The Pita House
By Andrew Kahn
Unless you are looking for it, The Pita House is very easy to miss. It has very little aesthetic appeal from the outside. If my sister wasn’t so passionate about Lebanese cuisine, I probably would not have heard about the restaurant, much less eaten there.
Before committing to eat at the Pita House, I did some research. The virtual tour on the website projects the image of a cozy, well-decorated restaurant. The tables are set with white tablecloths and a small vase of flowers sits on each table, successfully improving the overall ambience.
My sister and I strolled down King Street on a Sunday afternoon, looking for the restaurant. Our expectations were high; our preconceived notion was that we were going to have a great meal in an even better environment. However as we walked into the restaurant, we were surprised by what we saw.
The dining room was a single long room with about twenty tables. The walls, the tables, the carpet were all the same neutral color. The room blended into a bland, yellow blob. The walls were mostly bare, save for a couple pictures hung in seemingly random places. The far end of the dining room opened up directly into the kitchen, where we could hear chefs working in the background. This was definitely not the same room the restaurant advertised on its website. My immediate though was that we were in the wrong restaurant.
Once our waiter came over to greet us, I asked him if we were at The Pita House. He responded that the pictures we saw were from the old location. They expanded at the end of last summer and have not got the atmosphere up to the quality that it was in the old restaurant. He promised that while the restaurant may not be as aesthetically pleasing as it used to be, the food was still equally delicious. He left us with the menus and went to tend to the five other tables filled up at the time.
The menu was extremely lengthy. I am not very experienced with Lebanese cuisine and the extensive menu was overwhelming. Most of the entrées range from ten to twenty five dollars. My sister ended up ordering a traditional souvlaki sandwich for me while she ordered a falafel sandwich for herself.
The Pita House stands out as one of the best Lebanese restaurants in the D.C. metropolitan area according to the Washington Post. It is renowned for its chef and ownerTarek Moukalled. When he opened the Pita House in 1992, Moukalled was the head chef. Since then, he has become more of an owner and less involved in the kitchen. In 2006, Moukalled won the Virginia state lottery and invested his winnings in a few other restaurants including Lebanese Village in Crystal City and Marshall’s Bar and Grille in Washington D.C.
Shortly after we ordered, our dishes arrived. My souvlaki sandwich came wrapped in a wax paper. I felt like I was at a fast food joint rather than a well-respected restaurant. After I took the covering off, the sandwich almost immediately fell apart. Cubes of beef tumbled out of my sandwich and onto my plate. The small pieces were tough and required a good deal of chewing. Despite the unfortunate start, the flavors of the meat complimented the lettuce, onions, and Greek dressing in the sandwich. The sandwich left me slightly disappointed after I had read the raving reviews online.
On the other hand, my sister extremely enjoyed her falafel sandwich. She frequently remarked on the meal’s delicious flavors. She explained that “most of the time falafel is really bland but they spiced this really well.” She finished her sandwich in about half the time it took me to eat mine.
One thing that stood out to me during our meal was that for a restaurant named the Pita House, the pita was not very good. It was hard, cold, and flavorless. Compared to the pita at Primo Greek Family Restaurant, Pita House’s pita is pitiful.
For those looking for inexpensive, decent quality Lebanese food, the Pita House is the place. While I would steer clear of the souvlaki sandwich, the rest of the menu should be enjoyable to anyone interested in Middle Eastern cuisine.