It's amazing how tastes mature with age. While I have always loved chickpeas and hummus, I hated falafel. It took a trip to Basil in Charlottesville, VA to change my mind. Now, I totally dig falafel. One of my friends told me about a great falafel place in San Jose that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
Falafel's Drive-In has been around since 1966, when the Nijmeh family moved to San Jose. They started out serving burgers, and then added their family recipe falafel to the menu. Customers have been raving about the falafel ever since.
AJ is stretching out his torso to prepare for lots of falafel.
The open-air seating was packed when we arrived on a late Sunday afternoon. As newbies we were a little thrown off by the two different lines that were forming. There is one to pick up your order and one to place your order. Don't forget to bring cash, they don't accept credit card!
The menu offers hamburgers and corn dogs, but the real treat is the falafel and other mediterranean fare. AJ ordered the special - a large falafel with a banana shake (no other flavors can be substituted for the special). The owner encouraged us to go with the banana, because it is the best flavor. I ordered a small falafel and then we sat down to wait for our number to be called.
The sandwiches came out quickly. The falafel comes in a pita pocket with cucumber, tomato, lettuce, hot sauce, and tahini sauce. This fast food version of falafel was real tasty! The falafel are fried to a nice brown with wonderful cilantro and garlic notes. These crisp balls stand up well to the huge quantities of sauces poured on top. I can't say the same for the pita bread, which began to disintegrate halfway through. While extremely messy, I thoroughly enjoyed the hot sauce - which seemed almost like a combination of sriracha and ketchup. While I'm not sure this is the best falafel I've ever had, I would certainly return.
These are extremely messy, but totally worth it.
The cold and creamy shake was a perfect compliment to the spicy falafel. AJ and I both agreed that the banana flavor was light and refreshing. Sometimes banana flavored things can taste so artificial, but this shake was the real deal.
Banana milkshakes are their most popular flavor.
Bottom Line: For a nostalgic drive-in experience and some darn good falafel, head on down to Falafel's Drive-In.
2301 Steven's Creek Blvd
San Jose, CA