (large). Soups options change daily and vary from split pea to tomato basil to white bean.
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The restaurant is open seven days a week, as of 11 am. Sunday to Thursday, Maoz Vegetarian closes at 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, the eatery shuts its doors at midnight.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.