WICKER PARK — A popular spot to grab a falafel or shawarma sandwich has doubled in size just shy of its fifth anniversary at the northeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Paulina Street in Wicker Park.
Falafel & Grill, 1317 N. Milwaukee Ave. reopened on Wednesday after a week-long closure/renovation that included knocking down a wall from an adjacent empty storefront and using that new space to enlarge its existing storefront.
Owner Baker Ali said that the kitchen was upgraded, too, as part of the expansion, which grew the restaurant to 50 seats from 20.
The eatery, which sells falafel wrap sandwiches, shawarma, gyros, salads, lentil soup and other Middle Eastern staples, opened in Dec. 2011.
The expansion also included new menu items such as baked chicken, baked potatoes and French fries, Ali said.
The new menu items are not yet posted online, but here is Falafel & Grill's most recently published menu.
"The customers love it. We were so busy today," Ali said.
Sasha Hodges, owner of Kokorokoko, an 80s and 90s apparel shop a few doors north of the restaurant, said that she eats at Falafel & Grill very often and was glad to see an independently-owned small business expand.
"Even though they updated it, it's still homey and though it looks more higher end, prices are about the same," Hodges said.
The expansion comes at a time when Middle Eastern fare seems to be booming.
About two blocks north of Falafel & Grill, Rumi Middle Eastern Grill, at 1534 N. Milwaukee Ave., opened last summer. Tarboush Mediterranean Grill at 1608 W. North Ave., opened last year along with Pita Cafe, at the northwest corner of Damen Avenue and Division Street and Shawarma Garden at 1951 W. Division St.
The longest-standing Middle Eastern eatery in the area is Sultan's Market at 2057 W. North Ave., which has been open since the 1990s.
Inside the just expanded Falafel & Grill. [Photos by DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
Meat on a spit roast.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.