By Estee Cohen.
It’s been a while since I left a new restaurant with the happy feeling that I must make it back soon. Chickpeas was such a positive experience that I have returned twice since sampling its menu for this article. As soon as you enter the bright white restaurant, you’ll notice a green theme, emphasized by large vegetable motif artwork and the striking cleanliness of the place stands out. The next thing I noticed was the feeling that owner, David Sharabi, wanted my meal to be an amazing experience. He was polite, helpful with explaining the new menu, and generous with the side salads. It is no wonder that I like him and I like this place.
Owner David Sharabi and his wife Tammy are a hardworking, salt-of-the-earth couple who originally brought us PitaWay, a restaurant with tasty, Israeli food. However, after a year of selling good food at fair prices, they realized that the Kosher market was too saturated with fleishig Israeli style restaurants and they needed to change to compete in La Brea’s complicated restaurant playing field. After brainstorming with both Jewish and non-Jewish health conscious customers, they picked up on the natural, vegetarian vibe of the Melrose area and produced Chickpeas, which takes the best of PitaWay but adds healthier, meat-free options, faux shawarma, salads, and freshly squeezed juices. In my opinion, this is a homerun.
I made plans to meet an old friend at Chickpeas and we both appreciated their simple, healthful food. The first step of the menu requires an easy choice: salad or sandwich. Both items can be vegetarian; vegetables or falafel or vegetarian shawarma and if you choose a sandwich, then you have a choice of whole wheat or white pita. I was delighted to smell the pita which is baked in house. Then you can choose add-ons like avocado, hardboiled egg, and feta cheese which make a flavorful feast.
I’ve tried vegetarian shawarma before, since Whole Foods sells kosher tofu and soy “meats” with “Middle East flavorings”. However, I find theirs tastes disgusting and is a waste of $15.99 for a packaged experience. Thankfully Chickpeas gets is so right. When you eat their shawarma in a pita with veggies and sauces, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between their tofu and the real thing. Perhaps turkey shawarma is oilier, but that’s it. I also had the falafel salad with extra hardboiled egg and it was fantastic.
My friend and I smiled as we heard another customer tell the waiter that, “this is the best falafel I’ve ever had!” It’s understandable; Chickpeas falafel is a tasty thing and to top it off, David Sharabi has a secret green sauce that he offers for every entrée. Another dish I recommend at Chickpeas is falafel salad with avocado and egg covered and doused with the green sauce. Oh yes, you will polish it off.
Not only are their main dishes simple and good, but their starter freebies are noteworthy and in fact, their namesake Chickpea Salad is the last dish I recommend. With your meal you get a little cardboard tray and mini fork and you can choose delicacies from the salad bar. The owner encourages you to go back for seconds and thirds and heap up the little tray. I liked that! All their salads were very fresh with great flavor. You’ll love the chickpea salad, green cabbage salad, and beet salad.
As for drinks, there is a tasty pink lemonade and mint lemonade with a real, earthy tea taste (similar to Coffee Bean’s Swedish Berries iced tea). I returned to the restaurant a second time and just enjoyed the side dishes and that lemonade. Apparently this is a normal thing to do because they offer exactly this as a “Combo- Homemade Drink + Salads” for an inexpensive $3.99.
Chickpeas is in PitaWay’s former location and it still has the same phone number and is owned by the same people. There’s street parking and a nice sized lot in the back.
I hope Chickpeas does well and that our community supports them. They have fresh, fabulous food and the experience is splendid. They are under Kehilla supervision and located at 7275 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Their phone number is 323-932-0052.