Azuri Café

By Marisa Robertson-Textor

Certain spots in New York feel lifted straight from a film set, and none more so than ramshackle little Azuri. Bustling street corner in already filled-to-the-brim Hell’s Kitchen? Check. Noir parade of regulars shouting at each other in English, Hebrew, and Spanish? You got it. Curmudgeonly chef-owner, Ezra Cohen, with a heart of gold who gives you the cold shoulder for having stayed away too long before relenting and kissing your hand? (Thank you, BBE, for sending me back before I was forever banned.) But as engaging as it is, don’t come here for the atmosphere—come for the food. Light and lacy, the falafel is a triumph of flavor over heft, arguably the best you’ll find this side of Jerusalem. It would be worth the schlep over to Tenth Avenue just to sample them, but it’s the accompaniments—a heaping, jewel-toned platter of stewed eggplant, chickpea salad, tahini, cabbage-pepper salad, the spicy Yemenite sauce known as zhug, and crisp pickles—that will have you coming back. If Cohen likes you (and he will if you clean your plate), he might even let you sit for hours over your Turkish coffee and baklava.

sweet seats

With only 10 chairs scattered higgledy-piggledy amongst five tables in the narrow dining space, elbow room is at a premium and private conversation impossible. But sitting smushed up against your neighbors—a cross-section of shop owners from the neighborhood, vegetarian foodies, and pretty much every Israeli in New York City, from Orthodox jewelers to cab drivers to club kids—is half the fun.

chew on this

Azuri may make the city’s best falafel, but the award for the largest goes to Olympic Pita, over on West 38th Street, which, last spring, used almost 10 gallons of oil to deep-fry a 24-pound specimen in an attempt to set a new world record.


Sun–Thu 10 AM–9 PM; Fri 10 AM–sundown
*closed Saturday

price range

$4.75 (split pea soup) to $18.50 (steak plate)
*cash only