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Max's Kosher Cafe, Max Deckelbaum's Amazing Falafel and Shawarma on University Blvd in Wheaton


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After living in Colesville for almost 7 years, I finally got around to trying Max's Kosher Cafe on University. Its in the same shopping center as Full Key and Pho Hiep Hua which I frequent so often that my food often arrives at the table as soon as I do. In any case, I had heard about it somewhere regrding falafel and that sounded good. But when I got there, I saw a schwerma rotisserie and thats what I had to have.

Schwerma is layers of beef and sometimes lanb, roasted as it turns and sliced as needed to serve. Unlike chicago style gyros, made out of ground stuff, Schwerma is layers of lean meat with a big piece of fat on top to moisten and help the browning.

At Max's, there is a wide array of topping to go into your sandwich" cukes & tomatoes; shredded cabbage, red cabbage, pickled cauliflower, pickled turnip, sour pickle, hot peppers, 5 different sauces, sauerkraut and more. A half is one hell of a lot of meat. You just point to what you want and theywill keep piling it on and then top your sandwich with even more meat. A dollop of tahini (here very thick and rich) is added at the end.

Of the cooked foods, all I have had is a bowl of matzoh ball soup whhich is hands down the best matzoh ball soup I have had in DC. As good as Brent's Deli in Northridge California and that is praise indeed. The matzoh balls are what my mom would ahve called flufka, very light, almost etherial. Somehow these light balls do in fact trun to stone in your stomach, giving evidence of your meal for hours to come. This is not a bad thing!

Service ranges from friendly to surly, but when you cannot eat what $10 will buy, its worth it.

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On your next visit, be sure to try the falafel. It is by far the best falafel I have eaten. Nice and crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. I almost always opt for the falafel sandwich with an assortment of toppings from the bar.

Also, we have brought home some of their frozen soups on occasion to keep for a quick meal. I think we have done split pea, chicken noodle, and minestrone. All of them taste almost as good as the ones my Jewish grandmother makes.

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Max's is perfect on a weeknight when my son has an ice hockey practice or game at the indoor or outdoor rink. If Max's is closed there is always El Pollo Rico.

The toppings for Falafel and Sharma are amazing. I get them all and am reminded of the food for hours to come. A real sleeper and compares easily to the falafel i'v had in Paris.

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Just got back from Sunday lunch. Isreali Salad, Matzoh Ball Soup, half Schwerma (the sandwich seems to get bigger each time I go as the sandwich guy recognizes me and figures out how to stuff more and more into each sandwich--- be sure to have the sauerkraut!) and a half felafel, all for under $15.

Must sleep!

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Just got back from Sunday lunch. Isreali Salad, Matzoh Ball Soup, half Schwerma (the sandwich seems to get bigger each time I go as the sandwich guy recognizes me and figures out how to stuff more and more into each sandwich--- be sure to have the sauerkraut!) and a half felafel, all for under $15.

Must sleep!

I second this week's Lettres de Mon Moulin regarding Max's. Last week for lunch I ate a half schwarma (topped with all 9000 toppings they offer) and a rich matzo ball soup while also finding room for some of my wife's faux-Reuben and blissfully didn't eat again the rest of the day. I was satisfied. And that sandwich's meat was the best I think I've ever had.

Thank you Dean for expanding our world! Maybe most of Mont. Co's good eats are under $15!

Pax,

Brian

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Thought some of y'all might be interested in this column I wrote last year about Max's.

Oh man. now I have to venture into Maryland for felafel at Max's. I don't eat much restaurant felafel because, having subsisted for a couple of years on the felafel at Mi Vami in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, Mass., I know what good felafel tastes like. Sounds like Max's does too.

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Stopped in this Sunday for a felafel. Amazing. The pita was pillowy soft. The toppings were fresh and varied (ask for it spicy). And the felafel balls were spot-on. Plus, this is no teenager behind the counter. This is a guy who knows how to put a felafel sandwich together so you get just the right proportions in every bite. I haven't been to Amsterdam Felafel yet, and would be interested to hear from anyone who's been to both. Hard to believe it could be much better.

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Stopped in this Sunday for a felafel. Amazing. The pita was pillowy soft. The toppings were fresh and varied (ask for it spicy). And the felafel balls were spot-on. Plus, this is no teenager behind the counter. This is a guy who knows how to put a felafel sandwich together so you get just the right proportions in every bite. I haven't been to Amsterdam Felafel yet, and would be interested to hear from anyone who's been to both. Hard to believe it could be much better.

