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Try falafel at Tavlin in Bellmore

They've always made falafel at Tavlin, the Mediterranean market across from Bellmore's Mill Pond Park, but in May the owners made it official, unfurling a banner across the store's window proclaiming "Falafel takeout: We spread the hummus. You spread the word."

Since Marc and Sarah Azoulay opened Tavlin in 1990, it's been one of Long Island's most reliable purveyors of Middle Eastern and North African groceries, and homemade baked goods (don't miss the bureka, a sort of Sephardic knish) and salads. Earlier this year, the Azoulays' chef son, Ittai, moved back to New York from Vermont and joined his parents in the business.

This was the impetus to break through the wall that separated the kitchen from the retail floor and create a little takeout window through which are handed pita sandwiches ($6.95) and platters ($10.95).

Falafel, for the uninitiated, are deep-fried balls made from ground chickpeas and / or fava beans. At Tavlin, they use a combination of both legumes seasoned with fresh herbs, spices, garlic and lemon. Marc Azoulay explained that the consistency of the "dough," the size of the balls and the heat of the oil are all instrumental in producing falafel that is moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

Tavlin's falafel platter comes with six balls, a pile of chopped Israeli salad, a pool of super-creamy hummus and a tub of tahini sauce. The sandwich features four balls garnished with the same cast of characters. You can take them home, eat them on the bench outside the store, or consume them at the cash register, as I did, while kibitzing with the Azoulays and trying not to spill hummus down my shirt.

2828 Merrick Rd., Bellmore, 516-221-9008


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