Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Pita House Food Review

Kafta Sandwich with French Fries

Old Town Alexandria has more than its fair share of local restaurants (i.e. not Bertucci's or Chart House.) It's what's so endearing about the neighborhood (you didn't think it was all those antique stores, did ya?) Lebanese cuisine (one of my favorite) is well represented with Layla's, Zikrayet Restaurant and Lounge and The Pita House. I had lunch at the latter, my first visit since they moved north from their former cozy confines on Cameron Street.

Pita House wins you over before you even walk inside, thanks to their enticing, varied and affordable menu. Unfortunately once inside, you have to contend with a surprisingly disappointing decor. It borders on shabby, which is odd considering they only moved in about two years ago. Everything appears mismatched - Sorely out-of-date teal carpet screams "Get rid of me!" while clashing with a comparatively modern combination of upholstered booths and chairs. Then there's the tables... lacquered with an ugly beige tortoise-shell design. Yuck. The dining room is relatively spacious, but looks like a bland hotel restaurant from years ago. "Half-hearted" A/C and random artwork complete the puzzle. Lebanese Taverna, it ain't.

Thankfully, I put more stock into food and service than I do appearance (although the latter obviously bears mentioning.) I seated myself (towards the front) and was warmly greeted by my server Saba. I wasted no time in ordering a Kafta Sandwich ($7.50) side of french fries ($2.25) and a Coke ($2.50.) It was almost 2:00 PM, and there were three parties having lunch. My wait was about 10 minutes, which is perfectly acceptable. The Kafta Sandwich came wrapped, and cut in half: It looked delicious. Fries were hand-cut but more flimsy than crispy. A dash of salt brought them back to life; and I imagine they'd be even tastier with a second flash in the fryer.

As for the sandwich... How 'bout that decor? Sadly, the Kafta matched the room in terms of unabashed blandness. I've tried countless versions of the Middle Eastern favorite, but this has to be the least flavorful ever. Where are the onions? Where are the spices? Even worse, the sandwich was relatively dry (very little hummus, one tiny tomato - split in half, and a small amount of lettuce/parsley.) Lebanese food... at least good Lebanese food tastes like it was made with love. This was industrial at best worst. Thankfully, another server refilled my Coke twice; so I was able to taste some flavor during my lunch. Unfortunately, when soda is the best part of your meal...

The menu is huge; and it's hard to dismiss Pita House based on one dish. That said, the website (also old-looking) seems to place a big emphasis on catering - normally a red flag, unless it's a fast casual establishment. My opinion? If you have to leave a tip, you're a sit-down establishment. In my humble opinion, Pita House doesn't seem ready to be one. Maybe 10 years ago, but the restaurant business has jumped leaps and bounds since then. Time to catch up.