Take a seat at Madcapra’s marble countertop, lean forward and you’re in their kitchen — watching as the small team of chefs move frantically, but methodically around one another preparing your meal. Observe the care and detail given to every step of the process as your flatbread is tossed on the grill, your labneh is smeared over the toasted dough, and your fresh fennel, mint and coriander leaves are shaken of excess water and placed onto the bread. Now start preparing yourself for the most deliciously Mediterranean experience DTLA has to offer as your squash is shaved carefully into 3mm slices, arranged around the greens, and your falafel is wrapped inside this delicious warm blanket and handed over the counter to you.
Wedged in the artisan maze that is Grand Central Market, Madcapra’s neon mint and off-white “Falafel” sign is the perfect visual representation of the exciting activity and experience below. Vibrant, yet subtle, the store caters to both the mature and unseasoned palates alike.
“We’re not trying too hard,” says former Broadway musical star and engaging co-owner Sara Kramer. “We want [Madcapra] to be approachable and relatable, but we want to do things that people have not previously done with falafel.”
“We’re being playful without being overly experimental,” adds Sarah Hymanson, former acrobat/ circus gymnast turned full-time businesswoman and chef — Madcapra’s delightful other half.
The key to any successful new Grand Central proprietary is creating a sense of familiarity: where customers feel like you’ve inhabited the space forever, when in fact you just moved in. The partners’ cultured perspective and years of experience have helped them to master this, even during the crazy business lunch rush hours — friendly, not forceful; hard-working, not dismissive; creative, not eccentric — the perfect balance.
“Coming from restaurants where you have no interaction with guests, seeing people’s reactions is one of the most satisfying things we’ve gotten from this project,” says Hymanson. “It’s great to be more connected to people.”
Kramer & Hymanson were approached about opening in Grand Central Markets after moving to LA and have quickly found their place in the gritty, ‘hustle and bustle’ space. “We feel relieved to be a part of the community we are as a first foray,” says Kramer. “We’re very happy to fill the healthy niche in the market.”
The two traveled to the Middle East before opening the shop to get a better sense of the culture and cuisine. “Look at all of the people who make falafel — they’re all in Israel — we figured we should go and see what they’re doing,” says Kramer of the travel experience. Initially, Kramer was travelling for a wedding, but the two saw this an opportunity to experience many of their soon-to-be colleagues’ work first-hand. Kramer’s mother is of Jewish descent, meaning she grew up with a strong understanding of Jewish culture and cuisine, which acted as an introduction to the kinds of flavors present in their menu. The chefs’ inspiration comes more from their life and culinary experiences, and also what’s available in terms of the market, though. “We very much want to be basing this in California produce,” says Kramer. “[My upbringing] was just a starting off point… What we choose to do comes more from our respective experiences.”
While the menu isn’t too extensive in terms of choices, there are more than enough decisions to occupy the everyday luncher. “I pretty much always suggest the Green,” says Hymanson. “It feels like the most “us” in that it’s falafel, which is what people want when they go to a place that has a neon sign saying “falafel”, but it’s not at all traditional. It has Middle-Eastern and California flavors and is fresh.”
Madcapra also offers an adventurous sumac-beet soda, iced cardamon coffee or orange blossom yogurt drink as beverage alternatives, although a beer and wine license is expected in July that will turn them into an intriguing early evening drink spot.
“It’s all very intentional,” says Kramer. “We are focused on creating vibrant, interesting, flavorful sandwiches, as it’s a style of cuisine that has seen little love in terms of a contemporary lens… This is food we want people to feel comfortable eating every day for lunch.”
Sun - Wed 10:00AM - 4:00PM
Thurs - Sat 10:00AM - 8:00PM