Back-to-school time makes me want to get my tall boots and warm sweaters out of the closet. It also makes me crave falafel. This is not your average autumnal association, but it has something to do with there having been a very good – and cheap – falafel spot around the corner from where I went to graduate school in California. This is why when September rolls around, I start thinking about falafel sandwiches, the kinds where the chick pea “meatballs” are stuffed into a pita pocket, with chunks of cucumber and tomato and tahini sauce and maybe some yogurt drizzled over the whole thing.
In Maine though, it’s harder to satisfy that craving. I got a tip that Portland’s Po’ Boys and Pickles had a good, super cheap falafel sandwich, so I headed there recently and ordered a full sandwich ($11.50) with plans to split it with a co-worker. The halves, or “regular” are $6.50, and I’d heard a half would be plenty.
I was expecting it to arrive on a pita, but instead “The Uptown” was on one of the hefty and delicious po’ boy rolls that the rest of the truly New Orleans-style menu items come on. There were a few thin slices of cucumber and tomato, as well as a red pepper mayonnaise and some shredded lettuce. My friendly server offered me a side of hot sauce, which I happily took.
This falafel was delicious, even though it had little in common with the subject of my autumnal craving and even though looking at the rest of the menu made me slightly wistful for the Muffaletta (salami, ham, capicola, provolone and a veggie relish). Or the Dirty Bird (roasted chicken, bacon, garlic mayo).
The sandwich also came with a side of pickles, natch, and those were a bright contrast to the mild heat and soft squish of the sandwich. I’d planned on taking the sandwich to go, but I sat down to take a bite or two to tide me over until I could get back to the office, and it was so satisfying I didn’t stop until it was gone. I would have happily eaten the whole thing if I hadn’t promised the other half to my co-worker.
I also grabbed one of the infamous coconut macaroons mentioned in a recent story in our Food section about the ambitious maker of these cookies winning a major order from Hannaford (more than 20,000 homemade cookies!) for his new spin on his old classic. The macaroon only cost $1.08 with tax, and I thought the writer of that story, Meredith Goad, needed one. Back at the office, we agreed that the falafel was an 8 out of 10.
I am still craving a more traditional falafel sandwich though, which means I might need to hit the Falafel Mafia at Common Ground Country Fair this weekend, or catch the food truck while it’s roving Portland. After all, fall has barely begun.
WHERE: 1124 Forest Ave., Portland; (207) 518-9735, poboysandpickles.com
HOURS: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: About 5 minutes
PARKING: Private lot
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes