Food writers are notoriously fond of bandwagons, and even in a city as wide and diverse as Los Angeles it is not uncommon to find three or more of us at a new buzzed-about restaurant at any given time. For a while we were all congregating at Republique in the daytime, happily taking advantage of the free wifi and great coffee and Margarita Manzke's beautiful pastries. Grand Central Market is a good place to play spot-the-food-writer, particularly because of its proximity to the L.A. Times offices.
But at Dune in Atwater Village, the food writer enthusiasm has been particularly fierce. Bloggers, magazine editors and freelance food writers have been gossiping, Instagramming and writing about Dune, all with the same basic message: Holy crap, this falafel is good.
Dune, which opened in mid-January, is a straightforward operation put together by the folks who run Elf Cafe, the vegetarian mainstay in Echo Park. The storefront doesn't even have a sign. Inside, you order at the counter and then take a seat either at the limited counter seating that lines the walls or outside at one of a few metal tables. At midday, the dance/exercise studio next door blares music out its open doors while women inside Zumba away. It's as overtly festive as Atwater Village gets.
The offerings at Dune are simple: falafel, a lamb meatball sandwich (unlike its sister business, Dune is not meat-free) and a veggie sandwich. There are a few side dishes, such as a dish of marinated, slightly spicy blood oranges. But mainly you're here for the falafel.
Presented on stretchy, slightly charred bread that's grilled to order, Dune's falafel balls are large and crispy, but soft on the inside. They sit atop a smear of hummus, a handful of fresh herbs, pickles and a smattering of thin fried potato spears. The falafel itself is made without any flour, which makes it less bready and spongy than some falafel. That, along with the flatbread, makes this the dish everyone is raving about. The term “best falafel in town” has been thrown around, and I'm not one to disagree.
The lamb sandwich is also worth ordering, but served as is I found it lacking tang. When ordered with hummus, which they are happy to add, it was much better, good enough in fact to pull at my heartstrings when deciding what to order. It's good, but my loyalty still lies with the falafel.
There's housemade pickled mango on the counter to add a kick of sweet/sour to any dish, and super-tart, fresh lemonade to go along with your meal. Is there a downside? This is a teeny operation, with people making bread and frying falafel to order, and food can take a while. Like, I've waited as long as 40 minutes for my food to arrive once ordered, and that's after a wait in line to get to the counter in the first place.
It was worth it. That's damn good falafel.
Dune: 3143 Glendale Blvd. Atwater Village.