A few years ago, Khaled Zaibak began promoting fried chickpeas in his sleep. “I started to have some dreams about falafel,” says Zaibak, president of Chicago-based falafel wholesaler Zaibak Bros. “As a strong believer in faith, I felt as though it was a message from God.”
Zaibak set about spreading the word. He assembled a research and development team and pitched the traditional Middle Eastern sandwich to Subway. Soon, Zaibak had the blessing of the chain’s co-founder and CEO, Fred DeLuca, to start selling a falafel patty based on Zaibak’s Turkish grandmother’s recipe. Select Chicago-area Subways began offering footlong falafels in April of 2010. They’ve since expanded to restaurants throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana.
Falafel’s foray into Subway stores is a logical step in the food’s journey into the American mainstream. After watching the rising popularity of hummus in grocery stores across the country, Zaibak says he saw an opportunity for another chickpea-based Middle-Eastern food to become an American staple. If the Subway falafel sandwich goes national, it could give the ethnic treat the most American treatment of all: fast food mass production.
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