Editor’s Note: Little Tel Aviv has closed.
“Don’t try this at home,” is, in essence, what Teddy Nachmias has to say when asked how he makes his falafel light and just this side of fluffy, instead of like oversized buckshot or loose, mushy pillows.
“When you make things at home, it will never come out like in a restaurant,” says Nachmias, who owns Little Tel Aviv in Minneapolis. At Little Tel Aviv, as on just about any street in the real Tel Aviv, falafel is a bestseller.
And, if you keep strict kosher, the falafel at Little Tel Aviv is your only choice in the Twin Cities. Since Fishman’s Deli closed last year, it’s the last kosher restaurant in the area. (You can, however, get kosher sandwiches and soups at Seven Stars Coffee House in Edina.) The kitchen is dairy, which means you’ll only find vegetarian items and some fish (usually tuna fish and an Israeli-style walleye sandwich).
Little Tel Aviv’s falafel — rich with smoky cumin and almost green with parsley — comes nestled in a soft, thick pita with slices of baked eggplant and a heaping serving of Israeli salad (freshly chopped tomatoes and cucumbers). Nachmias says he only uses English cucumbers, which are more flavorful and have less tough skin than their American cousins.
Nachmias, a native of Israel who came to the United States nearly 20 years ago, says that the key — well, one of the keys — to light falafel is starting with whole dried chickpeas, rather than canned or, worse yet, a mix. These are soaked overnight, then ground and mixed with parsley, cilantro, and onion. A little flour, a little salt, a little cumin, a little baking powder — there’s some lightness — and that’s the falafel mixture. This gets packed into just-tight-enough balls (another key) and fried.
But what really sets this sandwich apart is the bread, which Nachmias gets from a bakery in Chicago. It’s softer, thicker, and moister than other pitas, and made entirely from white flour, rather than a mixture of whole wheat and white.
“We don’t take any shortcuts,” says Nachmias. “That’s what makes our falafel the best in town.”
In a town with some good falafel, that is a bold statement, but one that Little Tel Aviv has the pedigree to back up. One thing’s for sure: There’s no need to try to DIY your falafel. Leave it to the experts.
Little Tel Aviv
Kosher (dairy) Israeli restaurant in Minneapolis
3238 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55416
OWNER: Teddy Nachmias
BAR: Beer + Wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Entirely / Often
ENTREE RANGE: $7-12