Pita Pit fills prime East Side real estate
Those familiar with Pita Pit probably happened upon North America’s largest pita franchise either while walking down State Street in Madison, or spending time in 40 other American states, eight Canadian provinces, or a variety of locations spread liberally throughout Australia and New Zealand. Since 1995, “The Original Pita Franchise” has been steadily spreading its “Fresh thinking, healthy eating” mantra throughout the world. In September, Milwaukee became the newest of 300-some locations in the international pita purveyor’s flatbread arsenal. The A.V. Club made an early pit stop at Pita Pit to see whether its distinction as the world’s largest pita franchise held weight or if it was just a perk of extreme specificity.
The space: There’s no missing Pita Pit from its North Avenue-adjacent perch. For one thing, it’s nestled between a pair of legendary (and award-winning!) Milwaukee institutions: the Oriental Theatre and Landmark Lanes. But those not familiar with either East Side staple can spot the joint by walking down Farwell and looking for the gigantic pitas affixed to the store’s front windows. Inside, the pita propaganda continues: posters of an anthropomorphic pita wearing a football uniform, and a Fathead-type wall-mounted cartoon pita, vegetables springing from his head, giving a double thumbs-up.
A Subway-style conveyor belt of condiments, meats, and cheeses runs along the north side of the interior. Aside from that, the sterile, clean, and standardized layout and décor of an international franchise shines through. However, the wood floors and beige walls are cozy enough and the gigantic front windows that run the width of the storefront makes for great people-watching, especially come bar time.
The service: With the restaurant’s made-to-order assembly line construct, staff interaction is limited to payment and food preparation. One employee heats your meat (or meat substitute) and the other builds the rest of the pita to your specifications. Our particular server was more than kind and capable in building our dream pita, and her recommendation for ancho chipotle sauce was a game-changer.
The A.V. Club’s food: Pita Pit has 30 specialty pitas that run the gamut from meat, veggie, breakfast (served all day), and kids’ pitas. The nitty-gritty of most items is far from adventurous (tuna, chicken Caesar, falafel, gyro, steak and eggs), but each pita can be personalized from a wealth of sauces (more than 20), cheeses (five), and 18 additional toppings that include vegetables, hummus, and guacamole—for no extra charge—and uncommon fix-ins like artichoke hearts and dried cranberries.
Our internal deliberation resulted in a Buffalo Chicken Pita ($6.79), which had a base of chicken breast, onions, and buffalo sauce. As that was on the griddle, the wheat pita we selected was jam-packed with spinach, tomato, mushrooms, jalapeño, feta cheese, and the aforementioned ancho chipotle sauce. Being made to our whims and all, the pita was unsurprisingly great. The ingredients were fresh, the sauces were flavorful, and the hearty, warm pita proved worth the hype. If one minor complaint can be registered, the meat portions were a bit lacking.
The verdict: For a franchise that we weren’t fully aware was a franchise until we went, Pita Pit is bound to do well, given its prime location, cornered market in expedited pita fare, and late night/delivery option. We’ll certainly be back for more.