By Sally Deering
If you’re a falafel fan read on, because when it comes to a tasty falafel in a pita pocket no one beats Ibby’s Falafel in Jersey City where owner Adnan Kwara serves his own special recipe for the chickpea concoction that is dizzyingly delicious.
Syrian-born and New York City-raised, Kwara started making falafels back when he was a kid helping out in his uncle’s Greenwich Village eatery. He learned the business and when he grew up, Kwara opened his own falafel shop in the Heights section of Jersey City back in the mid-1990s. After a few months, Kwara moved his business to a storefront across from Jersey City Hall and in the 20 years since, Ibby’s Falafel has become a popular fixture in downtown Jersey City’s landscape.
The magic of Ibby’s Falafels is conjured up by fresh ingredients and a family recipe that Kwara enhanced and made his own. He serves his delicious pita pockets of falafels plain and simple with lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and tahini sauce. There are extras you can have like pickled turnips, olives, feta cheese, grape leaves, baba ganoush, and hummus, and although these add-ons are all delish, they are gilding the lily. Plain and simple: Kwara’s falafels are perfection in a pita and a bargain at $3.50 a pop. Ibby’s falafels are known throughout the state and New Jersey Magazine voted Ibby’s falafels “No. 1 Falafel in New Jersey”.
“It’s the family recipe that’s been around since 1970,” Kwara says. “I just tweaked and played with it. My mother and I came up with the secret recipe of spices, and we use nothing but the finest ingredients, strictly fresh products. We don’t cut corners.”
Ibby’s Falafel serves lots of vegetarian dishes – which is terrific since there aren’t that many restaurants that serve vegan. You can get as sandwiches or platters: Falafels, Baba Ganoush, Grape Leaves and Foul Madammes aka fava beans at $3.50 for sandwiches; $6.50-$7.50 for platters. You can also order combo sandwiches and platters like Falafel, Tabouli and Feta, or Hummus, Foul and Tabouli at $5 for sandwiches; and $9.50 for platters.
For meat-lovers, Ibby’s menu includes Chicken Shawarma, Shish Kababs, Shawafel sandwiches (lamb or chicken with falafel) and the Ibby Mixed Kabob at $6.50-$6.99 for sandwiches; $12.50-$14.95 for platters.
Salads include the Fatoush (Lebanese); Greek and the Tabouli House Special at $7.50 each.
Ibby’s caters parties off-site and he does a busy take-out business. The small eatery has several tables and two counters with stools for those who want a quick lunch. When the weather’s nice, Ibby’s puts tables and chairs outside for al fresco dining.
“Ninety-nine percent of our dishes are made here on site, nothing is imported,” Kwara says.
And the Yelp reviews are raves. Stanley L. from North Plainfield wrote: “This place is small and unassuming but packs a big punch. The smell of goodness hit my nostrils once we walked in here. Feeling the need to have the total experience I ordered the famous/lamb shawarma deluxe. Sliced lamb on a bed of rice, side salad and a basket full of pita, what more could one ask for? Why some tzatziki and hot sauce, both of which were included…All in all I’m a fan and will be back, good eats, low priced, open late.”
Garreth G. of Union City posted this Yelp review: “When you order you get to see the lamb and chicken revolving next to each other (like) a yin/yang symbol sent to bring peace to your inner soul as you gaze and wonder the fruits of life. I recommend the lamb because it is super tender and moist but the chicken looked delicious as well. I will get that another time.”
This Yelp review by Madison R. of New Haven, Connecticut even mentions dessert: “OK so I’ve never been a fan of this type of food, but every time I’ve gone to Ibby’s with friends this place has grown on me more and more. If you’re hesitant to try middle-eastern food like I was, I suggest you try the chicken schawarma platter! It is sooo good especially if you dip the chicken in the hummus… Omg perfection. Ok now I don’t know why no reviews mention this but the desserts are pretty good. My favorite is the ‘namoura’. Just recently I tried their rice pudding for the first time… And I was astonished at how delicious it was! Go try the rice pudding now! You don’t know what you’re missing out on! Lol.”
“What makes us stand above the rest is that we’ve established ourselves as a household name in Jersey City,” Kwara says. “In 1995, when we moved our business here from the Heights, Grove Street was all boarded up. There were three or four stores: the deli, the vegetable stand, the pizzeria and us. We evolved along with Jersey City.”
If you go:
Authentic Middle Eastern cuisine
303 Grove St, JC
Open every day 10 am-12 midnight