HUBBLY BUBBLY FALAFEL SHOP
3405 Edgewater Drive | 407-985-5841 | hubblybubblyfalafel.com | $
Even for progressive College Park, seeing a down-home barbecue joint transformed into a modern falafel shop was akin to culinary culture shock. But, considering the steadily declining quality of ’cue that was coming out of Blackwater Bar-BQ as it wound down to a close, not too many folks were complaining when fresh-faced Hubbly Bubbly opened its doors on the northeast corner of Edgewater Drive and Par Street. In fact, it was met with equally fresh anticipation among neighborhood residents.
“Fresh” is certainly the operative word at Hubbly Bubbly; chef/co-owner Georgie Joubran, a native of Nazareth, Israel, takes quality and tradition to heart. Joubran claims to be from the same clan as noted poet Khalil Gibran but readily admits, “I’m a businessman, not a poet.” The co-owners of the restaurant are Mark Unger, a partner at ad agency Push, and Unger’s wife (who also happens to be Joubran’s daughter); many of Push’s clients are restaurants, and Unger’s insider info can only help their foray into the restaurant world.
Joubran is as genial and generous as they come, and the amusing caricatures of his visage (circa 1969) emblazoned all over the walls serve to make the place all the more welcoming.
Ordering is quite simple. Choose from falafel, lentils, spit-roasted chicken or spit-roasted lamb/steak, then select how you want it served – in a pita pocket, salad bowl or hummus bowl. As you make your way down the counter, you’ll have the option to add various toppings, like Middle Eastern-style pickles, olives and pickled turnips, as well as various sauces ranging from lemony to garlicky to spicy. I have to say that in our three visits to Hubbly Bubbly, we’ve liked most of what we sampled, not least of all the falafel sandwich ($5.99). Made fresh daily, the fried chickpea orbs are a meatless delight.
Order it “Georgie’s Way” and your sandwich comes stuffed with a lemony salad and pickles, and that’s it. “That’s the way a falafel sandwich should be,” Joubran says, and I wasn’t about to question his conviction. The spit-roasted lamb/steak is comprised of glistening layers of rib-eye steak and lamb, and it’s pretty darned near perfect. Joubran refuses to call it “shawarma,” as that connotes inferior cuts of meat, but whatever you call it, we enjoyed it in a bowl of creamy hummus ($7.99) along with pickled turnips and cucumbers, and we’ll be enjoying it like that again very soon, count on it. Hints of turmeric and paprika make the moist, spit-roasted chicken another can’t-miss item, but if you’re looking for a healthy fat-free nosh by ordering the salad bowl ($6.99), just know that the poultry shavings comprise both white and dark meat.
At our most recent meal, Joubran came by with a plate of lentils (aka mujadarah) blended with quinoa, caramelized onions, peppers and a zesty tabbouleh; they also make a gluten-free version. If you’re looking for starters, reach beyond the popular five-spice “mazel tots” ($3.49) for fried cauliflower ($3.99) instead. Liberal dips in “Lilly” sauce, a lemon-tahini blend named for Joubran’s sister, made the crunchy crucifer even better. In all honesty, I didn’t expect much from baklava ($3.99) served at a fast-casual eatery, but these flaky pistachio- and honey-filled nibbles were restaurant-worthy.
Because of the restaurant’s proximity to Edgewater High School, you won’t actually find any hubbly-bubblies in here. But hookah or no hookah, Unger loved the name, and it certainly plays into his plans of building Hubbly Bubbly into a franchising empire. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.