By Bill Parry
A Palestinian from the West Bank city of Ramallah has fashioned his own version of the American Dream on the streets of Astoria.
Since 2002, Fares “Freddy” Zeideia has operated a Vendy Award-winning street cart serving Middle Eastern cuisine on Broadway and next month he will open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Sometime next month, Zeideia will move his operation from his familiar green “King of Falafel” truck into the Chirping Chicken restaurant at 30-15 Broadway. He will create his popular falafel and shawarma dishes as well as an expanded menu with additional items such as charcoal-grilled kabobs, Middle Eastern salads and hummus, baba ganoush and tabouli.
“I’ve been planning this for five years,” Zeideia said. “I had looked at several places in Chicago, but then I found out the Chirping Chicken space was going to be available and I went for it. I wanted to stay is Astoria very badly, especially on Broadway because Broadway is my baby.”
His new restaurant will have seating for up to 30 customers who for nearly 13 years lined up at his truck at lunchtime in all kinds of weather. The “King of Falafel” truck was located at Broadway and 30th Street outside the C-Town Supermarket.
“But I knew I was going to have to move because the C-Town is closing and for the next two or three years I’d have no idea if I could still park there,” Zeideia said. A developer is planning to build a five-story apartment building with underground parking, with C-Town potentially returning to ground floor retail space.
Zeideia plans to continue operating his truck but he is not sure where he will put it.
“Yes, the truck will stay, but with the new construction I’ll have to find a new location. Perhaps I’ll put it under the el,” he said.
“King of Falafel” has been such a success that in 2010 it won two Vendy Awards. “We got both the People’s Choice and the Judges Award and that had never happened before,” he said.
Between his truck, and another street cart he operates in Manhattan, “King of Falafel” has served as much as 120 pounds of meat a day, all carefully spiced using his mother’s recipes from Ramallah.
A typical day begins at 5 a.m. when Zeideia and an assistant prepare everything “from scratch,” including the white, tahini and hot sauce. The workday ends around 10 p.m. unless he runs out of food early.
He said having a restaurant is a dream come true especially because it’s on Broadway in Astoria.
“We’ve seen the kids from Long Island City High School grow up and have kids of their own,” Zeideia said. “They bring their kids back to meet me all the time, saying ‘here’s the man that fed me at school’ – I like that.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr