I've added a new entry to my growing catalogue of "stupid reasons why I waited too long to try some restaurant": the unlikely name. I'd heard that Fordee's serves worthy Middle Eastern food, but it didn't sound very Levantine, which put me off. I was right about the name: "Fordee" Ford was the restaurant's original owner, an Irish-American. But I was wrong about the bad feeling: a Lebanese-American family bought the place years ago and kept the name for convenience's sake. So I'm grateful that local chowhound.com habitués finally convinced me to go, mainly with their rapt praise for Fordee's falafel.
And what a falafel it is! It's gorgeous in that special way that unassuming, everyday foods can be. Its extraordinarily crunchy, unoily exterior is brown as a Brazil nut, a testament to adept frying; its interior pea-green, beautifully seasoned, creamy. Order the platter ($8.95) and you get four of these beauties plus very fine hummus (like nearly everything Lebanese here, made in-house from scratch), tahini, good tabouleh, radish-skin-tinted turnip pickles (packing a mouth-puckering, briny punch), lettuce, tomato, and a round of fresh, soft, fine pita. A chicken shawarma platter ($8.95) is generously laden with chunks of grilled marinated chicken breast, beautifully moist and flavorful, plus similar accompaniments, though you can replace the tahini with toum, a ferocious sauce based on pureéd raw garlic. The big, eye-catching salads include an excellent fatoush ($6.25), toasted strips of pita with a variety of greens, herbs, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, sprinkled with pleasantly sour, crimson-colored sumac powder.
Cultivating the local Watertown crowd, Fordee's also serves Armenian specialties like a losh kabob roll-up ($7.75), meatballs of ground beef seasoned with allspice and rolled in pita with hummus and vegetables. Lunchtime gets packed with customers ordering sandwiches to go, like the justly popular falafel combo, which rolls a few falafels in pita ($5.75) with lettuce, tomato, turnip pickles, and a choice of tabouleh, hummus, or faintly smoky baba ghanoosh. There's quality American sub-shop fare, too, like 10-ounce burgers ($5.25–$6.50), cold-cut sandwiches ($5.99–$7.25), and hot subs like steak ($6.50–$8.25). Beverages are limited to yogurt-based ayran ($2.50) and American soft drinks ($1.25–$2). The room offers counter service and 16 seats in a spare, bright, spotless space before an open kitchen. Having finally tasted what might be the best falafel in Greater Boston, I will henceforth remember never to prejudge a restaurant by its name alone.
Fordee's Falafel & Deli, located at 555 Mount Auburn Street, in Watertown, is open Monday–Friday, 11 am–9 pm, and Saturday, 11 am–5 pm. Call 617.923.3673.