Falafel Quest, Vol. 1: The Fat Greek

Photo by Baz Ramos

Address: 994 East University Boulevard, Tucson

Price of Falafel: $5.41

I’m just like you. I never went to any highfalutin falafel university. I’m no east coast falafel elite. I’ve never even made falafel on my own. I’m just an average guy who loves eating falafel. Let’s take this journey together, one bite at a time. To the Fat Greek!

Bite 1: Too hot. This bite winds up being smaller than initially expected. I cannot take this lightly.

Bite 2: I’m still on the cusp of the first ball, but I’m already getting the idea. I have a sinking feeling. What painfully obvious falafel this will be! I lose my first piece of lettuce. It lands on the table and leaves a smear of viscous-looking sauce on the surface. I eat the lettuce anyway.

Bite 3: A heavy topsoil of tomato and lettuce suffocates what looks like a scant two falafel balls. With each bite, I make a choice. Tomato and lettuce, or falafel? It seems physically impossible to get everything in my mouth at once.

Bite 4: I decide to just pick out a falafel ball and eat it sans sauce, without even worrying about the topsoil, that lettuce/tomato complement. It’s an awfully mealy ball, kind of like eating deep fried sawdust. But I reserve my judgment. Lemme get to bite 6 – or ball 2, whichever comes first.

Bite 5: Bread, lettuce, sauce. The sauce is all right. A little heavy on cucumber though. What kind of crazy sauce is this? I’m baffled.

Bites 6 and 7: These bites are the for real bites. Most of the lettuce has fallen out. The sauce has all dripped to the bottom of the wax paper to become an ocean lying in wait. Yes, yes, bites 6 and 7 are always the next level bites.

Bite 8: This bite confirms it. What’s bad about this falafel is that it’s not good. Where is the subtlety? The delicate, intricate spices of falafel should reveal themselves to you slowly. The outside should have a different texture and flavor from the middle – and in the very best falafel, you aren’t even necessarily talking about a simple outside/inside dichotomy, but rather about myriad layers of tastes within tastes. Falafel should be symphonic. Melodies and motifs should drift in and out. Each instrument should provide its own texture. There should be enough to warrant repeated listens. Then one day you hear that faint trombone line in the background of measure 97. Oh, how many times you’ve heard this symphony, yet the sound has lain hidden until now! This falafel is like every member of the orchestra holding the same note.

Bite 9: Apparently there’s raw onion in here. That it took me 9 bites to hit the onion tells you something about the falafel’s construction.

Wrap-up: You’ve heard of Munchies, right? Munchies is a cheesy snack mix comprising Doritos and pretzels and Cheetos and Sunchips. At the height of my pot-smoking days, back when I was 15, Munchies was the best. What forceful flavor! No 15-year-old with a joint in his hand wants the taste of subtlety.

The Fat Greek is located right on the University of Arizona campus. I can’t help but feel that their lack of skill reflects their clientele: stoned U of A dudes rolling by the local falafelry after a post-class burn turn, busting out the ’95 Scott Walker (that’s what kids listen to, right?) and craving that full blast flavor. To this end, the Fat Greek understands its audience, and this may speak in their favor. But I’ve outgrown this nonsense. Bring me my grownup falafel. Get with the times, Fat Greek – my times.

RATING (Remember: on a scale of 1-4 pictures of Sean “Spread-it-On” Munro licking my head):



Benjamin Rybeck

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About benjaminrybeck

Benjamin Rybeck reviews books for Electric Literature’s The Outlet, HTMLGIANT, Kirkus Reviews, The Rumpus, and Three Guys One Book. He is a former editor-in-chief of Sonora Review, and a current reviews editor for The Destroyer. His fiction has appeared in DIAGRAM, Guernica, Monkeybicycle, Ninth Letter, PANK, The Seattle Review, and elsewhere, and has received “notable story” and “special mention” distinctions in The Best American Nonrequired Reading and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, respectively. He lives in Houston, where he recently finished a novel and a short story collection.

One thought on “Falafel Quest, Vol. 1: The Fat Greek

  1. I should have warned you about the Fat Greek–its whimsical name, convenient location and tasteful interiors have ensnared many a Tucson newcomer. I might direct you next to the Greek Patio–where the sign proclaims FREE DRINK WITH PURCHASE OF VALUE MEAL. No wifebeater, no service. –Jon W.

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