I will second every word of Pork Belly's post. I made it to Max's on Friday. This is serious felafel. The toppings are fantastic. Since this was my first time I had him give me all the toppings and he put just the right amount of each on the sandwich. Also, he knows to layer felafel and toppings so you get both from beginning to end.

If I wasn't in such a hurry I would have gotten another one (and I don't really eat like that anymore).

Throw in a Dr. Brown's cream soda and a biblical argument at the next table and hey, what's not to like?

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I took a detour on my way to Rockville today and stopped by Max's. Excellent crunchy, fluffy felafel and great toppings - I went for pickled turnips, pickled beets, lettuce, chopped cucumber & tomato, and the spicy green sauce along with the requisite tahini. Delicious, but be warned that this sandwich loses all structural integrity after about five minutes, so do not consume while driving unless you feel like scraping pickled turnip and tahini off every surface in your car.

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I took a detour on my way to Rockville today and stopped by Max's. Excellent crunchy, fluffy felafel and great toppings - I went for pickled turnips, pickled beets, lettuce, chopped cucumber & tomato, and the spicy green sauce along with the requisite tahini. Delicious, but be warned that this sandwich loses all structural integrity after about five minutes, so do not consume while driving unless you feel like scraping pickled turnip and tahini off every surface in your car.

Don't exagerate.... there is THAT much pickled turnip..... :blink: I had a nicely overstuffed Schwerma... each time they get bigger!

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I took a detour on my way to Rockville today and stopped by Max's. Excellent crunchy, fluffy felafel and great toppings - I went for pickled turnips, pickled beets, lettuce, chopped cucumber & tomato, and the spicy green sauce along with the requisite tahini. Delicious, but be warned that this sandwich loses all structural integrity after about five minutes, so do not consume while driving unless you feel like scraping pickled turnip and tahini off every surface in your car.
Good lord!! How in the world did you eat one of these and drive? I just picked up falafel for our lunch today and had the gentleman behind the counter fix it up with what he thought was best. I'm eating at my desk and there are bits of tomato and lettuce all over my laptop. My notebook is covered in tahini sauce and I have to change my shirt because there's onion all over it. I am up to my elbows in hot sauce. And I love it. This is simply the best felafel I've ever had.
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Good lord!! How in the world did you eat one of these and drive?
I got skillz, baby.
I just picked up falafel for our lunch today and had the gentleman behind the counter fix it up with what he thought was best. I'm eating at my desk and there are bits of tomato and lettuce all over my laptop. My notebook is covered in tahini sauce and I have to change my shirt because there's onion all over it. I am up to my elbows in hot sauce. And I love it. This is simply the best felafel I've ever had.
Isn't it gooooood? If you ever want to meet up and have one there just give a call. My car won't survive another. :blink:

The schawarma looked a little dry when I was there, Dean. Is it worth it to skip the felafel?

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I got skillz, baby.Isn't it gooooood? If you ever want to meet up and have one there just give a call. My car won't survive another. :blink:

The schawarma looked a little dry when I was there, Dean. Is it worth it to skip the felafel?

I always get teh Schwarma. It has never been dry to my taste, but we are talking about crisp bits of roasted meat. In fact, I am on my way for this week's fix....

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I usually take a few big bites of Kay's felafel to satisify my jones for crispy balls. Or we add a ball or two to a Schwarma plate. But today the urge overtook me. But I was a little less thrilled witht he totalityof the experience. The first bite was wonderful! Crispy felafel, toppings galore, tahina etc. Messy, gooey, crunchy and good. I think that qualifies for the four food groups! But as I ate, the wet of the gooey parts made for less than crunchy crunchy bits. By the end the felafels were soft and wet. Ah well. Next time a felafel plate or just take a couple of bited from Kay's while it is hot and crispy.

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wow. add me to the list of converts--this place has amazing felafel. crunchy outside, light fluffy innards, delicious toppings. It puts everything else to shame. although dean's description of the structural changes that occur over time as you make your way through the sandwich are accurate, i found them to be generally pleasant.

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/bump/

Max's is a gift from heaven. The falafel is all that every one raves about: crunchy on the outside, light and airy inside. The schwarma is the only decent, let alone decadent, kosher meat around. The +1 puts away a whole sandwhich each time we go and I am jealous he gets to enjoy more of the meat and toppings than I do but there is no way I could put away a whole one.

