#1: I Dream of Falafel (38/50 points)
Falafel: 16 points. Well-seasoned with a wonderful chickpea flavor, though it was a little confusing why the workers deliberately smashed the falafel.
Pita: 7 points. The local chain uses laffa instead of pita. It's a very good carrying case, but not as puffy as some versions around town.
Toppings and Sauces: 8 points. Pickles lend acid, salad provides crunch, and everything else compliments the falafel.
Overall Satisfaction: 7 points. It's a little corporate inside, and it'd be great if the falafel wasn't smashed. Still, this is an excellent falafel to have in the Loop.
Total: 38/50 points.
#2: Oasis Cafe (34/50 points)
Falafel: 15 points. Great chickpea flavor with a hearty crunch. Could have used a little more seasoning.
Pita: 8 points. Warm, soft, and yet still sturdy, this was the best pita in the Loop.
Toppings and Sauces: 4 points. The only category where Oasis struggles, the toppings of shredded lettuce and tomato are frustratingly subpar.
Overall Satisfaction: 7 points. Even with the lackluster toppings, the whole sandwich comes together beautifully.
Total: 34/50 points.
#3: Olive Mediterranean Grill (33/50 points)
Falafel: 13 points. Crisp, well seasoned, with a shockingly bright interior. Still could have used more chickpea flavor.
Pita: 6 points. Fine, but could have been warmer.
Toppings and Sauces: 7 points. The potato added to the order is inspired, and the salad has a great crunch.
Overall Satisfaction: 7 points. Carefully constructed, each bite has a little bit of everything.
Total: 33/50 points.
Olive Mediterranean Grill, 201 N Clark St #1D, Chicago, IL 60601 (map); 312-726-1234
#4: Roti Mediterranean Grill (32/50 points)
Falafel: 10 points. Crispy on the outside, oddly creamy and bland inside.
Pita: 7 points. A little dry, but sturdy and non obtrusive.
Toppings and Sauces: 8 points. Wish there were pickles, but the untraditional spicy sauce was completely addicting.
Overall Satisfaction: 7 points. Though there were no knockout ingredients (well, besides maybe the hot sauce), the sandwich comes together very nicely.
Total: 32/50 points.
#5: Tahini Mediterranean Cafe (31/50 points)
Falafel: 14 points. Crispy, and absolutely packed with chickpea flavor, this was one of the best of the bunch. Also, it was nice that it wasn't smashed.
Pita: 7 points. Even though it's not split open, the pita is warm and soft.
Toppings and Sauces: 4 points. The only disappointment. Way too much lettuce, and could have used some pickles.
Overall Satisfaction: 6 points. Everything tasted great on its own, but I wish the sandwich would have come together as a whole better.
Total: 31/50 points.
#6: Jaffa Bakery (30/50 points)
Falafel: 12 points. Great texture and chickpea flavor.
Pita: 6 points. A little dry, and not warm.
Toppings and Sauces: 6 points. Balanced and fresh tasting.
Overall Satisfaction: 6 points. The least stuffed of all the offerings, it was also balanced and easy to eat.
Total: 30/50 points.
Jaffa Bakery, 186 W Van Buren St, Chicago, IL 60604 (map); 312-322-9007
#7: Benjyehuda (30/50 points)
Falafel: 12 points. Very crispy, with a decent chickpea flavor; unfortunately, a little under-seasoned.
Pita: 6 points. Held together well, but wasn't quite soft enough.
Toppings and Sauces: 6 points. Tons of choices, including some very good pickles, but somehow still missing balance.
Overall Satisfaction: 6 points. Uneven distribution meant that all the ingredients didn't quite all come together.
Total: 30/50 points.
#8: Pita Express (29/50 points)
Falafel: 11 points. Very well seasoned, though could have used more chickpea flavor. Unfortunately smashed.
Pita: 7 points. Surprisingly soft, but still sturdy.
Toppings and Sauces: 5 points. Way too much lettuce, and the sandwich needed some kind of acidity.
Overall Satisfaction: 6 points. Very decent sandwich considering its location in the back halls of the James R. Thompson Center.
Total: 29/50 points.
#9: Haifa Cafe (26/50 points)
Falafel: 11 points. Though lacking a little complexity, the falafel has a good amount of chickpea flavor and a nice crunch.
Pita: 5 points. A little dry, but not bad.
Toppings and Sauces: 5 points. Not a lot of topping choices, and the lettuce and salad was very wet.
Overall Satisfaction: 6 points. All said, it's a balanced sandwich that is easy to eat.
Total: 26/50 points.
Haifa Cafe, 19 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60606 (map); 312-214-1144
#10: Taza (25/50 points)
Falafel: 10 points. Well seasoned and definitely not dry, but the outside wasn't crisp.
Pita: 6 points. Another average and serviceable specimen.
Toppings and Sauces: 4 points. As you can see from the picture, the toppings were way too wet. They were also bland.
Overall Satisfaction: 5 points. Fine falafel for the Loop, but not worth a trek.
Total: 25/50 points.
Taza, 176 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60606 (map); 312-201-9885
#11: Med Kitchen (23/50 points)
Falafel: 8 points. Very spongy and seriously lacking flavor.
Pita: 5 points. The pita has decent flavor, but came out cool.
Toppings and Sauces: 6 points. Pretty good pickles, and the salad had good crunch.
Overall Satisfaction: 4 points. Since the topping are piled on the pita instead of inside of it, it's really hard to eat. Doesn't really work.
Total: 23/50 points.
#12: Mezza Mediterranean Grill (21/50 points)
Falafel: 7 points. They looked beautiful, and the outside was crisp, but the inside was spongy and bland.
Pita: 5 points. Served on top of the pita instead of inside it, each bite was heavy and dense.
Toppings and Sauces: 5 points. Totally serviceable, but nothing great.
Overall Satisfaction: 4 points. Thanks to the heavy pita and spongy falafel, the total package is dry and bland. Also, not a very good value.
Total: 21/50 points.