After nearly 30 years of grumpily serving some of the city’s best falafel, Azuri Cafe in Hell’s Kitchen appears to be closed. The tiny restaurant, located at 465 West 51st St. near 10th Avenue, shuttered earlier this month, according to multiple tipsters. The phone line is also dead, and several Yelpers say the storefront has been cleared out.
Owner Ezra Cohen opened the restaurant in 1990 after moving to New York from Jerusalem. It quickly became known as a destination for falafel, which were fried to order and generously stuffed into pita for sandwiches, and it was one of the few notable restaurants with vegetarian options in the neighborhood when it opened. Other Sephardic options like shakshuka and kebabs were available. Though counter-service falafel shops like Mamoun’s and Taïm have spread across the city like wild, Cohen’s version remained known as a top contender.
But aside from top-notch food, Cohen became known for his gruff personality — akin to the Soup Nazi or Kenny Shopsin. His notorious crankiness became part of the experience of going to Azuri Cafe. In 2008, he told Forward that he didn’t care about the reputation, recalling that he needed to yell when the space became too packed. “I can’t be nice all the time,” he said at the time.
The restaurant could not immediately be reached regarding a reason for the closure.