Restaurant critics must perform a balancing act. We want to bring attention to worthy new places, but slagging a brand-new venue during its shakedown cruise for slow service or uneven kitchen output isn't really fair. So after some rough early visits to South End Pita, a new Mediterranean counter-service restaurant, I gave it some time to get through its growing pains. Ironing out the early kinks took only a few weeks: the short-order cook can now quickly and competently turn out a breakfast plate of eggs ($3.75/one; $4.25/two; $4.95/three; $0.75 for bacon, ham, or sausage) with pretty fair home fries or a small chopped-tomato salad, decent filter coffee, and toast or a bagel. Three-egg omelets ($5.75–$7.95) with the same accompaniments and standard fillings (cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc.) are sturdy if run-of-the-diner-mill; likewise the bagel sandwiches ($1.85–$3.75).
Lunch, when the owner's Moroccan roots show, is more interesting. Pita rollups ($5.95–$6.25) feature fine falafel, kafta (beautifully spiced beef meatballs), and shawarma of chicken or beef, stuffed into pita atop tomatoes, cucumbers, and tahini. What keeps these sandwiches a notch below Boston's first rank is the decision to store fillings (like shawarma sliced off the rotisserie ahead of time) on steam tables, from which few foods benefit. At these prices, meat fillings could also be more generous. Combo plates ($6.95–$8.95) include such options as very good hummus, cold rice-stuffed grape leaves, and shish kabobs of chicken, lamb, or kafta, served with rice and a small Mediterranean salad. The trencherman's choice is the shawarma combo ($10.50), with beef and chicken shawarma, falafel, and hummus.
Soups taste carefully made, like the fine vegetarian lentil ($3.50). Respectable American options include a half-pound burger ($7.50) and subs of chicken parmesan ($6.95), meatball parmesan ($6.95), chicken salad ($6.50), and tuna salad ($6.25) with okay fries or a better salad. Big salads ($5.95–$7.95) offer a healthier alternative, topped with a delicious Greek-like dressing and falafel, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, chicken shawarma, chicken salad, or tuna salad. The 20-seat room is sunny, spacious, and nicely decorated for a sandwich/salad joint. In all, South End Pita provides a solid option for quick, casual, relatively inexpensive meals at the extreme edge of South End gentrification, an area with few dining alternatives at any price. The initial tune-up took some time, but it's nice to see the engine finally humming.
South End Pita, located at 473 Albany Street in Boston, is open Monday–Friday, 6:30 am–9 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 10 am–4 pm. Call 617.556.2600.