Haifa Falafel opens
The name and the photos on the wall are a tribute to the Israeli city owner Ali Usman left four years ago, at age eighteen. But Usman says it's not an Israeli restaurant-it's a Mediterranean restaurant, serving casual sandwiches and food from all over the Levant. As the second part of the name suggests, falafel sandwiches are a big part of the menu-but, Usman says, "it's going to be different than the way you [usually] eat it." Instead of wrapping the deep-fried balls of chickpeas, onions, parsley, and spices in pita bread, he stuffs them inside, producing a pocket pita sandwich-good news for people who love falafel sandwiches but hate the way the ingredients tend to sploosh out the bottom of the wrap. Other sandwiches include turkey shawarma-thinly cut, rotisserie-cooked turkey meat; kofta, which is ground meat with parsley and onion; and shish tawook, which is marinated chicken on a stick. Usman also serves what he describes as a "unique" salad that contains tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and lemons, and a version of coleslaw that substitutes lemon and salt for the traditional mayonnaise. Sandwich prices range from $5 to $7.
Usman, who's pursuing a nursing degree on the side, learned the restaurant trade as a teen working in restaurants owned by his family. He wound up in Ann Arbor at the recommendation of his older brother, who lived here already, and he's enthusiastic about his adopted hometown. "It's a college town; it's a very successful town," he says. "I like it."