Leena’s Food

By | August 17, 2006

Leena’s Food
“World’s Best Falafel”
121 Oakland Ave
Oakland, 15213
412-682-1919
M-F: 10-10; Sat 10-? (will close early if it’s slow)

Let me ask you: How often is there truth in advertising? Especially when the advertisement is so in your face? I mean, Gullifty’s doesn’t really have the best desserts, Thighmasters don’t really shape your legs, and Exxon isn’t really environmentally-friendly, no matter how many smiling fish they put in their commercials. Believe me, no flounder, polar bear, or sea lion on this planet is happy for Exxon’s existence. They aren’t swimming around saying “geez, I sure was mad those couple of times when they spilled toxic matter into my house, but now? ….well, I just love those guys.” Nope, it’s all a sham. It always is. You just can’t trust ‘em, whoever ‘ey are. So when I saw Leena’s “World’s Best Falafel” sign, I took it with a grain of salt. “Everyone thinks they’ve got the best something,” said jaded old me. I didn’t even try it right away, despite the fact that I love falafel even when its crap. It took me years to even give it a go. But I finally did, and I cannot even believe I was missing out this whole time! I was a die-hard Open Flame fanatic, but now I realize that that was just plain old falafel. This is Fa-lafel!

OK, so I can’t really say that it is the world’s best falafel. I have only had falafel in one other country besides this one, at Lenny Kravitz’s favorite falafel house in Paris, L’As du Fellafel in the Marais district. That falafel was sooo good, but a different presentation altogether. I ordered a platter instead of a sandwich, and it came with all kinds of little things on the side and a couple kinds of sauces. No Lenny Kravitz to be found except in the evidential pictures on the walls, but if you’re ever in Paris, this spot comes highly recommended. Then again, almost all the falafel in Paris is gonna be good.

So maybe I can’t say squat about what the world’s best falafel is, but I can surely speak for Pittsburgh. First of all, Leena’s used to be a truck on Pitt’s campus, but just this year they’ve finally moved into a shop without wheels. This is nice because you always know where to find them, and possibly they will do more than just the lunch hours. Leena’s has other foodstuffs you can get, like gyros, hummus, grape leaves, mousakka, all that, but I haven’t tried any of that yet. Just the falafel. I’m sure the other stuff is at least halfway decent, but I haven’t gone there. I do know that all the meat is halal, which is a good sign.

But since I only know the ways of the falafel sandwich, let me share them with you. The ways are this: lemony, pickley, fresh, good. The basics of a falafel sandwich are traditionally pita bread, deep-fried chick-pea patties (that is the falafel), lettuce, and tomato. If you’ve had one before, you have probably had it with the creamy sauce that tops a gyro sandwich. This creamy sauce is way good, but I have no idea if it belongs on falafel. At Leena’s, that creamy sauce is nowhere to be found on the falafel sandwich.

Before you go huff and puff, let me tell you something – its damn good without it. I don’t think that normally it would be, but at Leena’s it is. That’s because there is something else special on it that I’ve not had on other falafel sandwiches in the ‘Burgh. A sort of lemony lettuce slaw and some pickled something-or-others are packed in with the slightly crushed falafels, and this changes the very nature of the sandwich. Instead of dry discs with a wet, creamy sauce to choke it down with, its more like moist balls with a juicy, tart lettuce bed and crunchy pickles all the way down. By the way, the pickles aren’t like Vlasic dills or something. I’m not even sure what veggie they are. I just know they are really good. And the lettuce slaw stuff is so great because there is plenty of lemon, including rind without pith, which is trés yummy. Even the falafels themselves are a little different, being green on the inside and the flavor of exotic spices.

Now I just need to go back and get hummus and gyros and all kinds of other stuff.  But I just can hardly do it!  I need that spicy pickle every time. MMM!  So luscious.  I think their only downfall is that all that juiciness makes for a wet, sloppy sandwich. It falls apart nearly every time I eat it, hands completely covered in falafel sauce.  It is quite possibly messier than even a Sloppy Joe.  But you see, that is how good the falafel is at Leena’s. I eat every last morsel of it, whether the sandwich explodes in my hands or not.  So if you are looking excellent and uncommon flavor, definitely go here.

GET:
Falafel Sandwich


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