Falafel is at its best when it has the yin and the yang -- crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
These meatless wonders show the depth of rich flavors that are possible in snackable form. You can dip them in a tahini or tzatziki bath, stuff them into a pita, or display them on a platter with hummus and tabbouleh. Regardless, they are the stars of the show.
From kosher and traditional to wacky and green with peas and fava beans, what follows are the top falafel balls in Miami.
See also: Ten Best Meatballs in Miami
10. Pita Loca
For more than a dozen years, Pita Loca has been serving delicious falafel balls in either a pita ($6.99) or baguette ($8.99) in South Beach. If you thought taking a regular, and doubly unkosher, ham and cheese sandwich to the beach was good, try these balls between bread. You can also opt for a falafel plate ($12.99) that is like a trip around the world with French fries, Israeli salad, and tahini.
9. R House
For a sweeter and greener falafel, try R House. It's a very, very fine falafel ($13). It has the deep, satisfying flavor of traditional chickpea balls with a tinge of newness. The sweetness contrasts the tangy chunks of heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, feta, olives, and tzatziki.
8. Daily Bread
Give us this day our Daily Bread, and forgive us for loving falafel so much. Seriously, the falafel platter ($6.95) at Daily Bread is not something to mess with. Prayers must be said. The balls are soft with a hard shell and served with tomato and onion salad with lemon mint dressing, velvety hummus, and tabbouleh. However, the pita here is sublime and adds to the enjoyment of the meal and the balls.
Bay Harbor Islands may have the views, but they also have the food. Le Pine is an island favorite. The falafel, along with lentil soup, are big standouts. However, the falafel as an appetizer ($7) or in a sandwich of homemade pita with pickled and spicy turnips is extremely tasty.
6. Pita Hut
Serving sensational falafel since 1997, this "hut" now has two locations, in Miami Beach and North Miami Beach. The falafel have all the marks of greatness: light and golden-brown, warm pita bread, and fresh sauces. You can get seven balls as a starter for $6.99 or in a pita ($7.99) or laffa ($9.99) sandwich. If you wanna go wild, splurge for the falafel plate for $11.99 for a taste of everything.
A vegetarian and kosher fast-food chain may not seem appealing, but we promise you, Maoz is the best. We go there weekly for three things: the falafel, the prices, and the free toppings bar. You can get the balls in a sandwich ($5.95) or a salad ($7.95). Whatever you choose, you get a visit to the unlimited salad/toppings bar. There are cabbage salads, pickles, carrots, tabbouleh, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, couscous, feta cheese, and many other treats. Don't forget to squirt yogurt, tahini, garlic, cilantro, and tomato sauces on top.
4. Basil Park
The sprouted falafel bites ($6) at the recently reviewed Basil Park are not to be missed. While the average balls may lean toward oily, think schweddy balls; these are devoid of grease. Have no fear -- they are still perfectly crunchy on the outside. And instead of regular tzatziki, the sauce also gets a healthy makeover with cashews, mint, dill, and cucumber.
The affordable falafel sandwich ($4.50) made our list of best lunches for $5 or less. At this market located in the Roads, you can get your grocery shopping done and have an inexpensive, healthful, and flavorful meal. The crisp balls come nestled inside freshly baked pita bread with tahini, cucumbers, and tomato.
Shaddai is one of our favorite spots for Lebanese food, and you can't go wrong with anything you order off the menu. The kibbeh in its meaty, football-shaped form is a masculine starting
quaterback appetizer. But the falafel is equally delectable with a mixture of chickpeas, fava beans, onions, and fresh herbs and best served with a dip in the tahini pool.
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1. Etzel Itzik
A sign near the kitchen reads, "At Itzik's you're at home." Biting through the crisp brown exterior and into the fluffy, warm, bouncy green interior is like plopping into your favorite chair. Exhale -- now you are really home. At this Israeli eatery you can get the balls in a pita ($5.95), on a baguette ($6.95), or as part of a plate ($7.45). Regardless of the vessel, the holy light of these balls shine through.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst