Which do you prefer: boutiques, tiny cafes, and record stores that specialize in Northern Soul 45s or malls, Macy's, and other convenient all-in-one emporiums with groceries and tires and tube socks?
Your answer is not only the key to predicting our future economic landscape, it also relates to this Food Fight. Where you buy what you buy matters, whether it's yachts or brats. Or falafel. Especially falafel. A family favorite or a meat substitute to appease your vegetarian sweetie, falafel is a savory, crunchy, wonderful dietary staple that has been around forever.
The Venue: Foxy Falafel is a hip, homey cafe just off University Avenue in St. Paul. Within its wood-panelled walls tastefully decorated with pine cones and antlers, Foxy turns out consistently great food and delicious specialty iced teas. If any restaurant ever deserved a fireplace, this brick-and-mortar incarnation of their famous food truck is it. On the other side of town in South Minneapolis is World Street Kitchen. Its spacious, well-lit dining room is great for sampling strong versions of street eats from around the world; WSK is particularly good at Moroccan, Indian, and Korean treats. But don't let the chrome fool you. Both places would be perfect spots for Arcade Fire-loving, Sundays at Moosewood-following, hackey-sack-kicking, youth hostel-crashing hippies manqué everywhere.
The Weigh-in: Foxy Falafel is the specialist. Their menu boasts other items worth trying -- the cauliflower steak is outstanding -- but their reputation rests comfortably on their falafel. In contrast, World Street Kitchen is the generalist. Their falafel burger is just one of the many options that mix tastes from around the globe. If you don't get their falafel, know that their MFC biscuit sandwich is a can't-miss, Platonic fried chicken ideal.
Round 1: The bread Foxy Falafel offers its traditional falafel sandwich in fresh and tender pita bread. Wrapped in paper to help keep it together as you eat, the pita does not distract from the main attraction. But it also falls apart pretty easily. As part of World Street Kitchen's more American approach, they put their falafel sandwich on a soft onion roll. Much like a great hamburger bun, this is easier to pick up and put down between bites. The roll also makes the sandwich heartier and more filling. [page]
Round 2: The toppings In the middle of a marrow-freezing Minnesota winter, tomatoes on any dish usually mean one thing: poison. What Wiccan Triple Goddess has Foxy invoked to get their bright and beautiful bites of sweet and juicy tomatoes? They are unbelievable! Paired with diced cucumber and a bit of shredded lettuce, they offer a clean, fresh contrast to the crisp falafel balls. We opted for their herb and lemon tahini sauce, which is creamy with hints of parsley. World Street Kitchen also has fresh greens and a slightly more flavorful tahini sauce, and the addition of pickles completes the falafel-as-meaty burger masquerade.
Round 3: The falafel Balls or patties? This is at the heart of the difference between these two dishes. Foxy's falafel balls offer a nearly perfect ratio of crunchiness and tenderness. They also make three different kinds of falafel; try the beet version. World Street Kitchen provides a patty that is also crunchy and tender, with a shade more cumin and flavor.
And the winner is... Foxy Falafel. We have only one answer...in twenty-seven parts. Well, almost. When we're craving falafel and the healthy garden tidbits that accompany it, we're heading to Foxy. If we're craving a savory, satisfying, and healthy sandwich that happens to be falafel, we're headed to World Street Kitchen. If we're with a small group with a similar, singular focus on this Mediterranean staple, Foxy Falafel is a cozy and friendly place to meet. If we're in a rowdy group that can't be trusted to agree on anything but our friendship, we're headed to World Street Kitchen. In the end, since we are just considering the falafel, Foxy is our very narrow winner.