King’s Falafel / Королевский фалафель
ul. Usacheva 32/36
Metro Sportivnaya (See Map)
Middle Eastern: Traditional & Fusion
Snacks for $4; Meals for $8-10
In my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, there is only one place to get falafel—a tiny little roadside café named “Falafel King.” The best place to get falafel in Moscow is a tiny little café in the Sportivnaya market named Королевский фалафель, or “King’s Falafel.” The two are unrelated – but the name and variations on it – seem to be the most popular for kiosks, carts, and tiny cafes around the world that specialize in this vegetarian-friendly, middle-eastern dish. There is even an online game where you can run your own falafel cart – both the game and the fictional cart are called “Falafel King.”
Moscow’s own King’s Falafel was recently opened by a retired Georgian engineer who first tried and fell in love with the dish while on a business trip to Israel. Offering a totally meatless menu in a city where a great number of potential customers staunchly believe that “a meal,” by definition, must include meat, might be considered a little crazy by some. However, this tiny café and its owner take great pride the purity of the menu, its low prices, and, of course, its delicious falafel.
Owner David Tetro, in an article with Moscow’s The Village magazine (in Russian), claims that he uses a secret recipe, and I think there is some truth to that. His falafel was not as heavy or “sticky” as some I’ve had, but at the same time it was not at all dry, a cardinal sin in falafel making, in my view. My dinner mate and I ordered falafel in a pita wrap. It turned out to be about the size of a large hamburger, only cheaper and much tastier at just 109 rubles (a Big Mac in Moscow will set you back about 150 rubles or a bit more than $5). The pita was stuffed with plenty of onions, tomatoes, and fresh cucumbers. My only complaint is that it could have used more “wet” toppings—more sauce or tahini (sesame paste), for example.
The menu here is surprisingly varied and includes unique localizations. There were many other items on the menu that I would have liked to try, like “shakshuka,” which, according to Wikipedia, is a Middle-Eastern version of popular Mexican dish, huevos rancheros. But I did order what I thought was the most intriguing dish—a bowl of falafel pelmeni for 60 rubles. It sounds exotic at first, even daring—the Middle East meets Siberia—but when I bit into the first one, I realized that these falafel dumplings cannot be said to be anything but scrumptious.
To drink I had a bottle of tarkhun (a delicious sweet drink made from tarragon that the Georgians actually invented) and all together my bill came to just 204 rubles, or about $6.50.
I plan on visiting Korolyovsky falafel again soon. The owner was very friendly and was happy to show us what garbanzo beans looked like when I got into an argument with my friend about how to say the main ingredient of falafel, garbanzo beans, in Russian. (Arguing about how to say things in Russian, by the way, is one of the most popular pastimes for Russian majors. In case you are wondering, it’s нут in Russian.) For many years the trend has been for Russians to move to Israel, but now a bit of Israel has moved to Russia. I for one applaud Tetro’s decision to open a vegetarian fast food restaurant in Moscow. Here’s hoping that falafel pelmeni become the next big thing.
For groups and faculty-led tours, Королевский фалафель may well be a possibility to try out, especially with its interesting and vegetarian-friendly twists on Russian and Central Asian cuisine (try the falafel cheburek!) It’s also located reasonably conveniently to Novodevichy Monastery and Cemetery, a visit to which we regard as one of Moscow’s most rewarding experiences! File the kids in and have them order everything to go. Then, head north-east and eat your lunch in Usadba Park before catching the metro again at Frunzenskaya! See our map for details.