For those who don’t know the difference between a falafel and a loofah, the former is a fried ball of chickpeas and fava beans. A loofah is a bath sponge, but that’s not important right now.
They — falafels, not loofahs — can be served on their own, as a topping in salads and as the main ingredient in sandwiches.
Two restaurants within walking distance of the college grounds offer falafel sandwiches for under $7: Chicken Maison and Chicken Chick.
Chicken Maison, just across the street from the campus on Crenshaw Boulevard in the strip mall near the McDonald’s, won the coin toss to start first.
No, actually it won first try on mentioning it had pickled turnips in the sandwich. And tomatoes and parsley and onions.
Served on a giant flatbread, the sandwich looks like a giant burrito at first glance in its wrapping. The three falafel balls were large, a bit on the crumbly side, but had a good flavor. The turnips were just the right kind of bitter to accent the sandwich.
The sandwich normally comes drizzled with tahini sauce — sesame seed paste mixed with water, garlic and lemon juice — for those who like that sort of thing.
At a listed price of $6.75, it’s well within a student’s budget. Most of Chicken Maison’s fare is around $10.
A Persian restaurant just southeast of the campus across Crenshaw Boulevard, Chicken Chick offers its sandwich in a different way — in a toasted baguette.
Most places serve this sandwich with pita bread, but this baguette works — it’s fresh and has a good flavor, along with the tomatoes, parsley and crisp onions (word of advice: bring a breath mint or chewing gum after eating). Pita bread is also served as a side.
The four falafels are smaller but not as flaky as the ones at Chicken Maison. They had a more robust flavor as well.
Tahini sauce is also served on the sandwich. It tends to distract from the flavor of the sandwich. Its sour taste doesn’t go as well as pickled turnips offered by Chicken Maison.
Chicken Chick’s atmosphere is a lot less hectic than Chicken Maison’s and more comfortable. The falafel sandwich is just a few cents more at $6.99, but do take note the price of the other fare is a bit steeper here than at Chicken Maison.
While Chicken Maison offers pickled turnips and bigger falafel, the sharp flavors and fresh baguette Chicken Chick serves gives the latter a slight edge. They’re both very good sandwiches, and you can’t go wrong with choosing one or the other.
Chicken Maison is located at 15900 Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena and is open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and closed on Sundays. Phone: (310) 327-737. Website: http://www.chickenmaison.com.
Chicken Chick is located at 16300 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Phone: (424) 396-3437 or (424) 396-3438. Its menu can be found on Yelp.com.