Vegging Out at Union Square
An Amsterdam-based falafel chain called Maoz recently opened a small shop on the east side of Union Square. (I’d say a tiny shop, but straight across the square, just off the west side on 17th Street, is the sliver of a falafel shop called Rainbow.) Maoz has that chain feel, with a neon sign, slick little menus, a board displaying all the options plus a selection of “meal deals.” Their slogan seems to be Veg! Out, and the menu states, “It’s tasty and fun yet healthy, come and enjoy both worlds.” I haven’t figured out which worlds they’re referring to, but they seem to have three things on Chickpea, which is my favorite falafel in the neighborhood: a host of do-it-yourself toppings, awesome “Belgian” fries and hours that run past midnight every day of the week. Since it’s a little confusing when you go in, and they’re not wildly helpful, here’s how it works: First your order your Maoz, either plain (falafel balls and shredded lettuce in a soft, warm pita) or with hummus and/or eggplant. They hand it to you in a paper ring that steadies the pita for the onslaught from the condiment bar, which includes pickles, olives, cooked carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, coleslaw, pickled vegetables and five or six sauces. It’s amusing to stand by and see how much people actually try to cram (and balance) into a pita, and you have to watch where you step, as there are errant vegetables scattered about the floor. We only had two quibbles: The falafel balls themselves are quite dense, and they’re all at the bottom of the pita. Nevertheless, we thought our Maoz were delicious—jam-packed with roasted veggies, piquant pickles and a very spicy green salsa—and very filling.