By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published May 13, 2016 at 11:01 AM

Hello Falafel, the new fast-casual Middle Eastern inspired restaurant at 2301 S. Howell Ave., is getting very (very) close to opening. With inspections under their belts this week, the new spot from Ross Bachhuber and Melissa Buchholz, the owners of Odd Duck, could open as early as next week.

The menu – which will be executed by Chef de Cuisine Theresa Schuenke – includes a host of mouthwatering sandwiches, salads, rice dishes and sides with inspired flavor combinations that showcase the oft-overlooked brilliance of vegetable-based fare. 

We were also fortunate to get a sneek peek at the space, along with some of the drool-worthy edibles it will serve. And from what we can tell, this is a new joint you won’t want to wait to visit.

The interior of the restaurant is cozy, and will feature seating for about 20 at tables, as well as a windowside bar to the northeast. Decor is welcoming and bright, decked out with little details like patterned wallpaper, brightly colored mismatched chairs, patterned throw pillows and a brilliant aqua-hued wall sporting whimsical letters that spell out "H-E-L-L-O."

Juice bar

The first thing you’ll note upon entering the restaurant is the ordering counter, complete with a well-equipped juice bar where customers can get made to order fresh juice blends, which come in 12 ounce portions for $6.

Options include "Crimson" with strawberries, blackberries, beets, pomegranate, ginger and rosewater; "Goldie" with grapefruit, apple, orange, radishes, coriander and mint; "Jade" with cucumber, collard greens, cauliflower, celery, parsley, jalapeno and green apple; and "Marigold" with carrots, parsnips, radishes, fennel, pineapple, lime, turmeric and ginger.

Other cold beverages will include rosemary rosewater lemonade, dill-basil-mint limeade or Rishi summer lemon iced tea ($2.50 each). Hot beverages will include black, green or herbal tea ($2), Anodyne coffee ($2) and French pressed coffee with cardamom syrup and fresh mint ($7)

Falafel

The sandwich side of the menu features falafel sandwiches constructed with freshly made laffa bread – a traditional Jewish flatbread that’s pliable, slightly chewier than na’an and less prone to sogginess when exposed to condiments and sauces. All sandwiches ($8) can also be made into gluten free platters when served over saffron carrot rice with nuts for no extra charge.

The "Classic" includes house hummus and mixed pickles along with lemon tahini and red cabbage.

Meanwhile, the fresh vibrant "Beet" includes salt roasted beet spread with fennel, cucumber salad, sumac onion, green tahini (blended with spinach) and goat cheese.

The "Red" is briny, bright and full of umami thanks to roasted red pepper spread, oil-cured olives, feta cheese, radishes, mixed pickles and tahini.

The "Sabih" is simultaneously bright, earthy and rich with charred eggplant spread, hard-cooked egg, lemon tahini, zhoug and cucumber salad.

Falafel will also be available by the piece, with a choice of sauces including lemon tahini, green tahini, zhoug and harissa.

Salads & sides

Salads include an Israeli salad with cucumber, tomato, pickled mango, sumac onion, baby greens, herbs and lemon ($4/$8); a fattoush salad with butter lettuce, pickled oyster mushrooms, radishes, torn pita bread, feta and herb vinaigrette ($4/$8); quinoa tabouleh salad with apples, kale, sumac onion, herbs, toasted walnuts and preserved lemon vinaigrette ($4/$8); and Moroccan carrot salad with roasted carrots, couscous, dates, golden raisins, herbs, pistachios and charred eggplant ($6).

And sides offer up lentil soup with yogurt, lemon and parsley served with laffa bread ($3/$5); eggplant fries with turmeric salt, honey, mint and sesame ($6); charred halloumi with fresh herbs and tomato chutney ($6) and pita served with a choice of dips including red pepper, hummus, charred eggplant or beet ($4).

To keep an eye on the restaurant's progress, follow Hello Falafel on Facebook and Instagram. Once open, hours for Hello Falafel will be Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.