Over the weekend, we were watching an episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. One of the restaurants profiled were serving up falafel. And all of the sudden, it was all I could think about. I suggested to Mystic that our Sunday outing includes a stop at a falafel place.
I can’t say he was completely on board for a first taste of falafel, since chick peas are on his weird and wonderful little list of things he doesn’t like, but he was more than willing to help me satisfy my own absurd needs for it.
A few early morning text messages with friends to find the best place to go, and we were on our way to Montclair to get my falafel fix. Beyond Pita is a little blink-and-you-miss-it place on Church Street; small doesn’t begin to describe it, but isn’t that how some of the very best places are? There is a little one-person-wide counter where you can place your order, and a tiny spot for about four people to wait comfortably for their food. No place to eat there, so this is a grab and go type of joint. Or grab and sit in your car across the street, which is what we did.
Not knowing if he was going to like falafel, Mystic went with their beef kebabs to play it safe. These are not your traditional kebabs on a stick, though. The meat is stuffed into a pita, along with a dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. In fact, as we were opening up the packages, I actually thought his was mine, because aside from the main component, they look pretty much the same. The beef was pretty tender (even though he gets his meat super well done, nothankyou), but although the meat was not high-flavored, it had a slight hint of something sweet. The most ridiculously messy sandwich to eat, it was one of those that once you pick it up and start, you’re not setting it down until you’re done. The pitas are soft and fluffy, but really do fall apart too quickly.
My falafel was stuffed into a pita with the same dressing/veg combination that Mystic’s kebab was, as well as the addition of crisp pickle pieces. The fritter was crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. So.very.good. I could have definitely gone back for a plate of the chick pea fritters on their own after that.
If beef kebabs or falafel is not your thing, fear not. Their limited menu actually features many more non-Middle Eastern items as well. Sandwiches, traditional salads, or french fries anyone? They smartly cut a slit in the top of the french fry container to allow the steam to escape and keep the fries nice and crisp. They were the perfect combination of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were definitely worth getting, and I had to stop myself at just a few.
Beyond Pita also has stuffed grape leaves (not my thing), hummus, and baba ghanosh. I would have loved to try the hummus and baba ghanosh, but that will have to wait for another visit. My only gripe is that I wish they had smaller portions available of some things. The hummus, for example, is $4.50, and I would have loved a little side option available so I could try it without the full-on commitment. You know, like dating. Crispy pita chips and baklava completed our spontaneous curbside afternoon feast.
While we were waiting for our food, we saw them making a Phillie’s Cheese Steak (their spelling, not mine), and I’ve got to say, it looked mighty tempting, especially given our recent search for a decent one. After reading some reviews on Yelp and Urban Spoon, we’ll definitely be going back to try it. It was even named the Best Cheese Steak in New Jersey in ’08, by readers of New Jersey Monthly magazine.
Falafel Hut is another place in Montclair to get your Middle Eastern foodie fix too, and on our list for another day. Because Mystic? Now likes falafel. And I love that.
A few notes before you go:
- Easy on-street parking is available
- No credit or debit cards are accepted – cash only
- They were voted the runners-up for Best Falafel in New Jersey in New Jersey Monthly magazine.
82 Church Street