This week, Rosie and I set out to try the famous falafel at God Bless Deli, which is somewhat of a Greenpoint legend among the broke, the inebriated, and the down and out.
It might not be now, and it may not happen for a while, but at some point while living on these hallowed streets, God Bless will sneak up on you. It might be at 3am after downing one too many $1 jello shots at Capri Social Club. Or maybe you will find yourself gazing at the $3.50 falafel sandwich during of those in-between-paycheck weeks when your stomach is craving a liter of garlic sauce on a mass of fried chickpeas. If you haven’t found your special falafel moment yet, it’s only a matter of time. And we can’t promise that it won’t be involve at least some level of shame.
God Bless (technically USA Deli, but we just like the ring of the biblical title) has a second location (God Bless 2) on at the very end of Manhattan Ave at Clay. However, we set our sights on the original location, because we, like America and the Bible, dislike change.
This week, Rosie and I couldn’t meet in person, so we each ate the meal on our own, Rosie classing it up with a bottle of white wine and a real plate, while I ate my fill directly out of the styrofoam takeout container during my lunch break.
Here are our deeply religious thoughts on the holiest of falafels:
On Tuesday night, last week, it was pouring with rain and then it started to snow. I was going to be home alone and decided it was the perfect night for takeout.
I called into the deli en-route home from the G and, among the laminate photo montage depicting high-color foodstuffs, I quickly spotted the object of my desire – the $3.50 falafel sandwich.
Due to the rain, I was the only customer and the chap got started on my order straight away, stopping only to ask if I wanted hot sauce (“a little” was my pedestrian answer).
While waiting, I was pleased to notice that the salads, sauces and pickles looked really fresh and recently replenished. None of that ‘sitting there all day’ look.
Service was quick, and the guy at the counter bothered to walk up to the other end of the shop to get me a napkin. He even hummed a little tune whilst giving me my change.
I trundled my warm dinner package home through the rain and, since I was having a romantic night for one, I decided to unwrap my falafel and put it on a plate. For extra class I even paired it with the tail-end of a bottle of white that was lurking in the fridge. (If any one is remotely interested in my unintentional wine pairing, it was a not completely vile 11.99 bottle of Riesling from the liquor store by the Nassau subway stop).
Falafel – Despite asking for ‘a little’ hot sauce, this falafel wrap was on fire! I got used to it after a while but after I’d finished eating my mouth had a definite tingling sensation.
The falafel themselves were fine, a bit damp and mushy without a nice crisp exterior, but that might have been due to the fact I carried it five blocks in the rain and then faffed around arranging it on a tray before I actually ate. I was also underwhelmed by the amount of salad in there. A few shreds of lettuce and some small pieces of cucumber and tomato were strewn about but frankly it could have done with some more, to bulk the sandwich out a bit. It’s fun when a falafel wrap has some other gems with it too, like some pickled veg, tabbouleh or a dollop of hummus, all of which were distinctly absent. There was a drizzle of tahini sauce in there though, so that was quite nice.
Although not the best falafel I’ve ever had, it’s probably also the one I’ve over-thought the most and, if I was just hoofing it down whilst walking along the street, I would think it was perfectly fine.
Regardless of its slight defects, it tasted good and when I went to bed three hours later I still felt pleasantly full.
I have to start out by saying that I have had God Bless’s falafel sandwich on several occasions, all of which involved alcohol. Therefore, in my mind, these falafels are the most delicious, satisfying sandwiches known to man. When I lived on Jewel Street, I would enter the deli as a possessed, ravenous animal, allowing each fried morsel to soak up the whiskey in my body. Then I would fall into a deep lulling sleep, made all the more heavy from copious amounts of sandwich.
This time was different from the rest in that 1) I went to God Bless Deli in the light of day, which was highly disorienting 2) I was completely sober. These two factors changed everything.
I opted to try the larger, but pricier ($6) falafel platter, which came with about 4 falafel balls, a generous heap of hummus, flavored rice, onions, olives, lettuce, and a goddamn ton of “white sauce” i.e. watery ranch dressing. As I delicately carried the feast back to Greenpointers HQ, I realized that it weighed about 5 pounds.
The thing that’s great about God Bless is that the veggies are fresh, unlike some delis that have iceberg lettuce that looks like it hasn’t been rotated in weeks (not to mention creepy slabs of cold cut ham that do not look edible). If you’re going to eat a meal from a deli, this option is the best of the bunch.
That being said, the food really does loose its magic without a pre-falafel alcoholic beverage….or 5. When I started eating, I thought that the overflowing styrofoam-bound Mediterranean (I mean, USA??) feast itself was pretty tasty, as was the rice. And the white sauce was awesome (but what isn’t great, doused in ranch dressing). The dish was kind of like an upgrade of a lunch plate you’d get from an Midtown Halal cart (larger and more fresh).
But as I continued to stuff my face, I started to feel the food weighing on me. Lethargy was setting in, but this time it was not 5am and I was not in bed, meaning I had to continue about my day like a functional human being. That is a feat easier said than done after consuming 5 pounds of fried food. My stomach did not feel good and I had the sudden urge to lie on the floor and apologize to my intestines/body/soul for what I had done.
My conclusion: Save God Bless for late-night binge eating. During the day, avoid, unless you are spending the day in bed, watching re-runs and not, under any circumstance, expecting guests.
At the end of the day, you have to give this deli duo some credit, at the very least, for its patriotism. GOD BLESS USA.
Overall cheap eats rating (from 1 to 5 burgers)
Full Stomach Level:
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