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The Pita Palace experience

pp2

“My friend, how are you?” says the man behind the counter. “What can I get you today?”

“Well, errmm. Let’s see…” I respond. “I’ll go with the shawarma plate.”

“Ok my friend, thank you have a seat.”

I am at Pita Palace, where until recently I was a virgin to the experience that I’ve been hearing about for a while now. The place is tiny and a bit run down in appearance, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. On my first visit the whole restaurant, which is about the size of a PODS storage unit, wafted of musky lamb meat emanating from a beguiling shawarma rotisserie that resides behind the counter. About every two minutes, an electric knife whirs and buzzes across the surface of the shawarma slicing off little meat shavings.

pp4It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, past peak time for lunch, but people are still piling in Pita Palace. Customers are stepping on each others feet to place orders with the man behind the counter who is dictating the whole tempo. This same man, Roy I’m told, comes from behind the counter and whoa – he’s sort of small in stature. But back behind the counter space, he commands the place. He’s firing off a machine-gun successions of “my friends” to the customer who looks like a banker on a weekend jog. He then turns to a pretty girl and lays on a little charm, “do you want hooomuusss (hummus)?”

Roy then darts his attention back to the group of familiar young men from the neighborhood and converses in a bit of lively staccato-baritone Hebrew. He then turns to his Mexican coworkers in the kitchen and spouts off the men’s orders in some sort of Hebrew-Español language hybrid that they all completely seem to understand.

pp3“Your shawarma sir..” I’m given a Styrofoam plate full of greasy chips of lamb with a side of crisp french fries. I’m also given another plate of hummus, baba ghannouj and a disc of pita bread that is cut in half. I eat one half of my pita until I watch other diners and realize that I should probably stuff it with some accoutrements offered at the restaurant’s dual-purpose vegetable bar. The bar is shared by the restaurant workers filling to-go orders and customers who want to customize their own pita sandwiches. I stuff mine with some red cabbage, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and finish it with a lot of tahini sauce. Lazy Sunday success.

Before I leave, I place a to-go order for the falafel pita intended for my wife. Roy communicates my order back to the kitchen in that Hebrañol that I am now fascinated with. A few minutes later Roy is handling my order in front of the vegetable bar and asks, “do you want hooomuuss?”

“Yes” I respond.

“Baba ghannouj?”

“Yes.”

“What else my friend??”

pp1I take the falafel pita sandwich back to my car and take a bite. And then another. And, ok, just ONE more. Back home, I arrive with a half-eaten falafel sandwich.

“Errrm, sorry?” I sheepishly convey to my wife. No pun intended.

Pita Palace11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays, closed Saturdays; 1658 LaVista Road NE, Atlanta, 404-781-7482.

Gene-Lee-Tagline- by Gene Lee, Food and More blog

– Gene Lee writes about International Cuisine for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal.

15 comments Add your comment

Betsy

February 16th, 2011
7:54 am

We love this place. So good. Only problem is that I always crave it on Saturdays. Go figure.

Seth G

February 16th, 2011
8:58 am

Is this place new? Looks amazing! I don’t know how you find these hidden gems.

the falcon

February 16th, 2011
9:03 am

Isn’t their shwarma chicken, not lamb? Great place, whatever it is.

Gene Lee

February 16th, 2011
9:14 am

@Seth G No, the place is going on 8 years now.. Kessler and some other folks have written about it throughout the years. I just finally got around to checking it out.

@falcon Possibly. That shawarma is very pungent of lamb smell, but I guess it could be fused with chicken as well.

alan

February 16th, 2011
9:35 am

The Pita Palace has the best falafal pitas I’ve eaten in Atlanta. I like the fact that I could add my own salad ingredients and hot sauce etc. I’ve eaten falafal in other places in Atlanta and theirs is the best. It also reminds me of a real falafel stand in Israel with the hustle. I live in Paulding co. and everytime I go to the area I make sure I stop off for lunch. I also don’t go on saturdays.

Todd G.

February 16th, 2011
10:51 am

The Laffa is going to give you some of that hebranol that you are fascinated with. 1 huge kosher burrito. :) Amazing. “Do you want some spicy?” Love Roy and Pita Palace.

Trish

February 16th, 2011
11:29 am

Drive by it almost every Tuesday night and been wondering, thanks to the review now I know and will be trying it out.

Frank Sam Fenton

February 16th, 2011
11:41 am

Hey Seth G – didnt you “move” to New York? Bwahahaha..

Lorenzo

February 16th, 2011
12:32 pm

Great place, but since it’s nowhere near my work or my home, Saturday is regrettable the day when I’m most likely to be within lunch distance of the area.

Didn’t Kessler write up a tour-de-falafel-joints a while back?

Dan

February 16th, 2011
3:14 pm

Having spent two years in the Mid-East I know this food. This is the best place to get the real deal. The schwarma, the falafel, pargiyot, the whole business – this stuff is legit. The salad bar is awesome and has all the important fixins’ you need and the chumus and tahina are awesome. I really shouldnt write this because now the place is gonna get even more crowded, but they deserve it.

Gene Lee

February 16th, 2011
3:55 pm

@Lorenzo You are correct.

Here – http://blogs.ajc.com/food-and-more/2010/08/04/falafel-the-search-continues/
And here – http://blogs.ajc.com/food-and-more/2010/08/25/falafel-duo-cafe-posh-and-cafe-sababa/

I don’t really go looking for falafel that much (partial to noodles and soondubu) but I do like Hovan’s version.

p

February 16th, 2011
4:00 pm

This place is amazing!!!

RobbingPeter

February 16th, 2011
4:11 pm

Did you stand on a table to get that first picture? Pita Palace is where I had my very first taste of schwarma ever. I have tried many other places since then and none has been as good.

@ the Falcon – The type of meat being served changes on a daily basis. Sometimes it is lamb, sometimes it has beef, sometimes it has turkey … on Tuesdays it is a combination of Cornish Game Hen and something else. Every time it is delicious.

Hummous or No? Hummous!
Baba or No? Babba!
Spicy or No? Nonononono

Eater of Food

February 16th, 2011
5:07 pm

Pita Palace is amazing, perhaps the best kept secret in the Emory area. The only day of the week I ever have the free time to go is Saturday, which means I can’t. BOO!

Justin

February 16th, 2011
5:12 pm

Their shwarma is chicken based.