by Hannah Middaugh, Wilson College Journalism Student
In the heart of downtown Chambersburg, settled into a small corner of the square, sits a restaurant known for its Middle Eastern, Mediterranean fusion food, The Falafel Shack. The restaurant’s owner, Amer Chaudhry, says The Falafel Shack started out under a tent in 2013 at a farmer’s market and slowly built up to a food truck in 2017. In 2018 they had the opportunity to open a physical location in downtown Chambersburg.
Chaudhry says that the food they serve at The Falafel Shack is a fusion of different cultures. He said, “It represents my background, places I’ve lived, places I’ve been to, and my wife’s background.” Chaudhry himself is from Saudi Arabia while his wife is from Bosnia and Eastern Europe. He says he was able to taste all the different foods on his travels, including foods from Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Asia.
“When I came to the United States, I was missing all this food,” Chaudhry commented, “So I started making and creating my own recipes. Both of my wife’s parents are trained chefs and they have a restaurant. I learned a lot from them, and the food here is heavily influenced by what I learned.”
When it comes to cooking, The Falafel Shack try to use the freshest ingredients. “We try to incorporate a lot of farm-to-table when things are in season, so we try to use a lot of local farmers and organic produce and try to incorporate it into our recipes,” said Chaudhry.
The most popular dish they serve at The Falafel Shack is their chicken shawarma. “That’s one of the dishes we introduced at the farmer’s market along with our falafel.” Chaudhry also suggests getting a sample platter on your first trip to The Falafel Shack. “It has a variety of different things we offer at the restaurant. Most people when they try the samples, they like it, so they tend to come back.”
Since they got their start at the farmer’s market, they wanted to keep being a part of it. In 2019, they purchased a mobile, brick pizza oven from New York and trained under an Italian chef who showed them how to make wood fire pizzas. Chaudhry stated, “I personally enjoy being a part of the farmer’s market. The vendors became our family, so my heart is always at the farmer’s market.”
Chaudhry enjoys being a part of Downtown Chambersburg because of the diverse community. He mentioned how everyone comes from different backgrounds and ethnicities and how it adds to the downtown experience.
He stated, “It’s an interesting demographic. A lot of people when they come here have no idea what kind of food we have, so when they come here, we try to give them samples. A lot of people from this area are very new to this food, but we’ve been here since 2013, so a lot of people got to know us from the farmer’s market, and when we opened the physical location, we got people from offices, hospitals, banks. They all get to come in and try our food and a lot of them became our regular customers.”
Chaudhry also mentioned that now they get customers from Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Carlisle, and Harrisburg.
However, with Wilson just down the road a piece, The Falafel Shack does not get many students. Chaudhry explained, “We don’t get as many college students. We do have a lot of faculty members that come. The Wilson College President used to come, but now they do a lot of take-out from here.” Chaudhry would love to reach out to college students and have them try the food The Falafel Shack has to offer.
Just because Wilson’s students do not frequent The Falafel Shack, it does not stop a relationship between the restaurant and the college. Chaudhry said that they used to be CSA members at the Fulton Farm and used to volunteer as greeters for about eight or nine years.
Chaudhry stated, “I love the farm at Wilson College. We still source vegetables from them. We have a very good relationship with the farm.” He also mentioned that they have met a lot of people from volunteering at the farm and said they made a lot of good friends.
For more information on The Falafel Shack, follow them on social media and check out their website falafelshackpa.com.
Special Note: We are grateful to Hannah for writing this article. This article was originally published in Wilson College's Billboard. Thank you Hannah!