For eight and a half years, Fares “Freddy” Zeidais was the self-proclaimed Falafel King, but now he’s the real thing.
On September 25th, the Astoria food vendor won the coveted Vendy Award, which chef Mario Batali called “the Oscars of food for the real New York.” Since the win, Zeidais has prominently displayed his trophy next to his cart, even finding a marble stand to place it on.
Of course anyone who’s walked past the corner of Broadway and 30th Street already knew about the The King of Falafel & Shawarma cart and its Middle Eastern eats.
Born and raised in the West Bank, Zeidais’ falafels stick to the traditional recipe. “I add in more lettuce and vegetables for the vegetarians,” he says. Growing up Zeidais says there was a Shawarma cart on every corner. In fact, falafel sandwiches are so popular in places like Egypt, that McDonalds added the McFalafel to their menu.
But the cart is definitely known for more than its food. It’s also known for its owner’s larger than life personality.
Zeidais is like a local celebrity, saying hi to everyone who walks by. Often he addresses them by name, asking them about their job or how their family’s doing. Sometimes he tells jokes, other times he dances to whatever’s playing on the radio. If the line is long, Zeidais and his three workers hand out falafels to make things go faster.
He likes being one on one with the people and has no plans to open a standard restaurant. “We’re not hiding out inside, we’re out on the street with the people.” Though he admits they work a little faster when the temperatures drop, he thinks it’s important to experiencing the elements with the customers.
Though Astoria’s small businesses have been having their fair share of troubles in this recession, Freddy has found a way to make his business thrive. Combining good food, an inviting personality and affordable prices.
Now that he’s been crowned, Zeidais says he will defend his title until he physically can’t stand anymore. And even then, he says, there are ways to get around it.
“I could sit here in a chair,” said Zeidais as he sits down in the C-Town parking lot across from his cart. “Watch over things to make sure they’re doing them right.”
Click on the photo below to see more.