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For Pita's Sake

Pita Palace's shwarma and kabobs outshine the surroundings

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It took several drives past Pita Palace to realize it had opened since I'd first seen the "opening soon" sign half a year ago. Granted, I passed by during off-peak hours, but the kosher eatery always looked a little dark, uninhabited and unfinished. Two delicious visits later, it still does seem coarse around the edges. The wait for food can be long at times; seating is limited to modular barstools and tables; the glass front of the shop needs a vigorous wiping; and the view of a small, dark kitchen is slightly off-putting. Don't be bothered by that. You'd be hard-pressed to find better shwarma, falafel or meatball-style kabobs, all cooked to order. The staff is friendly and makes great efforts to help you enjoy your meal.

Fit for a king: Order the massive combo platter ($19.99) and you're given a Styrofoam plate to visit the bar and load up on a bland baba ghanoush, refreshing pickled cucumber and tomatoes, smooth and rich hummus, tahini, cabbage slaw and ferociously spicy harissa. The platter boasts a pile of fries (not house-made, but fried hot and crispy to order), shwarma, four falafel balls, schnitzel and an accompanying stack of pita. You'd have to skip a week of meals to finish it yourself.

Re-pita: By the time my falafel plate ($6.99) is ready, I'm so hungry I can barely manage to get my salad bar goodies. When I tip a pita off my plate onto the floor and step on it by accident, I'm warmly offered another before I get to my table. The falafel balls are so crusty that hacking into them with a plastic knife and fork is difficult. They're a brilliant pea-green with parsley inside and intensely nutty.

Pita Palace's shwarma ($6.99) isn't the processed Steak-Umm style meat ubiquitous in so many gyro shops, but hand-stacked, seasoned lamb strips. Earthy with cardamom and garam masala, the meat is crusty-edged and tender, and the cushy pita it's wrapped in soaks up every delicious bit of drippings.

Kabobbing for schnitzel: A chicken schnitzel sandwich ($6.99) is a dreamy combination. Breaded chicken cutlets are crispy as cornflakes, yet juicy and succulent. The schnitzel melds with hot, squishy pita, creamy hummus and harissa. The sandwich is a two-fister, and the schnitzel stays crunchy to the last bite. Kabobs ($7.99 sandwich) are a dense, carnivorous pleasure. A combination of lamb and turkey, the meatball-style kabobs are smoky, hefty and charred from the grill. The pita comes packed with two huge kabobs. I could eat them until my jaws were sore.

If you must end your meal on a sweet note, the baklava ($2.99) will do, although it's the standard phyllo diamond you'll find at any other falafel or shwarma spot.

Pita Palace might not be a place you'd pick to nibble and chat with friends. The atmosphere's not completely inviting, but, at the very least, it's worth a visit for takeout. If you do choose to eat in, avoid Sunday afternoons: It's overrun with packs of families and screaming kids who, like me, are so excited about the food, they can barely sit still long enough to eat it.

cynthia.wong@creativeloafing.com

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