Falafel To Go


ARE YOU STUCK in there all night I ask the wee woman behind the glass – I think it’s scratched perspex actually – as an electric grill gets to work flattening and heating my wrap? It was spread, filled, sauced and folded in a blink a mere moment ago.

No, no, she laughs pointing below the window to an area covered by a giant and garish red and yellow blur that on more distant examination is an advert pretending not to be a hatch: "I can get out there. I go for a wee wander sometimes."

Is there a seat, a heater, a telephone, I wonder? "There’s a wee heater under here,” she adds, pointing down to something I cannot see – "but when you’re working you don’t need it".

It’s after 7pm on a Wednesday night on what Google Maps tells me is 116 Sauchiehall Street, but I think is quite clearly Hope Street. The rain hasn’t dried on the city’s pavements for weeks now and the Glasgow damp has become sticky, dirty and super-cooled to below freezing yet remains, of course, grittily and completely liquid.

A man stamps his feet behind me waiting too for his food; a woman crosses from the pedestrian precinct and makes an order. I step back as more chat takes place. We’re all having the same thing. It’s all there is on the menu tonight: the falafel wrap.

Do you make the actual falafel in there, I will ask with a slight tone of surprise, considering it’s not much bigger than a phone box?

No, no, will be the reply. "We make it during the day at a restaurant that belongs to a friend of the owner."

This hole-in-the-wall was recently described by the dreaded developers as having a negative effect on the viability and sustainability of Sauchiehall Street as a retail destination. Lol. In fact, it has completely the opposite effect. Bringing warmth, Glasgow life and a bit of theatre to this dreary and charmless stretch of retail dead zone that could be in any British city.

At lunch times the queue for Falafel To Go is a cultural phenomenon itself, stretching all the way up to Renfrew Street. It’s probably Glasgow’s busiest street food place but it didn’t make it into the glossy coffee table street food guide that I got for Christmas – but then do any of the city’s actual-on-the-street, street food joints?

It is also the first place this magazine has reviewed that doesn’t have any seats. Who needs them? I’ll be taking my wrap back to the car to eat tonight.

So what’s special about it? It’s not like there aren’t dozens of places in the city serving falafel wraps? Here’s what. Whoever made the very first one here obviously took a leaf out of Apple’s book and thought to make the opening up part of the whole experience.

There’s no pale, white, cheap and clingy plastic bag for the wrap to sweat in. It comes in brown paper, and then sleek and folded waxproof paper and under that there’s a wrap that – hallelujah – has been completely and properly grilled to what it should be, crisp firm, tactile and appetising.

Take note McDonald’s, Marks and Sparks, petrol station shops and all the rest of the dumbed-down food world: a wrap that has not been cooked doesn’t have to be nothing more than an edible dishcloth. This has heft, weight, solidity too.

My first taste? Mint, and I wasn’t expecting that. My second is through hummus to crisp then soft falafel, my third sets chilli heat a-burning. I’ve eaten and enjoyed the whole thing in a matter of minutes and now started irresistibly on that second one, that I bought to take home to the family. Oops.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about these wraps? They’re £3. That’s £3 for something that is properly and caringly prepared and presented not in the cheapest option, but in the most appropriate one. Hurrah.

Oh, I think they’re vegan too. High five.

Falafel To Go

116 Sauchiehall Street, (but it’s really round the corner on Hope Street)


Menu: All they had when I was there was the falafel wrap, but it’s the real thing: prepared with thought and care. 3/5

Service: All conversation takes place through a hatch, but there’s plenty of warm, friendly and irrepressibly cheery chat nonetheless. 5/5

Atmosphere: Er, it’s a hole-in-the-wall on Hope Street and all its atmosphere comes from the street you’re standing on. Plenty of it then. 5/5

Price: Almost laughably cheap at £3, yet there are no corners cut. 5/5

Food: A freshly and completely crisped wrap, a waft of mint, a bang of chili, hummus, crisp falafel too inside. Very, very good. 8/10