Falafel Innovations Power Chickpea’s Expansion Plans

Chickpea's secret weapons: new-school falafel (top) and pimped-out hummus (bottom). Photo: Melissa Hom

Chickpea’s decision to give up frying their falafel filled us with sadness. Even if, as Eater suggested in their item on the subject, it was as a prelude to expansion, was this really the direction we wanted to see falafel go? The only good thing about these “nosh puppies,” for our money, was their oil-fried goodness. But Chickpea is expanding, executive chef Alex Schindler tells us, with locations planned for the Upper West Side, the meatpacking district, and Times Square, in the next year alone, and with the expansion must come plans to diversify and modernize the Chickpea trinity of falafel, hummus, and shawarma.

All three items, we’re told, are going to start appearing in multiple flavors. The falafel will come in its original form, but also in artichoke, wild mushroom, olive and lemon, spinach and broccoli, and even jalapeño (no doubt to make up for the excitement lost when the frying was discontinued). The hummus is getting similar treatment, with smoked paprika, roasted pepper, pesto, and also jalapeño varieties — because, as Schindler tells us, “people love spicy food.” Both falafel and hummus have been seen in doctored-up forms before; to us, the most radical proposal is the flavored shawarma. One lamb-and-turkey wad will rotate away, its sizzling meat heated with smoked chile; alongside it will appear an Asian version made with fermented soy sauce, a “Mediterranean” shawarma marinated with orange and thyme, and of course the current chicken and lamb-turkey versions. “We’re the innovators,” Schindler says. “Everything is going to be healthy, and everything is going to be good.” We’ll settle for good. Our late-night visits to Chickpea have seldom been part of a stringent fitness regimen.