207 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North, VIC 3068
|Opening hours||Wed-Sun noon-10pm|
|Features||Cheap and cheerful, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9041 9000|
A sunny yellow door is propped open with a massive sack of dried chickpeas. Middle Eastern beats filter out while locals filter in to a soothing little space of white-painted brick and soft green tiles.
Large ceramic plates piled with fresh garlic adorn the pale wooden bar at the window, while an industrial take on an oversized chandelier illuminates a chunky communal table further in.
With such a pun-tastic name, you might be expecting the decor equivalent of an inflatable, arm-waving novelty, but this place oozes quiet style.
Just Falafs is the first eatery from mother and son duo, Troy and Teresa Christou, whose backgrounds vary from running a vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula (Teresa) to managing inner-city operations Welcome to Thornbury, Brunswick Mess Hall, and Penny Black (Troy).
Simultaneously inspired by the falafel joints they saw on their travels – Teresa in Israel and New York, Troy in Paris – they decided to bring some of that happening modern Israeli food home with them. Maybe they threw the idea around just for laughs, but Just Falafs is no joke – this is seriously, seriously good falafel.
Everything bar the pita bread (they're from Vinuage in Moorabbin) is made in-house, from the iced tea to the baklava and everything in between – and man, what's in between.
They make their own falafel mix, green as the countryside with parsley and coriander, forming it by hand and cooking it to order. It's fried to a bronzed crunch on the outside, giving way to a herbaceous fluff on the inside.
The menu is a compact affair – falafels are available as a pita or a plate, and there are salads, dips, chips and a handful of sweets, like neat, petal-flecked rosewater doughnuts.
Salads are showcased on decorative ceramic platters and are enough to distract you from the task at hand – handsome mounds of charred broccoli florets dashed with fresh red chilli, green beans in a lush tomato sauce, wedges of butter-soft pumpkin, a fruit-flecked grain salad and golden coins of battered eggplant and zucchini. You can get one as a side or a bit of everything on a full plate. Go the latter.
The classic falafel comes with pickled cabbage, Israeli salad, hummus and tahini, other versions include cauliflower and haloumi, or fresh harissa.
Order a plate and it arrives like a delicious contour map – the chunky hummus landscaped to hold bright ponds of house-made green chilli and mango chilli sauce (if you ask for it, and you should), the mountain range of falafels drizzled in tahini, the Israeli salad draped with slivers of pickle.
If you're up for a pita, go spelunking through the depths of a sabich, where thin slices of fried eggplant are subbed in for falafel. The pita is fluffy but it's structurally sound, not one of those flimsy efforts that dissolves at the merest hint of moisture, and filled to just the right level with eggplant, sliced egg, hummus, pickled cabbage and Israeli salad. You bite down through punchy layers of flavours and textures. It's a trip.
Fellow southsiders, commiserations. Looks like we'll be crossing town yet again. And it's worth it.
Pro Tip: Get the picnic pack for two and take it to Edinburgh Gardens.
Go-to Dish: Sabich pita – with a side of falafel.