The former home of a Wienerschnitzel, across the street from a Chevron in a sleepy San Jose strip mall, can’t be right for a vegan restaurant, right? Wrong. The bright yellow, steep-roofed eatery on the corner of Meridian and Fruitdale now shelters The Flying Falafel, the first spinoff of the San Francisco favorite. In just its second month, the place combines great food with fun and a sense of mission.

Sitting outside on the cheerful red chairs wasn’t bad despite the noise of traffic. Beyond the parking lot, tall evergreens give the spot a camping vibe, and other customers are quick to recommend suggestions, such as The Frisbee (falafel and hummus in pita, $7), which I was told in no uncertain terms was “awesome.”

Flying’s owner, Assaf Pashut, handed us free tastes of hot pita, thicker than usual, dipped in hummus and sprinkled with parsley—yum! As he flipped falafel balls high in the air behind the sliding window, he told us his story. At UC-Berkeley, he protested animal cruelty and started selling kinder foods on campus, foods he grew up with. Nine years of farmers markets and a micro-restaurant in the City followed, before a customer alerted him to the Wienerschnitzel building becoming available. Pashut opened the 100 percent soy-free and vegan restaurant in January.

My friend and I started with an organic banana shake ($4.95), pleasantly horchata-like, and a large plate of veggies, hummus and falafel ($7.50). Our pitas contained plenty of goodies: cabbage, carrot, tomato, parsley, cucumbers and imported pickles, the latter providing a nice crunch. The falafels, sesame or spicy, were subtly flavored and fresh-made. We also got dolmas (four for $3.95) of green salty leaves, loosely wrapped around soft rice.

The pitas were wonderful, a whole “Pocket” ($7) or a half “Snacker”($4.95) with falafels, veggies, sauce and a handful of thin-cut, fragrant fries—Lebanese style, I understand. You can get fresh hummus to go (8 oz. for $3.95), tabbouleh ($4.95) or one of the other gluten-free options.

I never miss dessert, so we had cinnamon baklava ($1.95), which was flaky on top and nicely sweet on the bottom.

The owner told us locals still come up, oblivious to the “Fresh-Baked Pita” banner, and ask for chili cheese dogs.

“Sure,” he says, “but it will taste like falafel.”

The Flying Falafel 
919 Meridian Ave., San Jose.

Correction: A previous version of this story had an incorrect cross street. regrets the error.