Dining

Eat like an Egyptian at Filfila

The restaurant’s roots set it apart from its local Mediterranean counterparts

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Filfila’s falafel salad
Photo: Beverly Poppe
Jim Begley

Filfila is an Egyptian restaurant masquerading as a standard Mediterranean joint. Hints are everywhere—from the Egyptian DVDs to the Cleopatra wallpaper border—but most of all, they’re on the menu. Scan past the gyros and Greek salad, and you’ll find an oasis between the dunes: ful.

Ful—spelled “fool” on the menu, apparently for the benefit of the inexperienced—is a simple dish consisting of fava beans amidst olive oil, lime, mint and tahini. It abounds with garlic and citrus; no wonder it’s a staple of Egyptian cuisine.

Restaurant Guide

Filfila Mediterranean Cafe
4130 S. Sandhill Road, 434-3043.
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Ful is the one outwardly Egyptian item on the menu, but while the rest of the choices sound familiar, their flavors will taste less so. Filfila’s falafel (say that three times fast) is the Egyptian version, shaped into discs rather than balls with a soft interior—eerily green due to the use of green fava beans instead of the usual chickpeas—in a lightly fried casing that offers textural variety with every bite. These are the first falafel in town to rival Sababa’s, the highest praise one can bestow in our humble burg.

Filfila’s baba ganoush is undoubtedly the best I’ve had since visiting Dubai. The mashed eggplant, awash in lemon, garlic and olive oil, conveys citric tartness and garlicky sharpness in every bite. This is the type of dish that could convince me to forego meat.

The ful, pronounced "fool," is a dish of fava beans amidst olive oil, lime, mint and tahini.

Ah, but a little further down the menu, I’m drawn back to carnivorism by the shawirma. Your choice of chicken, lamb or beef is presented in a rich, flavorful sauce swimming in spices—think cardamom and curries—with robust chunks of onion and tomato and served alongside airy rice. I found myself wanting more right after cleaning my plate. You will too.

Filfila’s owners are most likely trying to downplay their Egyptian roots in order to provide more accessible fare for the non-Egyptians among us. But in the end, it’s the Egyptian undertones that set the place apart. In these dire economic times, Filfila is the sort of quality, family-owned restaurant that deserves your patronage. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Egyptian cuisine, you’d be foolish not to check it out.

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