For someone who is writing a food blog, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never really developed a taste for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. This certainly isn’t from lack of effort – I’ve enjoyed my fair share of gyros and hummus, couscous and falafel, but, for some reason, these foods have never really been at the top of my list of cravings. However, upon the suggestion of a Lebanese friend (who assured me he knew of somewhere incredibly “authentic”), I visited The Hungry Pocket Falafel House in Santa Monica to try and break my cycle of disappointment. Now, let’s just say that I’m a devout believer in the power of tahini.
The Hungry Pocket pretty much fits all those foodie clichés about the hidden urban gem masquerading as a hole-in-the-wall. An unassuming shack located in a strip mall at the corner of Pico and 17th, The Hungry Pocket is known far and wide (or, at least throughout the west side) as the best and most affordable falafel joint. For just $3.50, you can get four jumbo falafels with a side of hummus, tahini, salad, and pita, and, on Mondays and Wednesdays, they have an all-you-can-eat falafel special for just $6.50. In addition to falafel, the HP menu also features a delicious gyros and kebob plate, containing a variety of meats which are all juicy and seasoned to perfection. The last time I went (I’ve visited many times since my initial rendezvous), I bought a combo plate for both myself and my boyfriend and the total came to just over $11.
Although the generous portions, dirt-cheap prices, and tongue tickling flavors are reason enough to visit the Hungry Pocket, the clencher for me was their freshly squeezed juices. Being able to drink freshly squeezed apple juice, orange juice, or carrot juice may not be a draw in itself, but being able to augment these flavors with just a hint of ginger or rose water makes for a totally unique experience. The juices also pair very nicely with the spiciness of some of the dishes, providing a refreshing balance of textures and temperatures.
Overall assessment: Great flavors, generous portions, and a wide selection distinguish the Hungry Pocket from other cheap dinner options. Highly recommended!