Bite of the Week is a weekly feature showcasing an exceptional meal or dish, curated by The Growler.
Falafel goes awry more often than it goes to plan—too stodgy, too bland, too mushy, too hard. The perfect piece of falafel has a crisp, mahogany exterior that gently cracks to reveal a tender (but not paste-y) interior, suffused with herbal brightness, warming spice, and enough salt and acid to tie the flavors together. St. Paul’s Zait & Za’atar seems to have cracked the code—not only is their falafel textbook delicious, but the Falafel Sandwich ($6) arrives in a wrap loaded with little cubes of cucumber, yogurt sauce, and thin ribbons of pickles, making for a beautifully balanced lunch.
Beverages are so often an afterthought, but it would be a shame not to celebrate Zait & Za’atar’s mint lemonade, which has to be a strong contender for best lemonade in Minnesota. Its ideal tart/sweet balance is elevated by mellow, restrained amounts of natural mint flavor. It’s a little bit strong, which means that when it hits the ice it’s watered down to perfection. Getting the sandwich without the lemonade would be culinary malpractice.
THE DISH: Falafel Sandwich, $6; Mint Lemonade, $3
THE PLACE: Zait & Za’atar, 1626 Selby Ave., St. Paul
THE REASON: This is one of the best examples of traditional falafel in the state, paired with one of its tastiest lemonades