The chicken soup didn't live up to expectations-I found it salty and industrialized tasting. The fries are good but an overkill when we get falafel; too much fried stuff. For me, the best part other than the sandwhiches is the celray dr. browns. Yummmmmmmm.

If only they would open another branch closer in to the city.

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it's hard to tell which I love more: the felafel sandwiches, or the sweet guy with the dreamy brown eyes who makes them. Although yesterday he put sauerkraut on mine, and that was not so dreamy as it hastened the disintegration.

Bu thather really.... are stained clothing and sauce dribbling down you chin such a great price for the perfect yin yang of the sour of the kraut perfectly cutting thru the slightly acridity of the tahini sauce? And then there is the spreading slick of the red hot sauce for those brave enough to get it slathered on...

BTW I've never noticed his dreamy eyes but I do find his habbit of adding a felafal ball or two to my schwarma to be quite appealing!

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I had a return visit to Max's, and it took me a while to figure this all out, but it's clear now that I've gone to Amsterdam. The falafel balls here are far superior and much lighter than at Amsterdam. However, I find the toppings at Max's really, really salty. At first I thought it was just my topping choices, but the reality is that every bite makes me cry out for water. If only I could combine the two places for the perfect falafel sandwich.

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Max's has quickly become the place for me to stop when I want to get schwarma. However, I never get the sandwich, and instead get the platter to take home (I ask for a couple of extra pitas since I always buy two platters, one for me, one for the wife.) I love the falafel too. But, stay away from the onion rings. My son and I made the mistake of ordering a large order since they looked great from a distance, but they were horrible. All breading and almost no discernable onion taste. And doughy too.

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I'm putting Max's on my short list of recommendations for out-of-town visitors. To me, Max's falafel is one of the singularly great food experiences in the Washington, DC area, and I cannot heap enough praise upon it. It has been six days since my last one, and I miss it desperately.

If anyone has never been: Go. Tell the guy behind the counter to load it up for you - he'll ask you if you want it spicy or not, and he'll do the rest.

Dining, schmining; this is as good as eating gets.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I'm starting a new Facebook group: "I ruined a shirt at Max's" This is aggressively, almost maliciously, messy food. Whenever I tangle with a Max's sandwich my clothing loses.

Falafel got a pass today in favor of the schwarma. It's good, and the toppings are still super, but it doesn't hold a candle to the falafel. I absentmindedly ordered a whole sandwich today - big mistake as the half I can't finish is a soggy mess in the bottom of the paper wrapper and isn't going to be very appetizing later on.

For those of you who attend football games, they are advertising a stand at FedEx field.

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Falafel got a pass today in favor of the schwarma. It's good, and the toppings are still super, but it doesn't hold a candle to the falafel. I absentmindedly ordered a whole sandwich today - big mistake as the half I can't finish is a soggy mess in the bottom of the paper wrapper and isn't going to be very appetizing later on.

I had two large falafels the last time I went

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I had two large falafels the last time I went

That sounds impossible. Did you pass up the bread and toppings? I would imagine that competitors in eating contests would have trouble accomplishing this feat.

One of these sandwiches and it's nap time for me.

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That sounds impossible. Did you pass up the bread and toppings? I would imagine that competitors in eating contests would have trouble accomplishing this feat.

One of these sandwiches and it's nap time for me.

I had just played tennis and was STARVING. As my mom would say, my eyes were bigger than my stomach - I ate one on the way home, and arrived looking like the proverbial penguin who had just eaten an ice-cream cone (*). Then I got home, said "to Hell with it," and started plowing through the second one too. I think there may have been twelve balls of falafel total - this was beyond piggish; it became a personal challenge, and I somehow managed to down every single crumb. I'm sure I've been this full before, but I can't remember when.

(*) Highlight at your own risk:

A penguin is having car trouble, so he drives to the repair shop, and the mechanic says "come back in an hour." The penguin waddles into town and eventually stumbles across an ice-cream parlor. He orders a vanilla cone, and starts heading back to the repair shop, trying his best to eat it along the way. But penguins only have flippers - not hands - so he's struggling trying to hold and eat the cone, which is melting in the heat and dripping all over his face. Finally, he gets back to the repair shop, and the mechanic takes one look at him and says, "Well, buddy, it looks like you blew a seal!

