When I told my friend I wanted to check out Mamoun’s Falafel her first reaction was “Really? Of all the places in Hoboken you pick Mamoun’s?”. I take her rebuke in the vein of “literally everyone goes to Mamoun’s you unoriginal ignoramus”, as opposed to any deeper critique of the wonderful delights Mamoun’s has to offer. Fortunately for me, my friend did end up going with me, and had never been there, giving our mission just a little more purpose.
Mamoun’s Falafel does not fala-fall short on any point. Located on the corner of 5th and Washington, Mamoun’s is a staple spot for cheap, filling middle eastern cuisine. All the basics are covered here, from shawarma to baklava to (of course) falafel. While the menu might seem simple, there is beauty in specialization; every item is top notch and well crafted. In addition to the basics, the most striking menu items to me were the beverages; Mint Lemonade, Tamarind, and Mamoun’s Spiced Tea all caught my eye and sounded delicious.
While I usually go to Mamoun’s either for a quick grab-and-go lunch or for to satisfy some late night cravings, today we were going for the full three-course meal. Keep in mind, Mamoun’s is one of the few places in Hoboken you can do that for a budget of 14 dollars. In my indulgence, I got the signature falafel plate with salad, pickles, and beats; a lentil soup; a knafe; and the Mamoun’s Spiced Tea, which intrigued me so much I couldn’t help myself. After an incredibly short wait (given that the place was full), our order was ready at the counter.
As an Eastern European, lentil soup is one of the few foods I’m ever snobbish about, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised by Mamoun’s take on the dish. Unlike most versions that I disapprove of, where the soup is simply some questionably cooked beans in an artificially flavored broth, Mamoun’s was a delightfully rich and full-bodied soup that carried itself well, especially when scooped up in some pita. After, unfortunately, finishing it, I proceeded to wash it down with the spiced tea, which surprised me again. As opposed to the heavily cinnamon-ed and sweetened black tea which I was expecting, I received a refreshing, cold, literally spicy black tea, which went much better with the flavors I was eating. Of course, the tea was not spicy in the way their hot sauce is spicy (SERIOUSLY ONLY FOR THE BRAVE), but you could certainly feel the spice tingling through your mouth as you drank the tea. Both are definitely worth getting.
After finishing my appetizer it was time for the main course: the falafel plate. Seeing as how I’ve gotten this dish a thousand times at Mamoun’s, there were no surprises, and it was as perfect as ever. The falafel balls themselves were incredibly savory, slightly salty, and had an unidentifiable kick to them after they were chewed up, while the outsides were delectably crunchy and led to a moist inside, which is a rare balance to strike. In comparison to the balls themselves, the salad was just as good if not better, providing a slightly sweet, tangy, and refreshing counter point to the heaviness of the balls that can quickly dry out your palette. Combining these two items in your mouth by scooping them up with some pita is the Cuisine Corner Recommended ™ method of consumption, which lets the flavors mix to maximum effect in your mouth.
After almost wanting to pop from all the food we had already eaten, my friend and I turned our attention to the knafe, which shares a lot of characteristics with baklava. Where as baklava consists of layers of filo with walnuts and honey in between, the knafe consisted of layers of shredded filo with pistachios and honey. While those may seem like minor differences, the knafe has a very different feel to it. The shredded filo provides a completely different texture compared to just plain filo layers, while the pistachios gives the dish a slightly different flavor compared to walnut. In my opinion, the shredded filo makes it, because the shredded filo clings on to more honey in each bite, making each bite more honey than filo. Overall, it was a refreshing dessert and a great capstone to our meal.
Mamoun’s offers something with Hoboken generally lacks; cheap food for any time of the day. I can’t wait to go back and try their shawarma.