Where to find those lovely orbs of deep-fried chickpeas

It's a Middle Eastern staple, a vegetarian go-to and one of the most delicious ways to get a flavor-packed, meat-free lunch on the go. This irresistible assemblage of crunchy, deep-fried balls of seasoned chickpeas is known throughout the world as falafel. The fried orbs are most commonly slotted inside a pita pocket, then dressed with tahini, pickles and salad, and it's never been easier to find the delicacy in Central Ohio.

Perhaps no local restaurant has done more to raise the profile of this dish than the perpetually bustling Brassica. Its best-selling falafel sandwich has become an overnight Instagram darling, with photo after photo showing brightly colored vegetable accoutrements spilling out of overstuffed, freshly baked pitas. The falafel balls themselves are fresh, too—made with chickpeas from Washington-based Hinrichs Trading Co. in small batches, so they're never more than five minutes out of the fryer.

Mediterranean Food Imports & Bakery #2 provides a far more intimate and unhurried experience, with food ordered directly from the kitchen at the back of this Northwest Side market. There, you'll see cooks shaping the balls with a traditional aleb falafel tool and skillfully plopping them in the fryer to order. The resulting sandwich is a bargain at $4 and is dressed with a sumac onion salad, tahini and pickles. Mediterranean Food Imports has no seating and is takeout only.

The Olive Tree Mediterranean Café distinguishes itself with larger, darker falafel orbs that include fava beans, giving them a uniquely light texture and a beautiful, pale green hue. They're offered as a sandwich, salad or appetizer and are yet another reason to make the trek to this Middle Eastern institution in Hilliard.

Pita House Restaurant skillfully carries the falafel flag for the greater Bexley area, and its smaller and exceptionally crispy chickpea nuggets can be enjoyed in pitas or alongside a wide array of salads and dips.

Long atop the list of many a falafel fan, Pita Hut Grille's inexpensive and substantial sandwiches continue to satisfy late-night cravings (particularly for Bob's Bar patrons next door), just as they've done for years.

For a novel spin on the dish, try the falafel burger at Cravings Café, where a falafel patty is topped with pickled red cabbage, feta cheese, cilantro sauce and sliced cucumbers and served on a house-made, toasted brioche bun. The patty itself has a smoother texture than the typical falafel crumb, but packs all the flavor of its more traditional competitors.