Yassin Terou | Photo courtesy of YASSIN'S FALAFEL HOUSE

North Riverside certainly is a nice place, but apparently it just isn’t as nice as a falafel house in Tennessee.

Back in June, a panel of judges named North Riverside one of 10 finalists for the “Nicest Places in America,” contest promoted by Reader’s Digest and the folks at television’s “Good Morning America.” Over the ensuing month, Reader’s Digest readers and local boosters cast ballots online for the place that most represented “nice” America.

Oct. 11 was the big reveal. The contest’s chief judge Robin Roberts, host of “Good Morning America” announced that the single nicest place in America was Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Roberts feted Yassin Terou, the business owner, and his family in person on the show that morning, also revealing that his business was also the cover story of the current Reader’s Digest magazine.

Truth to tell Terou, a Syrian refugee who came to the United States in 2011, has a pretty great story, and his falafel house – now with two locations — has become something of a community pillar since it opened in 2014. 

“I’m not here just to make falafel and make money,” Terou said in the Reader’s Digest story that introduced Yassin’s Falafel House to online voters nationwide. “I’m here to build this community.

Earlier this year, the Knoxville Rotary gave Terou its Peace Award.

While North Riverside didn’t win the contest, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said it was wonderful to receive any recognition as a nice place to live.

“It was a lot of fun, and it gave the village positive feedback,” Hermanek said. “It was nice to bring the village together as a nice community, and being in the top 10 is not so bad.”

Tina Valentino, the woman who produces North Riverside’s quarterly newsletter was the one who submitted North Riverside’s entry.

The centerpiece of the entry was the village’s Neighborhood Services Committee, which provides a host of services to seniors citizens and others who need help. Reader’s Digest judges were impressed by the committee’s 2011 handbook, saying North Riverside “literally wrote the book on being nice.”

You can find out more about Yassin’s Falafel House and the other contest finalists at www.rd.com/nicest-places-contest.