Dinner Deals | Meals Under $15

The Pita House: An Old Town Oasis

By Moira E. McLaughlin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 2008

At first glance: This place is cozy. Cozy like wintertime, with its gray sky and bare trees, when you hide yourself away in that small back room in your house -- the one with the fireplace -- bundled up in an oversize sweater, sipping hot chocolate. It's that cozy here. You almost feel like it should be snowing in September.

Votive candles on the tables, wood paneling, this Middle Eastern restaurant has a cottage feel in the middle of Old Town, like something out of a storybook. (Maybe "A Visit to the Pita House" is a missing volume in the "Winnie the Pooh" series.)

At your service: You know those restaurants where the super-perky waitress bounces over to your table with her ponytail wagging and an impossibly large smile plastered on her face like she's Miss America and she tells you that her name is Nikki and (like you couldn't guess) she will be your server this evening? And then you inevitably feel like you have to return her faux friendliness, and suddenly you find yourself talking about her major instead of your beer?

Phew. Yeah.

Well, if that's what you like, the Pita House may not be your scene. These waiters are the more serious type. They take your order. They deliver your food. They don't bother you. No "Is everything all right over here?" No constant water refilling. No idle chatter. They don't even clear your table in a very timely manner.

It's not that they are unfriendly. It's more that they seem to want to leave you and your date alone.

(Better make sure you like your date. It's a bad place to go if you realize over cocktails that you have nothing to talk about.)

On the menu: The setting and the food make it seem like a more expensive place than it really is. From the light, fluffy rice that comes with many of the entrees to the salad, the Pita House pays attention to details.

Order the combination platter appetizer, which allows you to try three or five starters. (Five are perfect for two to share.) The baba ghanoush (baked, mashed eggplant) has a delicious smoky taste and is sprinkled with sumac. It was my favorite appetizer, and I struggled to scoop big mounds onto my thin, light pita.

Sumac shows up again atop the house salads, along with mint, really adding a little excitement to an otherwise standard iceberg medley.

The sambousick cheese appetizer was tasty and proved that fried cheese and dough transcends cultures. Think of a Hot Pocket, only fresh, crisp and loaded with rich cheese. The falafel is crunchy and is served with pink pickled turnips. Though the fried patties were a bit dry, eating them with a little hummus or baba ghanoush pumped them with extra flavor.

The hummus was creamy and fairly standard but will more than fulfill your crushed-chickpea craving.


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