The idea is that the chef designs the sandwich and some percentage of sales goes to the chef's charity of choice.
This month, the featured falafel sandwich chef has been designed by Iliana Regan, the woman behind Elizabeth considered one of the most exciting restaurants to open in 2012. Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune gave Elizabeth three stars and Michelin granted it one of their coveted stars, placing Elizabeth in the ranks of Chicago classics like Blackbird and Everest.
Regan is a most interesting chef. She has an artistic temperament that leads to dishes that are inventive, whimsical, challenging and delicious. It's also very expensive to eat at Elizabeth: about $400/person with wine pairings.
So to have a chance to sample Regan's work for only $8 seems like an incredible bargain, even though Falafill is actually kind of expensive for falafel, especially when you consider you can pay about the same for a falafel sandwich, and a whole buffet of other options (!), across the street at Jerusalem Café.
Regan's sandwich – called "Iliana's Pocket" – is composed of classic falafel, chicken marinated in mirin (a kind of low-alcohol rice beverage, similar to sake), charred scallion aioli and kimchee. The chalkboard in front that lists all the ingredients includes the note "Not spicy!" – which is true, though this sandwich is quite definitely high on the flavor-o-meter. Actually, the spicing in this sandwich is somewhat aggressive compared not only to traditional falafel but also Regan's creations at Elizabeth.
Iliana's Pocket is not a handsome sandwich. My friend and fellow Oak Parker Peter Burgi quipped that a photo of it looked like "some deep sea dwelling, high-pressure adapted creature that was brought up to the surface a wee bit too quickly."
Having worked for years developing training videos for McDonald's, I understand how important it is to specify the sequence of sandwich ingredients should be layered onto the bread (it ain't rocket science). If this effort from Falafill suffered in anyway, it was that the falafel balls were all in the bottom and the chicken was all in the top. Maybe that was the way it was supposed to be, but it'd seem to make more sense to integrate all ingredients and balance out the flavors.
Still, Iliana's Pocket is a fine sandwich, a big fistful of good tastes, well worth your consideration…and $8.