Foxy Falafel's Erica Strait: Five Questions

Foxy Falafel's bike-powered smoothies at the Uptown Market
Foxy Falafel's bike-powered smoothies at the Uptown Market
Photo by Nikki Miller

If you've been to the Kingfield, Uptown, and Northeast farmers markets this summer, you've
probably seen Foxy Falafel owner Erica Strait peddling (and pedaling) her bike-powered smoothies and amazing falafel, along with kombucha, pita chips, and hummus.

Strait's falafel are a labor of love. Strait sprouts her own chickpeas, ensures most ingredients are organic and as local as possible, and offers three great sauces: Tunisian harissa (smoky, garlicy, spicy goodness), cucumber yogurt sauce (bright and cooling) and green tahini (herbaceous and lemony). But what we like most about Strait is her enthusiasm not only for healthy food but for food you can eat on the streets.

We caught up with her recently to talk about her falafel philosophy and other hot topics.

A lover of all things organic, local and sustainable, Strait brings her background growing up on a farm in rural South Dakota to her work. She was educated in the art of falafel by an Israeli chef in New York City, studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the Natural Gourmet Institute, and has cooked for the last six years in restaurants such as Spoonriver. 

So what inspired you to bring falafel to the streets of Minneapolis?
Traveling, street food, and farmers markets are a huge inspirations behind my falafel. I went to Portland in April to check out the street food scene and tried falafel from a variety of places. So good, and each is so unique! I loved it and realized that Minneapolis is missing out on the street food culture scene. Each cart is the individual's expression of themselves. You could have five falafel stands in a row and they would all taste different and look different. It's really a great artistic outlet for chefs and foodies!

I used to eat at a place called Taim in New York City owned by Einat Admony, an Israeli chef who I worked with for two years as her sous chef. It is a cute, small storefront where they serve the best falafel in New York. Even The New Yorker gave them the title of best falafel.

I'm also inspired by my training in holistic health and whole-foods cooking to make the falafel as healthy as possible and to be conscious about where I am sourcing my ingredients. Local and organic is what I strive for on a daily basis. I am usually at the markets three days a week in the summer shopping for my personal-chef clients, and I love, love, love the market scene and vibe.

What is your philosophy behind cooking and presenting food the way you do?
Local, organic, sustainable! I love cooking, and I love cooking "real" food for people. Everything I make is from scratch (except the pita, but I have tried to make it myself. I decided to leave that to the professionals at Holy Land).

Say it's raining--where's your favorite place in the Cities to eat where you can put a roof over your head and sit in a chair rather than on the curb?
Jasmine Deli. I love their egg roll noodle salad. Or Namaste. The atmosphere there is super chill, and they have great happy hour specials with yummy nummy food like their aloot chat.... so good!

What's one thing you can't live without when you're out on the streets making falafel?
My falafel scoop. It makes the falafel balls super crispy, which is one of the main things about great falafel. No soggy balls at the Foxy Falafel stand!

Have you ever considered developing a workout regimen for your bike-powered smoothie blender, or expanding it into an entire total-body wellness program? Something Jack LaLanne could get behind, maybe?
I love the Jack LaLanne idea! Foxy Falafel on an infomercial. I was thinking a pedal-powered smoothie spin class would be great. Then for fun we could do a margarita spin class. There have been a lot of ideas being tossed around at the falafel stand.

Check out Foxy Falafel at the farmers markets in Northeast (Saturdays 9-1), Kingfield (Sundays 8:30-1) and Uptown (Sundays 11-5) every weekend this summer.

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