100 Favorite Dishes: No. 85, Falafel at Zabak's

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Photo by Gary R. Wise
​This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

There's a reason that we keep giving Zabak's so many Best of Houston awards, and it's not just because we like the always-smiling family who runs this Galleria-area restaurant. Zabak's great falafels are one of the many reasons, too. After all, Robb Walsh once called them "the standard by which Houston falafels are judged."

Falafels can so often be dense hockey pucks of unidentifiable origin, but never at Zabak's. Here, the little discs are lightly crispy on the outside and softly crumbly on the inside, with a fine texture that's not too compact nor too loose. And like breaking open an agate, the dark brown exterior of the falafel parts to reveal an interior of aventurine green, thanks to copious amounts of parsley and fresh jalapeños among the ground chickpeas.

The falafels here are best enjoyed tucked inside a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, tahini and za'atar along with a few dashes of hot sauce -- in case the falafels themselves weren't already hot enough for you. If they are, just get a creamy pool of hummus to cool your palate between bites; it's an excellent pairing for a Houston summer day.

The list so far:

No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe
No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria
No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats
No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe
No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella
No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic
No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo
No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's
No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA
No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño
No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys
No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio
No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19



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Location Info

Zabak's Mediterranean Cafe

5901 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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12 comments
Lebanese 4 Life
Lebanese 4 Life

It's been a couple years, but the Zabak family attended my church.  They would often help out in the kitchen for large events.  This place, along with Mary'z and Cafe Lili, is an institution among the Lebanese community.

Nate
Nate

Man, these are good.  Love Zabaks.  Great chicken Greek Salad.  Awesome falafel.  And super friendly service.

Guest
Guest

Are they cooked to order? I can't understand why it's so difficult to find falafel cooked to order in this town.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

I've been enjoying these since 1988 when it was Mama's Po Boy on Hillcroft.  Definitely worth a try.

Greg Burland
Greg Burland

That does look tasty, I'll have to stop by and see how the falafel stacks up to House Of Kabob. 

The Rain Man
The Rain Man

hey, is this place owned by Bill or Roger Zabak? Thanks

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Yes, they are cooked to order.  They (the felafel) are prepared in the morning, though.

Feldman
Feldman

STOP THE INTERNET!!!!

WHAT??? This is a direct descendant of Mama's PoBoys from Hillcroft?? OMG!! That place was my first introduction to the falafel and I loved it. I worked at Hillcroft and Westpark and would eat there at least once a week. I never knew what happened to them after I left the area.

This is a serious revelation. Thanks for the tip FFB.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

It is George Zabak's kids.  Easy enough to find online.

Cape Cod Kid
Cape Cod Kid

hey fatty...  i tried this place a couple of weeks ago and loved it!!

Centralcooking
Centralcooking

I agree it is difficult to find good quality crispy falafel cooked to order in this town.I would love to start one if I knew a good Chef!Anyone interested?

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