Mediterranean cuisine has always been a favorite of mine -- the historicity of its origins date back a millennia coupled with its exotic blend of spices -- as a fascinating study and a gastronomical journey to foreign lands.
From cucumbers to chickpeas and from mint to basil, the dishes reflect a cultural regionalism all their own.
Take something as simple as chickpeas. Also known as garbanzo beans, historians say the chickpea landed on the Mediterranean coasts from western Asia possibly coming with the Phoenicians. In addition, the chickpea can be traced to the late Neolithic period of 3500 B.C. And, interestingly enough, Homer's Iliad makes mention of the chickpea under the name of erabinthos.
Pita Place is packed with Mediterranean specialties, and the owners Fred and Pary Zakerion have also placed a few American favorites on the menu to suit the vast dining tastes. Alongside the Turkey Club, Ham & Cheese, Philly Steak and French Fries, customers will find Spanakopita, Souvlaki, Cabbage Rolls and Gyros.
For urban Tulsans, Pita Place is worth the trek to 111th in Bixby to the strip center where this Grill sits.
The aromatic spices in Mediterranean cuisine slammed my senses upon entering, taking me back to the street vendors in Jerusalem and the Left Bank Latin Quarter of Paris. Orders are taken at a counter, and the food is brought to the tables.
I ordered a number of items to take with me to dine at home, and while waiting I observed the dining room to be a pleasant place with a ubiquitous television set. Tables are situated around a long, rectangular-shaped dining room with full view of the grill and food-prep area. The area was clean and bright -- very inviting. A spit (tall vertical broiler-like rotating device where the meat is prepared) was a good sign that the gyros were authentically prepared.
Items on the menu are reasonably priced, with the Lamb Shank being the most expensive at $9.99. Specialty Pita Sandwiches ($5.79) include Gyros, Souvlaki (shish-kabob), Chicken-Kabob, Mid-East Burger and Mid-East Hot Dog. Vegetarian Pitas ($5.70) are Falafel, Veggie Supreme and Hommus N' Tabouli. A section of dinner entrees -- all $9.99 or less -- are some of the same just in a different combination (Gyros, Falafel, Souvlaki) and include basmati rice and pita bread.
I selected a Gyros Pita ($5.79), a Souvlaki Pita ($5.79), Chicken-Kabob Dinner ($8.99), Falafel Dinner ($7.99) and a small order of Hommus Dip and Lebnah Dip ($1.99 each).
The Gyros Pita was a very filling sandwich. The pita bread was grilled until the edges were slightly charred and crispy; this added a well-rounded grilled taste to each bite. The bread was thick and sturdy, which was perfect (and very much needed) to handle the unruly and bulky ingredients that comprised this sandwich: freshly sliced red onion, iceberg lettuce and tomato, and a rich yogurt sauce.
The veggies were very fresh, the meat (traditionally a combo of lamb and beef and packed with spices such as garlic, oregano, cumin, thyme, rosemary and marjoram) was tender and rich with fused spices, and the yogurt-based tzatziki sauce (which had hints of garlic, mint, olive oil and cucumber) completed this delicious sandwich.
The Souvlaki Pita was the very same as the Gyros, except the meat was large cubes of beef that had been marinated to an edible tenderness (most probably with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and thyme for these tastes emanated from the beef).
The Chicken-Kabob Dinner was a grilled mixture of richly marinated cubed-cut chicken, largely cut white onions, green bell pepper and sweet grape tomatoes resting on a bed of basmati rice.
This was a delicious and very traditionally tasting Greek dish. The marinated chicken was tender and the rice was cooked to a softly-firm state.
The Falafel Dinner was oval-shaped falafel patties, again, on top of a generous portion of basmati rice. Served with this was a Tzatziki sauce for dipping or spreading over the falafel. Falafel is a blending of chickpeas/garbanzo beans (which are coarsely ground) with ingredients such as onion, garlic, parsley, coriander and cumin. This is a fine vegetarian meal rich in iron and calcium.
Both dips -- Hommus and Lebnah -- were very fresh in taste. The Lebnah dip was excellent! A very thick yogurt is mixed with finely chopped parsley and mint and had a bold finish of fresh lemon juice. Chopped celery and carrots or pita came with this dip. The Hommus, made of ground chickpeas/garbanzo beans, had a slight taste of garlic and tahini paste (ground sesame seeds) and was topped with a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil -- which I particularly enjoyed with each bite of the pita bread.
Pita Place has Baklava for dessert ($1.99/piece), along with Rose Cake (a Middle Eastern cake made with rosewater) and Date Cookies. Kids' meals of corn dogs, chicken tenders and fries are available. In addition, a few Middle Eastern items are available for sale, such as Sadaf Falafel Mix, large bags of basmati rice, drinks, tahini sauce and more.
Pita Place Mediterranean Grill
8315 E. 111th St. S., Ste A, Bixby
For some very authentic Mediterranean cuisine, Pita Place is the destination for gyros, cabbage rolls, Spanakopita, dolmeh, falafel and baba Ganoush. A few American dishes are also available.
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