Pita & Rye in Fulton
By Martha Thomas
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Pita & Rye, which may be Howard County's first certified kosher delicatessen, is certain to offend no one. But that may be to its peril.
You'll be fine here if you'd rather not see fat on your brisket or be forced to turn a sandwich this way and that to get a good tooth-hold. Neither is a problem at this pristine place, nestled in the equally pristine development of Maple Lawn in Fulton.
Glatt kosher sandwich meats - salty pastrami ($8.49), corned beef ($8.49), roast turkey ($8.99) - are sliced thin and fitted neatly between slices of soft rye (with or without seeds) or pumpernickel. Most sandwiches, even a wedge of grilled tilapia ($6.99), come with only a pickle spear.
"Just meat and bread," points out owner Jay Fridkis, who describes himself as "in my 40s."
The condiments are stored in dispensers against the wall, and free, house-made sides such as coleslaw, potato salad and tabbouleh come packed in small cups.
The menu is not limited to deli sandwiches; it also lists Middle Eastern dishes, including mild but aromatic shawarma, carved off the spit; and kebab sandwiches and platters ($7.99 to $11.99); creamy hummus drizzled with olive oil; and falafel with a nice crumbly texture packed in soft round pita bread ($6.99). Brisket can be special-ordered as a sandwich ($9.49); it is usually served as a platter ($11.99) with gravy and two sides. Plastic containers seal tight for spill-proof carryout.
Fridkis, who moved to Howard County in 2003, spent most of his career as a technology consultant. But he did stints in restaurants, beginning with managing a deli in Boston, where he earned an undergraduate degree at MIT. Like many in Howard County's growing Jewish population, he says, he was tired of driving back and forth to Wheaton and Baltimore County for real Jewish deli food.
To achieve certification, Fridkis worked with Rabbi Hillel Baron of Ahavas Israel in Columbia, who is a supervisor for Star K, a kosher certification agency.
Even with a 15 percent increase in Jewish households in the county during the past decade, Fridkis claims he doesn't "cast my lot with any one market." He says he's reaching out primarily to the business community and second to the non-Jewish market, to introduce the uninitiated to the basics of kosher deli offerings.
He is determined to court vegetarians and gluten-free types, as well. There's even gluten-free bread, along with the pumpernickel and rye, challah, ciabatta and pita that hail from New Yorker Bakery in Silver Spring and Parisers in Baltimore.
The menu does have an "overstuffed" option ($3 extra), which essentially doubles the amount of meat. Whether or not you go crazy with the mustard and slaw and risk spills on your shirt front is up to you.