By Liz Witbeck
The Falafel Den on Phila Street has moved, but only a very short distance, to a larger space.
The establishment moved from 6 Phila St. to 10 Fila St., in the same block just off Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs.
The spot at 6 Phila St. was only about 100 square feet of space. It was mainly a takeout restaurant. Prior to being the Falafel Den, that location was occupied by Alpha Dogs, which specialized in hotdogs to go and had a few other menu options.
Falafel Den took the small space over in 2014, owned by Zouhir Lian. Lian was born in Syria and moved to the United States in 1990. He lived in New York City for many years before moving to Saratoga Springs in 2012.
Soon it became obvious that Falafel Den would need more space. The 10 Phila St. location became available and Lian opened there in July. It has 400 square feet of space, which means room to accommodate many more people.
“Our business has doubled so far since opening here,” said Lian.
The inside is adorned in red and gold, with decorations and artwork on the walls. Colorful fabrics drape the counters.
A falafel is a crispy patty made from chickpeas. The patties can be eaten by themselves, but are often served inside of a pita bread along with other vegetables. It is a traditional and popular food in the Middle East. Falafel is a popular dish in countries such as Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and more, the owner said.
“There are lots of people who come here. We have had people from Albany, Lake George, Clifton Park,” said Lian. “There are lots of Greek, Turkish people living around here. They like to come here because they can get good food. This restaurant has been a way to join all of these communities together.”
He said the falafel is the most popular seller at the eatery. The wraps are prepared fresh right in front of customers. Guests can choose their own vegetables to add to the wraps. Popular additions include cucumber, tomato, onion, hummus, and tahini sauce. It is a healthy sandwich and makes a delicious lunch choice.
“Everything is fresh. We make everything right here in front of the customer,” said Lian.
Gyros are also popular at Falafel Den. Chicken and beef are roasted for three to four hours on a vertical rotisserie, directly inside of the shop. The meat slowly turns, producing a delicious flavor. The gyro meat can be served inside of a pita bread with fresh vegetables and tzatziki sauce, or on a platter on a bed of rice.
Other Middle Eastern specialties include hummus, stuffed grape leaves, gyro salad, pita chips, and baklava.
“People are surprised to find this restaurant here in Saratoga,” said Lian.
For college students, Falafel Den offers a 10 percent discount. There is also a 10 percent discount for military members.
Catering is available through Falafel Den for weddings, birthday parties, graduations, corporate events and more.
Lian plans to eventually offer delivery to the Saratoga Springs area.
With the success of the business, Lian is considering opening more locations. He said he wants to expand the business and bring similar foods to the area with partners that he has in the restaurant industry.
Falafel Den is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. For more information, visit www.falafelden.com or call (518) 886-9192.