High marks for Israeli food in College Park strip mall

TAKEOUT

June 01, 2005|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There has never been any doubt that a draft beer and a decent bacon cheddar burger could be had in downtown College Park. But I'm here to report that you also can find a delicious kosher meal of kebabs, falafel and hummus.

Pita Plus is a lovely Israeli-style restaurant that sits in a tiny strip mall just off of U.S. 1, almost adjacent to the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Inside, amber pendant lights hang over wooden tables and the glass food cases. The walls are a mix of dark wood below the chair rails and warm yellow above. During a recent visit, employees were lowering pita and lafa bread dough into a kiln-shaped oven.

Large families and some UM students were having dinner. People in the carryout line nibbled on a variety of pickled vegetables left out in large metal bowls for restaurant patrons. Service was friendly and reasonably quick.

As for the food, we were won over.

A delicious appetizer combo ($9.99) included a couple of pieces of falafel that were crispy-fried on the outside and moist on the inside; some Moroccan cigars ---kind of a Middle Eastern egg roll, made with ground meat, chopped onion and spices; some pieces of kibbeh, a fried pastry stuffed with ground meat and spices; and a few fried chicken fingers that were more Jersey shore than Jerusalem.

A salad combo plate ($5.99) featured samples of delicious lemony tahini, hummus and a tangy tomato-cucumber relish.

Our main dishes included a chicken shish kebab ($7.99), which came on fresh, homemade pita bread and included nicely grilled chunks of meat dressed in the tomato relish. A beef shish kebab ($7.99) had big pieces of meat, this time served in homemade lafa bread, which was bigger and puffier than pita. The Iraqi kebab ($7.99) featured ground meat spiced with more than a hint of piquant pepper.

From the sandwich menu, we ordered turkey on rye ($5.95). With plenty of meat, it was perfectly adequate.

There were a handful of desserts and we tried a few. Chocolate box ($5.99) was just that - a cubic chocolate cake, with chocolate mousse filling that was delightful. Also delicious was a caramel kiss ($5.99), a small cake with caramel frosting, a creamy center and a layer of minced nuts.

Pita Plus has been open only six months, but its future looks bright. It's a shame Pita Plus is so far from Baltimore. But if you're in College Park and need a quick kebab fix, keep it in mind.

Pita Plus

Food: ***1/2

Service: ***1/2

Waiting area: ***1/2

Parking: **1/2

Where: 4425-4427 Lehigh Road, College Park

Phone: 301-864-5150

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday; closed Saturday

Prices: Israeli-style kosher dishes - appetizers, salads, kebabs, pita and overstuffed sandwiches, $4.99 to $26.99; credit cards accepted

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