Falafel platter, Pita Alsharq

Just over the city limits, in west-suburban Harwood Heights, the Lawrence Court strip mall is home to eight different restaurants, representing the food of Poland, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Italy, China, and the Middle East—specifically, Palestine. Friend of the Food Chain chef Alan Lake recommended it if only for its falafel. The fritters are fried to order and hit the table piping hot, with a thin, greaseless, crackly crust that practically shatters under pressure to expose an unusual interior.

They’re made with chickpeas instead of favas—nothing unusual about that, but the filing is very smooth, almost cakey, as if it was made from chickpea flour rather than coarsely mashed legumes. They have a fairly intense herbal, almost floral note to them as well, no doubt from the ample amount of parsley therein. Here, as in the Levant (or “sharq”), falafel remains an astonishingly cheap thing to fuel up on. At Alsharq, a sandwich with hummus and Jerusalem salad runs a mere $2.99, as does a six-piece platter with tahini. Don’t forget to ask for the skhug, the red chili sauce that never seems to come to the table at most Middle Eastern restaurants unless it’s asked for.

I always like to dredge my falafel through the hummus or the musubbaha, the chunkier hummus-and-whole-chickpea combo. At Alsharq a formidable brimming bowl goes for $4.99, but though it’s prettily dressed with sumac, chiles, parsley, and olive oil, it’s missing some much needed garlic and lemon; the lentil soup was similarly underseasoned.

The skewers are skillfully grilled; chicken breast is surprisingly tender, the shish kabob nicely charred and juicy like the coarsely ground kefta. (A combo platter with rice is $11.99.)

بالهنا و الشفاء!

Pita Alsharq, 7336. W Lawrence, Harwood Heights, 708-867-7955