One of the first blogs I ever read was Midtown Lunch. Back then, it just covered midtown and it was only in NYC – not this uber famous, national publication that it is now. It was just one guy – Zach Brooks – writing about places he liked to eat his workday lunches. He loved spicy, cheap, ethnic food – hello, my tastebuds.
That’s where I first learned about Olympic Pita. And yesterday, I finally tried it.
Olympic Pita is a kind of funny set up – from the front it looks totally like a take out place, with a long counter where you can help yourself to salad bar fixings and order your falafel and schwarma sandwiches. The back is late 90s bar dining chic – you know what I mean. Real plates, slick lines, and the top pop hits playing on the radio. I wouldn’t come here for a date, but for a convenient lunch or dinner that is nicer than your local pizza joint, it’s ideal.
The first time I had these was when I was a kid. My parent’s glamorous friend made them – she also introduced me to guacamole, so I guess I have her to thank for the awkward freshman that I experienced years later. I haven’t had them since but the minute that I tasted these, I was transported back to 1994. It was a total time machine. Wafer thin, crispy skins like spring rolls filled with a deeply savory, mineral-y meat filling. They say that it’s beef but it tastes almost like liver. It’s that rich and smooth. Dipped in the nutty, smooth tahini sauce, it is a really hearty appetizer. They are light, crunchy,a nd intensely meaty. Perfect for a wintery day.
Oh YES. I haven’t ever had Iraqi chicken before and it is really great. The chicken has a charred, woodsy taste like it is grilled over an open fire. The chicken is ground and mixed with fragrant coriander, garlic, and other spices and herbs before it gets grilled. The result is a very earthy, fragrant sort of kofte kebab – it’s dense and juicy. Delicious.
The salad bar is another don’t miss. There are tart pickled turnips, turmeric infused cabbage, tangy coleslaw, and some of the spiciest hot sauce I have ever tried – can’t wait to go back and choose some other side dishes.
I can’t wait to go back and try the famous laffa too – who goes to Olympic Pita and doesn’t get bread, after all!? The food here isn’t cheap, but that’s because it’s kosher. The meat is expensive and it’s also a commodity to be serving Kosher food – so yeah, a sit down lunch will cost around $16 a person. However, the take out sandwiches seem much less expensive – can’t wait to go back and check those out. And for heaven’s sake, get some bread!