So, I was reading through the Bloomingdale Patch archives and ran across a photo of and decided to check it out.
I went down to the corner of Bell Shoals and Bloomingdale and looked for the most colorful windows in the mall — found it quick. Nestled between and Hear Rx on the west side of the mall at 805 E. Bloomingdale Ave. is one of the 16 franchises, and the owner is proud of its 21-year history.
Andy, the owner, is an extremely friendly person of Middle Eastern descent with a great sense of humor. My wife is half Greek, so they immediately struck up a conversation about Macedonia and the food from that area. I misspoke my wife's name in Greek and I could almost feel the daggers from my wife as Andy chuckled; that doesn't happen twice. It's funny now.
I didn't know what tabouli was so I inquired and, in a matter of seconds, I was holding a sample cup along with a spoon, and I can just imagine this spicy parsley salad on a sandwich.
Andy got into a conversation with my wife about catering and lining the bottom of the salad with potato salad. She told him she didn't like potato salad, and the next thing I know, she is holding a sample cup. She didn't like it but, then again, I've never found a potato salad she does like, and that's all a matter of taste. I loved it with the creamy texture as opposed to the usual chunky style I'm accustomed to eating. Different strokes for different folks.
The place reminded me of an old deli from back in Connecticut with the cut-out plywood benches and the tiny tables, but it was a homey and blue collar-type of atmosphere. There was a long area toward the back of the room with mirrored walls and a small counter attached. I'm assuming that is a leaning wall for assembling food and getting your drinks together.
Our meals were up very quickly except for my blueberry smoothie; that took a couple of minutes but was well worth the wait. I ordered the half and half pita, which came with seasoned chicken and gyro meat (pronounced "yeeerroo" on the menu hanging on the wall). My wife ordered the buffalo chicken wrap and I have to say that it's a pleasure finding a place that isn't afraid to use spices. Both of our meals were a special type of delicious where I just couldn't stop talking about it all throughout the meal.
I dissected both meals and found everything to be fresh, and I really loved the cucumber sauce in my pita. I'm not sure what kind of sauce was with our spinach pies, but I will ask next time. We got to talking about so many things that it slipped my mind.
They are huge on the health aspects of their menu at Pita's Republic and not afraid to tell you the healthiest item is the Middle East pita, which I will try next time.
Helen, my wife (Ilaka in Greek), fell in love with the spinach pie, as it reminded her of the same pies she was raised on. We ordered four slices to go, and she just had one for breakfast — now that's a compliment!
On our way out the door, Andy gave us a complimentary piece of baklava — just to be nice.
During the course of our conversation, a young man entered and Andy immediately started asking about his mom and dad and their family. Like I said, very friendly.
Andy made a statement that is worth mentioning, on a serious note. He said that in the past, many places have been able to fool Americans who didn't know any better by claiming that their food is authentic Middle Eastern. However, with all the things going on in the Middle East, Americans are bringing back knowledge and insight into what is real Greek and Middle Eastern fare, and his restaurant is more appreciated for its authenticity than ever before. I agree.
I would give this place four stars for the food and personalities I met but only three stars for the actual restaurant accommodations. I'll be back very soon.
1 Star — Wouldn't go back on a bet
2 Star — Would have to go back, but only on a bet
3 Star — If I was in the neighborhood and hungry
4 Star — Would go out of my way even if I wasn't hungry
5 Star — Would make reservations and wait in a line