Battle of the Brownstone Brooklyn Falafel: Darna v. Kulushkät
Rebecca Marx Darna's falafel
A few months ago, Darna chose to announce its imminent arrival in Cobble Hill with a rather intimate paean to its signature product. Posted on the storefront window, it read, in part: "... soft on the inside yet firm sexy brown on the inside. Being with you my love always leaves us stress free and healthy. ... We love you dearly ... Falafel." (Emphasis theirs, obviously.)
But even as the sound of crying doves slowly receded, another falafel purveyor was preparing to open a few avenues east in Park Slope. The project of two twentysomething pals, Kulushkät Gourmet Falafel promised to serve a mostly vegan menu of flavored falafels, as well as smoothies, salads, and snacks. It opened within a few weeks of Darna, so we decided to see how the recent arrivals -- which, as you'll see below, even have almost identical phone numbers -- fared against one another.
Our first stop was Darna. Despite what its sign may have implied, it's an unassuming, modest little place. Its most flamboyant touch is an enormous window that invites diners to tan as they chew. We ordered the $3.50 falafel sandwich and splurged an extra $1.50 for hummus. It's an excellent deal: In addition to the sandwich, which is stuffed with freshly made falafel, you get a salad of lettuce, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese.
We were prepared to love this sandwich. But while we admired its bounty -- no less than five chickpea fritters strained the pita to its breaking point -- we were less enamored of its actual quality. The pita was flavorless and a bit tough, and the falafel, though fairly tasty, was chewy and verging toward teething-ring territory. The tomatoes were pallid things, and their flaws became more readily apparent in the salad, which was further marred by the tinny, weirdly sweet olives. The hummus, though, was pretty good, and made a decent lubricant for the falafel.