By Sadef Ali Kully
Faras “Freddy” Zeideia, known as “King of Falafel,” was smiling from ear to ear as his cash register rang up sales from a long line of hungry folks Saturday, the opening day of his restaurant at 30-15 Broadway in Astoria. “I feel good,” Zeideia said between customers.
Before the opening of his restaurant, Zeideia had operated a food truck on the sidewalk on Broadway near 30th Street for almost 13 years, until the closure of the C-Town that used to stand behind his truck.
The former C-Town location has now become a fenced-up construction site for a proposed five-story apartment building with underground parking.
Zeideia, a Palestinian immigrant, started in the food truck business in 2002 and began planning for his restaurant a few years ago. The shuttering of C-Town pushed him to look harder for a location just down the block.
In 2010, the “King of Falafel” won two Vendy Awards, annual street food competition series,. One was for People’s Choice and the other was the Judges’ Award.
In addition to the food truck he operated in Astoria, Zeideia had also run a food cart in Manhattan before his restaurant came to fruition.
The facade of the new restaurant looks like the front of his bright-green food truck, with big headlights and big windows.
Some of the diners who showed up on the opening day decided to come back when it would be less busy.
“I have been coming to him for five, six years now,” said Mohammed Eid, one of Zeideia’s regular customers. “I live nearby so it’s convenient, but it has to do with the quality of his food. It is excellent. Plus everyone that works with him are the nicest people you will ever meet. Always pleasant and smiling.”
Eid wanted his friend, Emil Yousef, to try the food for the first time. For Eid, the long lines were all too familiar.
“He had longer lines at his truck, so I will just come back later,” he said.
Inside, customers on the line were treated to fresh-made falafels by the staff. Others sat down in the dining section, which can seat up to 30 people. Some customers were wearing in “King of Falafel” T-shirts while eating the falafel and shawarma plates.
Zeideia has also extended his menu to include popular Middle Eastern dishes, such as charcoal kebabs.
Armando, 21, who was on line for 40 minutes, said he was 15 minutes late for work.
“Let’s just say I am on an extended break from my shift,” he said. “My break was over like 20 minutes ago. But I never tried this and it smells so good in here.”
Despite all of the big changes, Zeideia has held onto his big green food truck and has not decided where to operate it.
“Of course, I have it—I always will,” he said between customers.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull