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Saturday, Sep 22, 2018
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Dining review: Mediterranean fare at a modest price

Nestled in the corner of a building in the warren of shopping centers at University Square, Byblos Pitas is worth the effort of trying to discern one brick-faced building of shops from another.

The restaurant specializes in Mediterranean fare, particularly ­— as the name indicates — those that come wrapped in a pita. From falafel and gyros to shawarma and kabobs, the restaurant bills itself as fast, fresh and healthy.

On our visits, we found service to be friendly and helpful and the prices to be very good (as of this writing, Byblos Pitas is offering $4.99 gyros and falafel). Byblos Pitas also delivered on its promise of fast and fresh food — we assume it was also healthy.

At Byblos Pitas, the service is much like that at Subway. You pick your menu item and then go through a line with the server opposite you, dishing out the ingredients you select.

The interior is clean and modern, with splashes of bright colors. The walls are black but the chairs are a cheerful red and green, with blue light fixtures descending from the ceiling. Exposed metal ductwork hangs overhead.

Diners can choose to eat indoors or at about a half dozen tables that line the front of the restaurant.

The menu is posted behind the counter where you order and is divided into three simple areas — pita wraps, sides and soups and salads.

We started with the steak shawarma and the chicken shawarma. The latter features chicken marinated in a garlic sauce, which gives it a distinctive flavor that melded well with the vegetables we added. The steak shawarma has marinated steak mixed with onions. Both are worth considering and are an excellent introduction to shawarma.

For those who do not wish to eat meat, the vegetarian falafel offers a tasty opportunity to indulge in good food while maintaining your culinary integrity. It features vegetarian patties mixed with a variety of herbs and spices. It was one of the best things we ate, which is something of a surprise, since meat is just fine with us.

There are just four other pita wraps: the lamb-meat gyro, the Kafta Kabob that mixes ground beef with parsley, onions, herbs and spices, the chicken kabob, and the combo kabob that unifies cubed chicken with ground beef.

There are a number of side dishes. We can recommend without reservation the hummus, which was the traditional style of chick peas blended with lemon juice, tahini and olive oil. The resulting mixture is smooth and, when coupled with warm pita for dipping, a little slice of food heaven.

Other sides include all the favorites of Mediterranean fare. There’s a solid Baba Ganoush — the roasted eggplant dip made with tahini, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil — as well as dolma (stuffed grape leaves), labneh (thickened yogurt), kebbeh (fried meat stuffed with onion and pine nuts), tabouleh salad and French fries.

The salads are (naturally) the Greek as well as the Caesar and the tabouleh, which features tomatoes, mint, green onions and cracked wheat on a bed of lettuce. We tried it and found it to be the best of the salad choices on the menu.

For dessert, there is the classic: baklava. We tried it and while it was not the best we’ve ever had, to pass on any baklava is, generally speaking, a mistake. It’s good enough to enjoy as a sweet afterglow to a savory meal. Seriously, with places like Byblos Pitas, why does anyone still eat fast food?

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