Falling for Falafel

Banzo's mouthwatering fare has a permanent home on the near-north side

Before the food cart Banzo had a brick-and-mortar counterpart, its just-right falafel, rich and creamy hummus and surprisingly top-notch fries were available only during lunch hours at Library Mall and the Capitol Square. But lucky for us, Banzo’s Mediterranean fare now has a permanent home on Sherman Avenue.

Facing Burrows Park with patio views of Lake Mendota, the storefront operated as a takeout and delivery hub for Banzo starting in January 2012. That summer, not only did co-owners Aaron Collins and Netalee Sheinman start working to turn the spot into a full-fledged restaurant, but they also got married.

Today, Banzo is succeeding, both in their carts and on the near-north side. Chef Dan Schmitz serves up delicious Middle Eastern staples like tabouli, chicken and beef kabobs and grilled and fried eggplant. Daily specials such as quinoa salad with peppers or chicken pesto with organic greens grace the menu as well.

Collins, Sheinman and Schmitz feature local ingredients whenever possible. But they’re not afraid to look far away, either, sourcing the dough for the pitas directly from Sheinman’s native Israel. As it serves as the foundation of many Banzo dishes, the three agreed that getting the best pita possible was a top priority. “We haven’t found anything else as good,” says Collins.

According to Schmitz, “The falafel is the true star of the show.” Perhaps a less assuming highlight is the hummus—so basic that it’s easy to take for granted. Featuring tahini imported from Lebanon, the flavorful recipe comes together creamy without feeling too heavy and is a welcome complement to any other dish on the menu. It’s some of the best in town. Ask for the house-made chimichurri sauce, and you might wonder how you’ve ever eaten hummus without it.

“I’m trying to get people to eat the hummus as a meal,” says Sheinman.

That’s how it was back home.

2105 Sherman Ave.
441-2002, banzomadison.com

Grace Edquist is associate/web editor of Madison Magazine. She blogs about food in The Chow Down

Photo by Nicole Peaslee. 

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