(Platter, from top, clockwise): stuffed grape leaf, babaganoush, falafel, hummus, chickpea salad, lentil salad, tabouleh (center): Israeli salad
Pita Hut has been a staple of mine for quite some time. It’s a tiny, unassuming hole-in-the-wall along the commercialized mall strip known as 23rd Street, and if it ever closed down, I’m not quite sure what I’d do because it’s truly my go-to, default dining choice. The food is freshly and authentically prepared by two brothers (?) that are just the nicest. Salads are brightly seasoned, falafel is crisp and piping hot, hummus is thick and creamy, baklava is delightfully drenched in sticky sweet honey…all so delicious!
My typical order is the vegetarian platter to go – a styrofoam clamshell loaded with a bountiful selection of salads, spreads and 2 falafel balls, with 2 pieces of commercial brand pita bread wrapped in a sheet of wax paper. A full order is definitely too much for 1 sitting – I typically eat straight out of the container and save the rest in my fridge. Recently however, I discovered a new way of enjoying this meal: I spooned out a portion of each salad and spread onto a real, actual plate, and then, with a pair of tongs, I held the pita over an open flame on my stove, letting it puff up and transform into a warm, toasty, chewy homemade-likeness.
Here’s what I got out of all of this. For one thing, I realized that even with the leftovers, I was eating way more than I needed to be full (portion control, people!). I also got to enjoy each salad independently, rather than ending up with one giant chickpea/lentil/tomato/ cucumber blend all sharing each other’s marinades in a joint compartment. I learned that actually, I’d be ok without the lentils and that maybe next time I’ll tell them to double up on the chickpea salad. It was also the first time I ate a stuffed grape leaf on its own instead of biting into it between tastes of this and that, setting it on top of the other salads for lack of room. But the best was the pita-on-the-open-flame, because I learned that grocery store pita, which I had never liked, could be transformed into a delicious flat bread that is puffy-chewy rather than elastic-chewy…a true bread to be enjoyed, not a mere convenient dipping device.
So, with just 2 small changes I have a renewed appreciation for something I’ve eaten maybe a hundred times, and I guess what this all means is that even though I wasn’t ever planning on taking my business elsewhere, I have absolutely no plans on taking my business elsewhere.Pita Hut 225 W. 23rd Street Store #7
New York, NY 10011