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“2A Loves this Place. They always give our kids free falafel and rice pudding.” The note was in our building lobby atop a stack of pink menus for a new Middle Eastern restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue called “Zaad.” I marvel at the gumption and guts of restaurateurs who open during a global pandemic. And when I went to Zaad I found more to marvel at.

Owner Hosam has a ready smile and curly ginger hair that spills out of his peaked white hat. Hosam is from Cairo and, before that, El Sharkia. Before opening Zaad, he’d been working in a Harlem restaurant. I asked him what Zaad meant, and he told me, “The Food.” I looked confused, and he added, “The food and a little extra” and then he explained something about how it meant “food brought along for a long journey,” maybe by camel? Whatever! Zaad might be untranslatable from Arabic, but the zesty flavor of their singular falafel sandwich ($4.50!) is understandable in (or, rather, on) every tongue. I’m not usually a falafel fan, finding these fried patties or balls often too dry or, the opposite, too mushy. Zaad’s are just right. They are generously sized, crisp on the outside, tender inside, and bright green with parsley. The flavor of crushed coriander seeds bursts out with every bite. What’s more, the pita bread is thick, fluffy and sturdy, able to contain three patties, the tomatoes, the radishes, pickles, olives—all the extras you want—and the hummus and tahini sauce lavishly ladled on top. By the time you get home, the bread is still holding everything and holding its own, which sadly isn’t the case with most falafel sandwiches. ...

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