If you’re craving Middle Eastern cuisine, a small family-style restaurant at 495 S. Pleasantburg Drive may be the exact place you’re looking for.
The Pita House is a restaurant combined with a grocery. The store offers authentic Middle Eastern food, freshly baked pita bread and a variety of ethnic food items that are difficult to find in typical grocery stores.
Owner Mr. Zuhair Namouz began the restaurant with his two brothers in 1989. Namouz, originally from Nazareth in Israel, came to the U.S. with his brothers. The Namouz brothers had always enjoyed cooking, so they decided to begin their own venture.
Starting with next to nothing, they built their restaurant by offering authentic Middle Eastern food at affordable prices. The enterprise has nearly doubled in size since its beginning, but the owner boasts that they still operate on the principles that first grew the business: hard work and good relationships with customers.
“I build excellent relationships with my customers,” Namouz said. “I listen to them. I follow their orders, their suggestions. It’s really a family atmosphere. People become friends here.”
The grocery offers not only Middle Eastern foods but also Greek, Italian, African, Armenian and European.
“The idea was the same from day one: a grocery and a restaurant,” Namouz said. “We miss this kind of grocery [from back home], and we have a lot of problems being able to get that [food] here [in the U.S.].”
The grocery and deli are open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant has a website, www.pitahousesc.com, which details the menu with pictures of many of the offered items. Prices range from $5 to $7 for sandwiches and lunch items to $9 to $12 for dinner entrees. Cash and checks are accepted, but credit cards are not.
The menu includes salads, pita sandwiches, kababs and specialized Middle Eastern entrees. Each of the pita sandwiches are served with a tahini salad, slices of tomato, pickles, olives and fresh pita bread made in-store. Meat choices include chicken and beef shawarma (meat, especially beef, chicken, or lamb, that is roasted slowly on a spit and wrapped in pita bread) and gyro (a blend of lamb and beef), each cooked with special seasonings.
All of the restaurant’s pita bread is homemade in its own bakery. The bread is primarily for use in the restaurant, but Namouz also sells to some catering businesses in the area, and customers can sometimes buy bread in larger quantities in the restaurant.
Among other specialties are hummus, falafel and ghannouge (an eggplant dish). The store also makes a variety of Lebanese pastry desserts (including baklava).
Mrs. Mary Mendoza, faculty member in the department of journalism and mass communication, said she and her sisters have enjoyed the restaurant since she came to BJU from Jerusalem her freshman year. “What we really enjoy is that it’s authentic food,” she said. “It’s very close to some of the things we would eat in Jerusalem. The fresh pita bread — you can’t find that anywhere [else]. It’s very authentic.”
Mendoza still frequents the restaurant and does some of her regular shopping in the grocery for items such as pita bread, olives and Greek yogurt.