A hidden falafel gem tucked inside the scary Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA. You would never really just happen to bump into this place. You would never really want to walk inside the doomsday Bonaventure in the first place.
Alas, my trusty colleague, an 8 year downtown financial district veteran, showed me the ropes on this one and I am forever hooked. I'd been looking for a good falafel place - and the ones they sell at the farmers market look and taste like fresh horse doo doo. OK, well let me retract that first part because all falafels look like horse crap, but at least the ones from the Olive Branch came from a pretty horse.
The falafels are made to order and fried with some special metal hanging device found only in ancient Lebanon. Mom and Pops are running the shop as if they were straight off the streets of Beirut. They make their own tahini sauce, hummus, garlic sauce and cut all the veggies right in front of you. You can see Pops in the back tending to the chicken on the grill while Mom takes a few orders as she assembles a falafel masterpiece.
A falafel and a side with homemade chips plus olives will run you about $5, add another side and we'll call it $7. My favorite side is the tomato and feta salad (they sure do know how to please a Greek). It goes amazingly well with the falafel.
The Olive Branch has a few other specialties, including fresh baklava made from peanuts. The baklava is light and crispy, but I make it myself and don't get too jazzed about other people's baklava. Usually it's just bad, but their baklava is interesting.
This is the best place for hole in the wall falafels I've had in Southern California. Just be sure to bring cash as they don't accept plastic and be careful of the Bonaventure!
Pros: The Falafel!
Cons: Hard to find