"We felt sorry for Portlanders because they don't have good falafel," says the tall, trim man with a smile. "So we had to come here."
That's Sam Hazza, a Palestine native who moved to town from Atlanta last summer with his wife, Jyme, and opened Cedo's Falafel and Gyros two months ago in the Northeast Portland space last home to Wayne's Chicago Red Hots. And, yes, he can back up the aforementioned claim. He makes the best falafel I have tasted in town: hot, craggy, golf ball-sized orbs of chickpea goodness that crunch as you bite into them, revealing a moist, intensely herby center tinted light green. They are truly awesome. You will probably shovel at least two in your mouth with a greedy mmmraphgh, gasping for air between bites, before it occurs to you to ask why they taste so good.
The not-so-secret âsecret,â according to Hazza, is âfresh ingredientsâ like fresh chopped garlic and fresh parsley; he even toasts whole coriander seeds and gives them a whirl in a coffee grinder before adding them to his falafel mix. He squeezes fresh lemons for the nutty tahini sauce and makes his own yogurt for the puckery tzatziki. He carefully fries each ball to order—like a father giving his newborn baby a bath in hot corn oil—which means your food might take a while to get to you. It's worth it.
Those balls are served all by themselves ($5) as well as in a sandwich ($7), cradled in a giant pita with big hunks of cucumber and tomato all slathered with that tasty tzatziki. Even better is Cedo's Plate ($9), which serves four falafel atop a big, zingy salad busting out with tomato, cucumber and peppers and sprinkled with dill, parsley and even more tahini. It comes with hot pita and a side of Hazza's creamy hummus, made fresh from the garbanzo beans he's had simmering on the stove since 6 that morning. I could eat this for lunch every day for a week and not get sick of it.
There's other stuff on the menu, from a very large, respectable lamb-and-beef gyro ($7, the meat is the only thing not made in-house and, therefore, less awesome) and some very tasty, twice-fried spicy potato rounds ($4). But, really, it's all about the falafel.
The screaming red space, decorated with drawings of Jerusalem and old jazz posters, is charming but not designed for lingering: Seating is limited to a pair of tall tables up front and a long counter along the side of the room. Still, it feels homey, from the funky wallpaper Jyme's son made from old Middle Eastern condensed-milk labels that decorates the front counter to the bright pansies planted in old olive cans on the picnic tables outside. And while the couple is focused on falafel right now, that doesn't mean they don't have plans to dominate other menu items in the future. "I make the best chicken kebabs," Hazza says with a smile.
- Order this: Falafel anything, but especially Cedoâs Plate.
- Best deal: A giant falafel sandwich with a side of Cedoâs spuds for $9 (you will have leftovers).
- Iâll pass: Gyros if youâre alone, because you really should get falafel. If thereâs more than one of you, then fine, get meaty.
EAT: Cedo's, 3901 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 719-7344. 11:30 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday, noon-6 pm Sunday. $. Call ahead for speedier to-go orders.