Fans who have been lucky enough to experience the fresh flavors of Aba’s Falafel at a local farmers market haven’t stopped rejoicing since proprietors Cathy and Roy Naor opened their year-round lunch spot in July of 2017—and neither have Cathy and Roy. “There’s something viscerally satisfying about feeding people; my husband and I both love it,” says Cathy. “It’s the first thing you do for your child, after all. There’s just something very nice about it.”
Aba’s Falafel has a solid five stars across social media thanks to the consistent deliciousness customers know they can count on.
While growing up in Israel, Cathy never dreamed that she’d find herself a five-star falafel maker in Rhinebeck, but she’d always had a heart for the hungry. “I studied neurobiology and waitressed to put myself through school,” she recalls. “One day, a few of us were sitting around the lab talking about our favorite jobs that we’d ever had, and mine was waitressing. I guess I’ve come full circle.”
Work is life, it’s what you do; it’s a great life when you do what you love.
Cathy and her husband Roy—an airline pilot who flies between Tel Aviv and New York—moved to the US in 2005 with son Kai and daughter Mika, and drew a radius 100 miles around Manhattan for home-hunting purposes. Roy was the first to discover Rhinebeck. “He said, ‘You’ll love it—everyone wears jeans and no makeup,’” says Cathy. “He was right.” She was delighted to find herself surrounded by avid foodies, and thought it might be fun to bring some authentic falafel into the farmers market scene. “It was an excuse for some cooking fun, at first,” she recalls. “Get out of the house, just me, my husband, and a pot of falafel. But it just grew and grew.”
Aba’s Falafel (Aba is the Hebrew word for “dad,” and both their fathers are named Abraham) was a hit from the very beginning, made with just five fresh ingredients. “Never any binder or filler in the falafel balls,” Cathy explains. “Just the best, freshest chickpeas and herbs. I hunted until I found a place that sold the kind of pita bread I was used to back home—very fluffy, not like cardboard. I found a New York source for super flavorful spices from Israel and Lebanon.” The falafel balls are quick-fried to keep them light and healthy, and make for a naturally vegan lunch. “Our family is vegan, but I don’t make a huge deal of it in advertising,” Cathy says. “People ask, ‘Is there meat in this?’ and I’ll say, ‘Just try a bite.’ And there you go, another person learns that you can eat delicious, savory food without hurting animals.”
“Never any binder or filler in the falafel balls. Just the best, freshest chickpeas and herbs.”
As the business grew, it became clear that an onsite, year-round prep kitchen would be a worthwhile addition. “We knew we wanted it to feel like visiting a friend’s house,” Cathy says. “We designed and decorated it ourselves, brought stuff from home to hang on the walls. We signed the lease in March of 2017 and opened in July. The whole thing has just kind of unfolded.” Opening a permanent location also allowed for a few additions to the menu, like the popular roasted eggplant sandwiches and homemade baklava.
Like finding the perfect spices, the right help is a key factor in the Aba’s recipe. “I think we’re good at hiring,” Cathy says. “We hire people who are grounded, friendly, social, and intelligent, people we like to be around and banter with.
And that creates the atmosphere that tends to draw the same kind of customers—people I’d want to have coffee with anyway. They’re a joy, both the customers and our staff. The social aspect is huge. I’d say our clientele is about 70 percent regulars, and I love it that they come have lunch with us.”
The feeling is mutual: Aba’s Falafel has a solid five stars across social media thanks to the consistent deliciousness customers know they can count on. “I don’t compromise on ingredients; if produce isn’t what I want, I send it back,” says Cathy.
“We source locally whenever we can. And people respond to fairness and generosity. If we make customers feel good, we feel good, and they just keep coming back.”
The Naors love being part of the Rhinebeck restaurant scene. “This town is blessed with a lot of really good food; we love going to eat at places that we know share our philosophy of consistency, quality, and service,” Cathy says. “A lot of people in town already knew us from the farmers market, which is fun. We feel very welcomed.”
Having found a winning formula and work/life balance, Cathy says her customers can expect Aba’s to remain just what it is: pure, fresh, and open only for lunch. “I like keeping it balanced with the markets, which is, after all, where we started, and I love them,” she says. “Opening just for lunch allows us to keep it fun and not get overwhelmed; come in happy, leave happy, and go out to eat ourselves, since nobody wants to go home and cook dinner after cooking for work. Work is life, it’s what you do; it’s a great life when you do what you love. Doing good and doing well gives everything meaning. We can treat our people right and donate to causes we care about; when we have an animal welfare donation day, I end up freshly inspired all over again.”
You can see what all the fuss about Aba’s is by visiting them for lunch any day (now Mondays too) at their permanent Rhinebeck location. During the warmer months, they can also be found at the Woodstock farmers markets and a few other fairs. Visit abasfalafel.com for more information.
54 East Market Street, Rhinebeck
845-876-2324 | abasfalafel.com