Middle Eastern food at Falafel Drive-In in San Jose, CA

Here is something that many of you would be familiar with. There is this popular restaurant not too far from where you live. You keep thinking of going there but dismiss it saying you’ll make it some other time since it is close by. That sometime never arrives until years go by. One such place for me is Falafel Drive-In, a San Jose icon to many. The popular falafel place on Stevens Creek Blvd not too far from Santana Row and Valley Fair Mall has been eluding me for close to four years now. This past weekend, famished from a 5K on a warm afternoon, a bunch of us made our way to Falafels Drive-In. Here is my brief review.

I had high expectations from the place. For one, I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean food in the Bay Area. I am huge fan of a couple of falafel places in Cupertino and specifically of Falafel Stop. I was hoping that Falafels Drive-In would match that and maybe, just maybe one up it.

The place is completely devoid of anything but a simple ordering section and generous seating in the front. The seating offers some nice graffiti on the walls for the viewers pleasure. Otherwise, the ambiance is stripped of everything. The menu was bigger than I expected ranging from falafels to burgers and shakes. We went with predominantly middle Eastern fare but for some shakes and one order of onion rings. A moment of weakness as one would call it due to the delusional nature of a just run/walked 5K.

The bulk of the order consisted of falafels in wraps, salads and just on their own. Throw in some pita chips and a bunch of shakes and that was the order for a party of 8. We generously helped ourselves to some of the spicy chili sauce offered to us. The food arrived pretty quickly which was impressive given the long queue on a Saturday afternoon.

The falafel salad was great. It had a generous helping of falafels to go with it. My one gripe was that the falafels had the taste and smell of oil- something I was not expecting. They tasted good. The spiced pita chips were great with the chili sauce.  The hummus was good. It had a lesser hint of garlic than I am used to. The pita bread provided with it was good but not great. I am pampered by the soft and out of the world pita at Falafel stop. I sampled the strawberry shake and pineapple shake and they were both sweet. Felt like it was made from ice cream which is a good thing.


Ambiance: 7.5/10. Nothing to speak specifically of but the graffiti on the wall near the seating area. Given the lack of space, it is understandable and a creative use of a wall.

Service: 8.5/10. Service is no frills and very quick. Pretty much what is expected.

Food: 8.25/10. Food was good but not exceptional. I have had better Middle-Eastern fare, but not in very many places.

Price: 8.5/10. Reasonably priced with similar fare. You can fill your stomach with good food under $10 which is saying much.

Restroom: N/A

Overall: 8.25/10. It was a good experience and pretty good food. Unfortunately my very high expectations were not met. I should have set the bar a tad lower. Nevertheless, I walked away contented and happy. Would probably visit again in the future.