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I decided to make the 20 minute drive to Max's for schwerma this evening, but when I got there, they were out. You never heard so much kvetching and wailing over food. I ended up getting three falafel platters and an Israeli salad for the three of us instead. I watched them make the falafel so it was still warm by the time I got it home. Absolutely fantastic. The place was packed and lots of people were getting to the counter only to find out they were out of schwerma, so they either left (quite a few left) or huddled with their group and decided what else to get. I saw a lot of chili dogs, and they looked good, so maybe I'll try one someday, but not it they have schwerma available.

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Don't bother with the chilli dog-it's not worth it if you are willing to eat an unkosher version. The hamburger is fine-I've been told by those who don't eat nonkosher meat that it's really good. The fried chicken is worth it. But stick with the shwarma and falafal. That's where Max shines.

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After having a fix at The Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church over the weekend, my wife requested I get some schawarma from Max's to try to satisfy the need for more schawarma.

While completely different beasts (both wonderful), this was a stellar version on schawarma to be sure. A little heavy on the accoutrements where the meat got a bit lost in the mix, the flavors were all so good, it is forgivable.

Next time we'll try the falafel. But I highly recommend the place! And it was hopping there last night. Parking in the shopping center parking lot was impossible, but up just past the place on the right on next street there is plenty of street parking (free after 6pm!).

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Went again this weekend and tried the falafel. Very good and tasty and crispy. I wished the ratio of falafel to other stuff was greater, though. Next time I will order extra falafek to go along with a platter or sandwich. Quite good!

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Today's Gazette newspaper has a review by Brian Patterson that is prompting me to make sure Max's is back on my lunch list.

Brian Lewis' photograph is captioned:

(Clockwise from bottom left) Middle Eastern salad plate; hot pastrami sandwich, hot corned beef sandwich, matzo ball soup, falafel and sauces. Center is schawarma, which is often served in pocket of pita bread.

dininguke071509w_rgbb.jpg

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I usually take a few big bites of Kay's felafel to satisify my jones for crispy balls. Or we add a ball or two to a Schwarma plate.

Dean, I always get the schawarma platter since I'm usually taking it home with me and don't want to have to deal with the mess of a sandwich. They always add a couple of felafel to each platter.

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After yet another carryout falafel at Max's today ($5.95 for a whole, with the works, medium-spicy), I can only reach one conclusion: This is the Michael Jordan of falafel.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Finally made it back to Max's today. Got a carryout felafel sandwich (still $5.95). Ordered spicy. Six felafel balls -- freshly made right in front of me. As always, felafel and outstanding toppings layered masterfully in the pita. Tahini so good I would bathe in it.

I have to go back with my family so I can at least try some of their other offerings, like the schwarma. And a salad plate because those toppings are so freaking good and I want more of them.

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I haven't been to Amsterdam Falafelship in a couple of years now, but do they make (not just fry; I mean actually form with two spoons) their falafel balls to order? Both Max's Kosher Cafe (which is still the best falafel I've ever had, and I was just there about a month ago) and Cafe Nessma (where I got a very good one last week) do.

I was at Max's recently too. I got there around 11 so everything was nice and fresh. When I got up to the felafel counter and placed my order, I was amazed to watch the guy actually make the felafel balls right before my eyes. I guess the only way they could be any fresher would be for them to grind the chick peas in front of you too -- and I suspect that if you get there at the right time, you'll see them do even that as well.

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Unless I'm mistaken, it looks utterly closed. It's in the same shopping center as Pho Hiep Hoa, where I went last week. Much of that little strip on the left side looks closed.

It should still be there. The Shalom Kosher Market, under the same ownership, has moved, but Max's has not.

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It should still be there. The Shalom Kosher Market, under the same ownership, has moved, but Max's has not.

Right you are: finished an errand near downtown Wheaton and did a drive-by to check it out. I had the half falafel, which still takes two hands to eat. Hence, no picture. (Also, once you start, you can't stop.)

The line for shawarma was huge - but if the falafel was any indicator, I bet it's awesome - must return on the early side.

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Right you are: finished an errand near downtown Wheaton and did a drive-by to check it out. I had the half falafel, which still takes two hands to eat. Hence, no picture. (Also, once you start, you can't stop.)

The line for shawarma was huge - but if the falafel was any indicator, I bet it's awesome - must return on the early side.

The schwarma is very good, but I'm slightly partial to the felafel. Still, I would try the former at least once and make up your own mind. :)

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