EDMOND — In its third year, Simply Falafel, 343 S Blackwelder, has added a third partner, bringing a wealth of experience to a little cafe with a large reputation for good food.
Inside a strip wedged between Target, the University of Central Oklahoma and enough traffic to warrant a control tower, Simply Falafel has gradually become a local favorite with its foods made fresh daily and a delightful selection of dessert.
The newest partner is Magid Assaleh, who bought into the locally owned cafe back in June.
Assaleh moved to Oklahoma in 1979 at age 28. The native of Qunaitra, Syria, found work at legendary Eddy's Steakhouse — first washing dishes, then waiting tables and finally as maitre d' in the bar.
Thus began three decades in the hospitality industry that took him through restaurants and country clubs, including Quail Creek Country Club and Oakwood in Enid.
In all that time, Assaleh never had a place of his own.
“People asked me all the time when I would open my own restaurant, and I would tell them ‘when I'm ready,” he said. “Now, I'm ready.”
But the good news was he didn't have to do it alone. In fact, he partnered with Moe Chahcoi, longtime owner of Saffron Grill in 50 Penn Place, and Chuck Miller, who'd opened Simply Falafel in 2010.
Simply Falafel already had built a reliable reputation, so Assaleh's biggest contribution has been passion, a deep understanding of hospitality and some ideas for the menu.
The specialty of the house is the dish the restaurant is named for, falafel.
“Our falafel is made from fava beans and chickpeas,” Assouleh said.
In the burgeoning restaurant landscape, gone are the days where the majority of places used the same dry mix and called it falafel. Diners now can to travel to different parts of the metro and find ethnic foods with unique recipes.
Nowadays, you can find plenty to love about the different falafel recipes from Mediterranean Deli, Gyros Etc., Nunu's Mediterranean Cafe, Zorba's and Couscous Cafe, to name just a few.
At Simply Falafel, the namesake dish comes on either a sandwich or as an appetizer, on a platter with pita, rice and choice of salad. You also can order kafta (a meatloaf kebab) or gyros the same way.
Mezzes, or starters, are Mediterranean standards, including hummus, tabbouleh, and baba ghannouj. In English, that's chickpea and sesame paste dip, a grain and parsley salad, and a roasted eggplant and sesame paste dip.
While it doesn't take an adventurous palate to enjoy these Mediterranean staples, for those who fear new horizons, choose from grilled chicken, lamb burger or black Angus burger.
The fattoush salad I tried was delicious. Seasoned with zatar and sumac and topped with crispy pita bits, the lemon vinaigrette was just right.
Assaleh said everything is made fresh from scratch daily.
That includes an array of desserts not seen at many Mediterranean restaurants. Besides the typical baklava, Simply Falafel also serves knafeh, an orange-colored pastry stuffed with mild cheese, and knafeh bi jiban, a variant of the same dish topped with shredded phyllo strands. The mild cheese is balanced by ultra-sweet syrup. Other desserts include namoura, a semolina-based, almond-topped sweet bread, plus a selection of cakes and phyllo turnovers.
Simply Falafel is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 341-4646.