When State Treasurer Steve Grossman attended Mayor Setti Warren’s in February, you might have thought he would be solely focused on touting his hometown's strong arts and business presence.
But the local food being served at the event was too good to go unnoticed.
“This is the best falafel I’ve had since visiting Israel in 1978!” Grossman proclaimed upon having a sandwich from Jake’s Falafel Corner.
The 18-month-old business, currently located in a corner of , is owned and operated by Jake Shahrooz.
Shahrooz moved to the US from Tehran in 1983 to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University, and for many years worked in this field.
But cooking had been his passion from a very young age.
“Every week my mom used to go to the butcher shop and bring back some fresh meat,” recalls Shahrooz. “I used to cut a specific piece of it, and put it on a fork and barbecue it on top of the gas range. The first shish kebab!”
Shahrooz briefly moved to New York in the early 90s and helped an Israeli friend run a falafel restaurant in Brooklyn.
When he returned to the Boston area, he and his brothers opened Café Shiraz in Brookline. For eight years they served authentic Mediterranean cuisine in a cozy location on the Boston border.
But when Shahrooz and his wife Nancy, a Newton native, had their son Abe in 2000, he decided that the life of a restaurateur didn’t allow for enough family time so he started a medical billing service.
This proved an ideal arrangement for the next decade or so. But a request from a friend sent him back to the kitchen.
“A good friend emailed and said she was having a party and asked [if I knew] of any good Middle Eastern caterers,” Nancy recounts. “And I went downstairs and asked Jake ‘What do you think?’ He still loved food and wanted to cook, it’s his passion. So he said, ‘Yeah!’ and I said to [my friend], ‘You want his food? We’ll make it!’”
It was then that Jake decided he wanted to have his own food establishment again. With some help and advice from the husband of the party-giving friend, he took over a spot inside the well-established Sandwich Works location in Newton Centre. Jake’s Falafel Corner opened on Martin Luther King Day in 2011.
But now the business has grown beyond its little corner, Jake has been seeking a stand-alone location that will allow him to “serve our loyal customers and our new customers and prepare some of the dishes I can’t really make right now.”
While he can’t share the exact location “until the ink is dry,” Jake wants everyone to know that Jake’s Falafel will be remaining in Newton Centre and will be serving the same creative cuisine for which he is now known.
These imaginative dishes include a falafel dog (“it’s falafel in the shape of a hot dog, on a bun, with everything you put on a hot dog”) and a falafel burger, as well as a buffalo falafel that is doused in traditional buffalo hot sauce.
Jake’s is also known for its signature “fiery falafel.” On the outside, it looks like your regular, innocuous fried chickpea treat. But the center contains a dollop of skhug, an Israeli hot paste containing six types of peppers and a variety of spices.
Hannah Shahrooz, age 10, has her own favorite on the menu.
“The falafel parm is the best,” she says shyly.
Mother Nancy adds, “When Jake first told us about it- falafel made like a traditional parm sub on a roll with tomato sauce and cheese – we went…” (she makes a “yucky” face). “But it is delicious!”
When Jake opens his new restaurant, he is hoping to bring back another hybrid Italian-Middle Eastern dish: the spaghetti and falafel balls that were very popular at his Café Shiraz.
Jake not only knows what he wants from the food at his new location; he knows exactly how he wants it to feel.
“I want to stay in right here in Newton Centre, to stay close to all of my loyal customers,” he says, warmly. “And when they walk into the new Jake’s, I want it to be like they are walking into Persia.”
Jake's Falafel Corner will be closing its current location on August 11 but until the new location opens, Jake will continue catering and can be contacted via his website for special, individual orders. Watch Newton Patch for updates on Jake's new restaurant.