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For Pita's Sake

Pita Palace's shwarma and kabobs outshine the surroundings


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.

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