Chicago falafel joint expanding into Oak Park

Owner hopes to open 100 locations of the eatery in next five years

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

A fast-food restaurant specializing in falafel — those popular deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas — plans to expand from its original location in Chicago, and Oak Park is likely to be its first foray into the suburbs.

Falafill has been a hit in its Lakeview location (3202 N. Broadway) since opening about a year ago, said owner Maher Chebaro. He hopes to start up four more spots this year, including in Oak Park, the Gold Coast and two in the Loop.

A lease has not yet been signed in Oak Park, according to Chebaro. But the discussions are about "70 percent" complete, and he hopes to have an agreement hammered out in the next few weeks.

"It has a good feel," Chebaro said when asked why Falafill is targeting Oak Park. "We felt we could be a nice addition to it, and we found a location worth jumping on."

He declined to name the specific address, since the lease isn't finalized, but did say he likes Lake Street.

Falafill offers falafel salads ($6.95) or sandwiches ($4.95), the latter stuffed into white or wheat pitas. Those items come with a trip to the restaurant's topping bar, which includes everything from yogurt sauce to pickled turnips.

Chebaro, a native of Beirut, has worked in the restaurant business for 25 years. He previously opened several eateries in his home country, along with the now defunct Tribal Grill and Souk in Chicago. Falafill was Chebaro's first attempt at fast food, and he hopes to eventually expand the fledgling business into 100 locations across the country.

"We always wanted to grow," he said. "The idea was not to open just one from the beginning. Things went according to plan and we want to move to the second phase."

Reader Comments

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Regina D. from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2012 2:03 PM

I have become a very satisfied customer of Falafill. However, I've never had a bad experience with JC and I've never visited GL. Although after reading the most recent Yelp postings about GL, I decided to save my money. I was very surprised Falafill moved directly across the street from JC. We'll see how it all plays out.

melissa  

Posted: January 28th, 2011 3:56 PM

One you try Falafill, no one will ever go back to JC and GL's. Personally, I think JC is okay but GL's isn't very good at all. Falafill has a delicious, fresh salad/topping bar to boot. They have also been offering free lentil soup anytime it snows outside. The Broadway location does great business. Falafill will be welcome in Oak Park. OP needs some good falafel.I hope they speed up the process!!

Brian S from Oak Park  

Posted: January 26th, 2011 10:01 AM

I bet after dining at JC and GL the Falafill folks logically concluded there was a LOT of room for improvement.

Rebecca H from Oak Park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 11:01 AM

Ahla w Sahla Mr. Chebalo. Looking forward to some delicious falafel. Oak Park could use some good Manoosh and knafeh too!

Karen from Oak Park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 12:00 AM

I think this is great. I love Grape leaves, but that's not really fast food, nor is Jerusalem Cafe, in my experience. I think there's room for another healthy food restaurant.

Bob from Oak park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 8:32 PM

This would be great. I've had terrible meals at the other two restaurants offering Falafel in Oak Park and have always gone to Pita Inn in Skokie. I hope this is as good. I'm also glad to see their falafel patties are gluten-free (as they should be but many restaurants use wheat as a filler.) Let's hope competition makes the other restaurants improve their mediocre food.

David Hammond  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 6:06 PM

I am a big fan of Jerusalem Cafe. I'm not sure where where this new place is going, but I hope it won't cannibalize JC's biz (too much, though it surely will hurt some). That said, Falafill offers many, many condiments but nowhere as big a menu as as either JC or Grape Leaves.

dale from oak park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 4:42 PM

Isn't this what Jerusalem does already? Plus a number of other menu items?

Rich from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 4:03 PM

I have been to Falafill on Broadway and had a real good experience. They offer healthy food that tastes great; a class act. Lori has a point though. Will this be like Johnny Rockets moving in one block away from Five Guys? Will they positively build off of each other, or will they take business from each other, leaving two businesses unprofitable? I guess we will see.

Lori  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 3:47 PM

That's great - you gonna put 'em next door to Grape Leaves or Jerusalem Cafe??

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