Falafel at the Center of Newest CookNSolo Venture

Falafel and fries from Goldie at 1526 Sansom St. Marissa Stern

It opened on April Fool’s Day, but the popularity of Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook’s latest venture is no joke.

The restaurateurs behind Zahav, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher and Federal Donuts have opened Goldie. The small but cozy joint is housed on the floor above another CookNSolo hotspot: Rooster Soup Co., the luncheonette and diner that opened in February and uses leftover chicken carcasses from Federal Donuts.

However, Goldie, which does not carry kosher certification, offers a staple that none of their other restaurants do: falafel.

“Our conversation about falafel started in 2008 when we opened Zahav,” Cook said in a release. “We spent a lot of time explaining to guests that Israeli food and falafel are not synonymous. And we’ve always found that when we travel to Israel, the places that serve the absolute best hummus or shawarma or falafel — that’s literally all they do. And that is what we want Goldie to be about.”

Goldie, so named for “baby Zahav” as “zahav” is the Hebrew word for “gold,” offers a short and sweet menu: a falafel sandwich with a choice of tahini sauces; falafel salad; hand-cut French fries​ with house spices, including “shawarma” spice, Shabazi spice from La Boîte and za’atar; and vegan tehina shakes that combine a base of tehina with Middle Eastern-inspired flavorings like Turkish coffee​ with halva, chocolate​ with Israeli Kedem tea biscuits and coconut​ with rose.

The menu — whose most expensive item is the falafel salad for $9 — is vegan, so dairy-free customers can also rejoice as the shakes won’t make them crumble into fetal position.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the line to get in stretched all the way down the steps leading up to the entrance. The spillover onto the sidewalk prompted passersby to stop and ask what everyone was in line for.

Once inside, as you stand in line beside the few tables for seating in addition to the window countertop seating facing Sansom Street, you order at the counter and wait for your name to be called. Open shelves with cans of spices, herbs and vegetables provide decoration.

For Solomonov, opening Goldie was a way to honor his favorite falafel place in Israel.

“In Israel, I consider Falafel Devorah in Karkur just outside of Hadera to be the best,” he said in a release. “The individual whose only job is to construct that super fresh, perfectly balanced falafel sandwich (heavy on the tehina) at Devorah is the true hero. ​We’ve always wanted to serve falafel in a place that could focus on just that. It would have been too obvious and distracting to open Zahav with falafel from the start.”

According to an article from Billy Penn, Cook and Solomonov have sought a falafel spot since Zahav’s opening in 2008. Dizengoff, the hummusiya, was almost Philly’s newest place to find falafel but, of course, that didn’t end up happening.

“There were a lot of places in Philly for people to get falafel already,” Cook said in the article. “Hummus was more interesting.”

The timing, however, was finally right to open Goldie when Solomonov found the building that now houses both Goldie and Rooster Soup Company. He was looking at first only at the bottom space, formerly Sansom Street Kabob House, which Rooster Soup now occupies.

The landlord refused to lease the space Solomonov was eyeing alone. Anyone who took the bottom spot would also have to take the vacant one above it, also previously a restaurant.

So after nearly a decade of planning and a year of quietly working on what has already made a loud impact on the Philly food scene, you finally have a chance to enjoy some true Israeli-style falafel.

However, you better get there early.

The restaurant is open daily for dine-in and takeout and opens at 11 a.m. But it closes when the last pita is sold, which could be as early as 3 p.m. as one writer from the Forward discovered on a recent visit.

Contact: mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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