[Photograph: Joe Roy]

Like Chipotle before it, I Dream of Falafel is the type of good-food-served-quickly joint that brings a tear to the Serious Eater's eye. The interior is bright and clean, freshly chopped ingredients are in plain view, schawarma spits are slowly turning their juicy wares, and best of all from my perspective, the deep fryers are bubbling away. One mark of a well-manned deep fryer is when you can smell the food contained within, with the oil aroma remaining faint at best. Another is when someone is actually there manning it, as opposed to items being pre-fried in advance and held for extended periods of time under a heat lamp. I Dream of Falafel hits the mark twice: when I came in, the air was imbued with the smell of falafels being dropped fresh into the fryer, ready for use in sandwiches or combination plates.

We've already established the superiority of the Falafel Sandwich at I Dream of Falafel, but the refrain bears repeating in regards to the Sweet Potato Falafels ($2.00 as a side) as well. The crispy orange stained exterior houses a creamy and well-spiced interior where "sweet" is the operative word. A quick dip in one of the many house-made sauces results in a bite that is more balanced than the sum of its parts. The selection I came away with is, clockwise from the left, tahini, habanero, and spicy tomato. Tahini doesn't cut it for me on its own, though its rich sesame flavor works well when used in tandem with one of the other sauces. The chunky habanero has a strong cilantro profile that is reminiscent of a blended Mexican salsa, while the spicy tomato is cooled considerably by the addition of creamy yogurt. No matter what you dip them in, though, this side order is good enough to stand on its own two feet, though I'd hardly complain if I found a few of these falafels housed inside a sandwich as well.

I Dream of Falafel

555 W Monroe Street Chicago, IL 60661 (map) and multiple locations


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