Mediterranean cuisine has had a really rough couple of years in downtown LA. A couple of my favorites (like “Flames”) have disappeared, leaving only the consistently average “City Grill” to sling fast falafel in my neighborhood. Nothing could beat the recently-fried falafel ball that Flames served in a warm pita, so once Flames died out, I started patronizing City Grill – and started eating chalky, cold falafel balls wrapped in tough sheets of chewy pita bread. For $5.95, the City Grill falafel wraps were adequately satisfying (I wouldn’t call them “fal-awful” or anything), but there’s no substance there; their wraps are not exciting, they’re just repetitive and dull.
I was just about to give up on my search for the perfect falafel (godbanzo beans), but then “The Hummus Republic” strolled into town (incidentally, at the old Flames location on 7th Street). Hummus Republic specializes in “fresh, healthy, and fully-customizable food made your way”, and this isn’t just lip service. I’ve visited their new location (they have two other restaurants in Woodland Hills and Canoga Park) three times, and each visit has been a unique and satisfying experience. This is fast-casual, like Chipotle or Qdoba, but with a Mediterranean twist.
First, you choose whether you want a tossed salad or pita wrap. Then, you “stuff it” with either falafel, chicken seitan (Hail Seitan, the dark lord of vegan imitation meat), spicy chicken, or gyro beef ($1.50 extra). So far, so good, right? It gets more interesting once you choose one of three hummus options: Traditional, Roasted Pepper, or Cilantro Jalapeno (don’t be fooled by the name – you won’t have an uncomfortably spicy experience). Add some greens, spinach or red cabbage (or all three) and you’ve got a basic wrap/salad that you’ll be quite happy with. But don’t stop there.
Now that you’ve got a starter wrap, you can add as many sides and cheeses to it as you want. My goal is to make this wrap as difficult to wrap as possible, and I nearly succeed every time: baba ganoush, yellow chillies, sweet corn, mozzarella, feta, kale, beets, broccoli, cauliflower… lay it on me, son. Then, for the chickpeas-de-resistance, I get to dress it up with one of their many sauces! You can’t really go wrongwith just the tahini and Greek tzatziki dressings.
There are many other options for “sides”, including dolma, quinoa, a hard-boiled egg ($.95), or eggplant. But my favorite extra item is the side of hummus ($2.25 sm/$3.45 lg) and the fresh, warm pita bread (similar shape as a standard tandoori naan, but bigger). The large, fresh hummus is larger than the hummus that I buy at Trader Joe’s – which I always thought was a bargain. Come to think of it, I’d be happy with just one pita and a side of their cilantro/jalapeno hummus – and, of course, I’d have to wash it down with one of their fresh mint lemonades!
Did I mention that the falafel is freshly-fried? On a recent visit, the Hummus employee wrapping my delicious wrap asked his coworker on the line, “Are these fresh?” The co-worker replied that the falafel balls at the counter were fried around 30 minutes ago, so my Wrapper fried some new ones for me instead. Now, that’s what I call service.
With a name like “The Hummus Republic”, you really expect that they’ll give average citizens a voice and give the people what they want – with the as many tasty components as they want piled into their wrap. It makes me damn proud to be an American.
The Hummus Republic is located at:
225 W. 7th St.,
Los Angeles, CA 90014