Eat This Now: The Veggie Plate At Pita Grill
You don't expect a place with a logo this bright and corporate-looking--not to mention its location in an Irvine Company outdoor food court, next to Subway, a Pizza Hut, and the umpteenth outlet of Flame Broiler--to be anything but like a chain itself.
But you'd be wrong. Don't let that logo or even the generic name lead you think this place is anything like its neighbors. There's only one Pita Grill, and this is it--an eatery that would be a major discovery if you had found it in Anaheim's Little Arabia, but doubly so here, in Irvine.
Their kebabs explode with juice and cooked to order to any degree of desired doneness, deeply flavored with tongue-tingling spices. Twirling columns of meat are shaved with a handheld device that whirrs and whinnies. The most popular meat to be planed off the pirouetting protein cylinders, millimeter-by-millimeter, is the chicken. They'll pile it up in snowy mountains, serve it with pita bread and, most importantly, a potent garlic toum to slather all over--it's one of the best garlic pastes in the county, which is just as good, if not better, than Zankou's.
And then there's the veggie plate, which is what you should order if you're a first timer. For a little less than $10, you can choose any five items from a mile-long tray array full of veggie entrees, all of it fresh and chilled or fresh and hot, depending on the dish. There's musaka, tabouleh, fatouche, and even a krab salad that isn't vegetarian, but one you should order anyway. The falafels (two per order) are well-seasoned, craggle-crusted, with just the right amount of interior moistness; the fried cauliflower is so addictive you forget it's cauliflower; the hummus is as smooth as butter cream. Enjoy it now, because with something this good and popular (long lines form daily), it won't be much longer before they franchise and become the chain you mistook it for.