Variety is one of those words that doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

It used to be we loved our variety shows on TV, starring Sonny and Cher or Donny and Marie.  And every neighborhood had a beloved variety store, where you could get a loaf of bread, a nice ham sandwich and a bottle of wine.

But today in this foodie-centric world, the emphasis seems to be on focus, with restaurants or take-out places trying to carve out a specific niche. So what appealed to me the most when I read the menu for Falafel Time, a new take-out place on Forest Avenue, was that it seemed to have a niche while also giving people a variety of food types to choose from.

There’s definitely a focus on the namesake falafel, as well as on Middle Eastern fare. But there are also burgers, steak and cheese, pizzas and calzones. It just so happens the other day, when my family and I got takeout from there for dinner, we were in the mood for Middle Eastern food. Though the Philly cheesesteak I saw looked tempting.

My daughter Dinah had the falafel sandwich ($8.99). The half a dozen or so falafel were lightly fried, nice and moist inside. They came with lettuce, tomatoes, tahini sauce and other veggies and spices in a very soft pita. The pita held together nicely, it didn’t tear like some. There was also a hint of heat in there somewhere, which Dinah really liked.

A falafel salad from Falafel Time in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

My wife had the falafel salad ($10.99) which included the nicely-fried falafels again in a salad of greens, tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumbers and pickles. There was also a side of hummus, with olives. The hummus was really great, very rich and creamy. We got a side of it as well for $4.99. I could get just that with some pita bread ($1) and call it lunch.

For my dinner, I tried a beef kebab sandwich, with similar fixings to the falafel sandwich, and in a pita, for $9.99. The meat was tender but I liked the flavors in the falafel sandwich better.

Other Middle Eastern fare on the menu included a beef kebab plate, falafel burger, tabbouleh salad, fattoush (a salad with crispy bread mixed with the veggies), baba ganoush, baklava and stuffed grape leaves. There’s also the Philly cheesesteak, a chicken calzone, a cheeseburger and garlic naan bread, as well as several pizzas, including one with chicken and one with Alfredo cheese.

Falafel Time opened in October, in a space that used to have a Papa John’s. It’s on a stretch of Forest Avenue that has been attracting a wide variety of new restaurants in the past year or so. Some of those restaurants, like Falafel Time, provide variety all by themselves.

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