When it comes to Middle Eastern street food, shawarma is generally the first thing to come to mind. But for us veggies, the falafel is pretty hard to beat. This little fried (or baked) ball of ground chickpeas, herbs and spices has always been a popular snack or meal on the go and can be found all cross Dubai.
After our fortnight of binging on these incredible snacks, here’s which places made the cut:
Where: The Beach, JBR
There is a clear mission at Operation Falafel: serving delicious street food in a relaxed, trendy atmosphere, and in my opinion, that mission has been quite successful! Their falafels are wonderfully crisp with a flavour that combines spices and herbs seamlessly. Enjoy them in a sandwich or as part of a falafel platter. Either way, you wont be disappointed. We particularly loved their Fiery Falafel Sandwich, which has a lovely spicy sauce that doesn’t overwhelm your taste buds.
Contact: +971 4 424 3098
Where: Al Khaleej Centre, Al Rolla Road, Mankhool
Although there is creeping criticism of Automatic appearing on various review sites, we’ve found the deep, rich colour and crisp coating of their falafels quite a treat – particularly in the Al Mankhool branch. There are over a dozen outlets now and naturally quality can vary, but it remains one of the most popular places for Arabic food for a reason. Note: if you’re dining at Beach Centre, you’ll need to head to the smaller cafeteria inside to get yourself a sandwich, as the main restaurant does not serve them.
Contact: +971 4 355 0333
Where: 16th Street (and 33B Street), Karama
Yahala is a childhood favorite and continues to be the source of many an evening snack or weekend dinner. No, there’s not much in terms of ambiance or service here, but it’s one of those hole-in-the-wall joints that has been around for decades – and that in itself is a testament to its popularity. These falafels there are not just delicious, they’re also a little piece of Dubai’s history.
Contact: +971 4 337 4095
Al Safadi Restaurant
Where: Al Rigga Street (corner of 37th Street), Deira
There are actually two Al Safadi outlets in town, the original location on Al Rigga Street in Deira, and the second on Sheikh Zayed Road. We tried the Al Rigga one and the falafels here are like mini donuts, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Instead of using any herbs, Safadi’s falafel sandwiches are packed with slices of juicy tomato and pickled turnips, giving them a tart flavor that adds some zing to the earthy falafel. Just be aware that the restaurant is pretty busy, so you may have to wait a short while to bite into some tangy goodness.
Contact: +971 4 227 9922
Where: Ground Floor, Jumeirah Tower Building, Sheikh Zayed Road
Nestled between the Emirates Towers and Financial Center metro stations on Sheikh Zayed Road, Zaroob is a good location for an office lunch, and its bright green and pink sign is hard to miss. The sandwich also comes with chopped mint and parsley, which together with the garlicky falafels adds to its deliciousness. Zaroob uses two kinds of bread for their sandwich: what they call leb, which is the usual white pita bread, toasted up to make it a little crisp, and saj, brown bread that’s softer and absorbs the flavor of the falafel quite well.
Contact: +971 4 327 6060
Just Falafel has some creative twists on the traditional formula, which can be a fun change from time to time. The Italian, for example, which comes with ciabatta bread with mozzarella cheese and tomato basil sauce. Having said that, the traditional route is still our favourite, so we suggest keeping it simple when ordering…
Sumati Menda is the founder of , an online vegetarian portal for recipes, features and a “grassy perspective” on restaurant reviews.