Flying Falafel, a Market Street hole-in-the-wall known to attract a daily lunch line, is expanding to Berkeley with a location at 2114 Shattuck Avenue opening this weekend or sooner. In San Francisco, and at farmers markets before it, Flying Falafel has been runaway hit — and not just because owner Assaf Pashut and his staff theatrically throw balls of falafel in the air and catch them in pitas before serving them to delighted customers.
Customers clearly love the food: Pita pockets served with sesame or spicy falafel balls, hummus “saucers” with pita on the side, dolma, and other — all vegan — items like non-dairy cheesecake and banana milkshakes (which are just bananas, cinnamon, vanilla, and pecans). Last month was the business’s best yet since opening in 2015.
But the service doesn’t hurt, as Pashut is the first to admit. “I’ve learned, over time, that it’s literally 90 percent your staff who keep people coming back,” he claims. Pashut professes to do no marketing at all for Flying Falafel, named in part for his signature “Benihana-style” falafel throwing, which first attracted attention at farmers market stalls. But really, with that, what more marketing do you need?
The new space in Berkeley, formerly Buona Vita Yogurt, is much larger than the tiny one on Market Street. Still, it’s just a few seats with a focus on to-go and delivery orders. With the added space, Pashut might add new menu items, like different milkshake flavors. But for now, the menus will be identical.
Pashut hopes Berkeley students will take to falafel like he did as an undergrad there. He graduated in ’07, and started cooking for his friends on “falafel Fridays,” as he told Eater when his first restaurant opened.
Flying Falafel will be open from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. And customers will know it’s open, because Pashut and his girlfriend have vowed to wear superman and superwoman outfits on opening day.