Naf Naf, a Middle Eastern restaurant chain that recently opened in D.C., spices up its falafel by adding jalapeño. (Holley Simmons/The Washington Post)

Filling and inexpensive, falafel sandwiches are satisfying without weighing you down. The vegetarian-friendly, Middle Eastern staple is traditionally made with a blend of ground chickpeas and herbs, often topped with fresh or pickled vegetables and tahini sauce.

In D.C., you can find it at such well-known spots as Amsterdam Falafelshop, Cava and Halal Guys. But you can also get your fix at these lesser-known spots, many of which are relatively new to the scene.

Naf Naf Grill

This Middle Eastern chain — with more than two dozen locations throughout the United States — set up shop in D.C. last month, selling the restaurant's signature fresh-baked pitas and silver dollar-shaped fries. The falafel balls are mixed with jalapeño for a slight kick and can be topped with such garnishes as cabbage salad, sumac onions and garlic sauce.

$7.10. 1875 K St. NW, Suite 100. 202-618-3724.

Thin yet packed with flavor, the falafel from newcomer Charcoal Town Shawarma satisfies. (Holley Simmons/The Washington Post)

Charcoal Town Shawarma

At just four months old, this newcomer makes a good first impression. You can smell the charcoal-grilled kebab from the patio and hear it sizzling as you walk through the door. The herb-packed falafel is served burrito-style, wrapped in a thin pita wrap versus a more traditional, doughy pita pocket. It’s briefly grilled, creating a crisp outer layer, and comes topped with tahini sauce, diced tomato, lettuce, mint sprigs, lemon and pickled turnips.

$6.99. 2019 11th St. NW. 202-232-2330.

The $3 falafel sandwich at Falafel Inc. not only tastes delicious but also supports a good cause. (Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Falafel Inc.

Based on a recipe from founder Ahmad Ashkar’s Palestinian mom, this falafel draws a big crowd during lunchtime. Easily the most affordable shop of the bunch, the teeny Georgetown storefront serves fried-to-order falafel sandwiches for $3, a portion of which goes to feed refugees in the Middle East. Sandwiches come dressed with lettuce, a pickled red cabbage inspired by kimchi and tatbili, a spicy relish made from garlic and jalapeño.

$3. 1210 Potomac St. NW. 202-333-4265.

Yafa Grille

Yafa Grille is the place for those who love options. Top off your just-fried falafel balls with a choice of more than 20 toppings, including fried eggplant, chopped cucumbers, spiced chickpeas and a pure garlic spread that would send Dracula running. The pitas — which are made in-house — are light and fluffy, and the sauces lean on the spicy side. This reporter’s lips were burning long after trying the medium-level spicy cilantro spread.

$6.99. 1205 19th St. NW. 202-750-6689.


This fast-casual restaurant on H Street specializes in such Lebanese dishes as juicy chicken shish kebab and kafta, a meatball-like shish kebab. The airy falafel, wrapped in a thin pita, is topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled turnips and a generous amount of tahini. Order a side of fries and throw them into the mix.

$6.95. 1322 H St. NE, 202-388-7676. No website.