SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition
An awful lot of restaurants like to make "Best [blank] in San Francisco" claims. The list of self-proclaimed "best burgers" is so long at least 21 of the places advertising them must be lying. (If it weren't for independent evaluation authorities such as SF Weekly, who could you believe?) But when Sunrise Deli proclaims itself -- on its sign, its website, and its new food truck -- "Best Falafel in Town," the restaurant is actually telling the truth.
When you enter the deli's 28-year-old original location in the Outer Sunset, chances are good that one of the cooks will be standing over the fryer, shaping scoops of ground chickpeas into precise disks to drop into the oil. The fryer rarely seems to see any downtime, because there's a constant stream of people coming in to the cafe to buy the chickpea fritters by the dozen. Hot -- which they often are -- the falafel have a lacy, grainy exterior that seems to collapse as it crackles. The jade-hued insides stay soft and moist, not saturated with oil, the flavor inflected with cumin and parsley.
You can buy falafel-stuffed pita sandwiches at Sunrise, but they're better by the platter, where you can swipe the fritters through a pool of the deli's lemony, herb-flecked tahini sauce. And if you pick up a few dozen falafel to take home, remember to calculate your finders' fee appropriately. Pluck one out of the bag to eat on the way out the door, and you may soon find you've hit the 25 percent mark before you're a couple of blocks on your way.
Sunrise Deli: 2215 Irving (at 23rd Ave.), 664-8210; 54 Second St. (at Market), 495-9999; 2456 Bancroft, Berkeley, (510) 845-9400; 89 Belden Place, 362-2805.
Other favorites in this series: