The South End of Boston remains one of the city's hottest neighborhoods for restaurants, with some of the area's best (and most popular) dining spots found along its bustling thoroughfares. But this doesn't mean that there aren't some lesser-known spots in this charming section of Beantown. While many folks rarely venture away from Columbus Avenue, Tremont Street, Washington Street, and Shawmut Avenue (the streets where most of the most popular eateries are located), a few restaurants do reside on the roads further away from the Back Bay and closer to the Central Artery/Southeast Expressway, such as Harrison Avenue and Albany Street. This latter street has next to nothing in the way of dining spots, but a restaurant does exist there, and it's a good one--a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern place named South End Pita.
Located on a rather dusty and somewhat desolate stretch of road that has not seen the development (and gentrification) that other parts of the South End have taken part in, South End Pita seems an unlikely spot for a restaurant. But it really is not far from the heart of the South End--or downtown Boston, for that matter--and is only a block or two from a booming section of Harrison Avenue that includes artist studios, spacious lofts, and the popular SoWa Open Market. The eatery is housed in one of countless brick buildings that make up this part of the neighborhood, and while the exterior of South End Pita gives the impression of being just another sub shop or takeout joint, the interior is actually quite comfortable, with curtained windows, a wooden floor, artwork along the walls (including a mural above the ordering area), and the type of high ceiling that one tends to see in the old brick buildings around this area. The restaurant is counter-service only, which makes it popular for takeout, but a handful of tables allow customers the option to dine in.
South End Pita features mostly a mix of North African and Middle Eastern dishes, with lunch and dinner served daily. Some of the starters/lighter fare include a freshly-made vegetarian lentil soup, a lamb shish kabob salad that comes with marinated lamb tenderloin, and a Greek salad that has a tangy house-made dressing. Main dishes include a crunchy green falafel with cilantro and parsley; an ultra-smooth hummus that is fairly heavy on the garlic; a similarly smooth tahini that has just a hint of sourness to it; a wonderful freshly-cut chicken shawarma (the meat is golden brown in spots and seasoned perfectly); tightly-packed and minty-flavored stuffed grape leaves; and a delicious tabouli that has less of an onion taste than some of the others that this writer has tried, and has a bright, earthy taste coming from the lemon juice, mint, and parsley used in it. The rice pilaf goes well with many of the aforementioned dishes as does the crisp grilled pita bread which has just a slight char to it. Beef eaters can choose from kafta (seasoned ground beef mixed with onions and parsley), beef shawarma, and, for those who might want a more "American" dish, an 8-ounce cheeseburger with fries. Combo plates and specials are good ways to try a bit of everything, with The Sampler including hummus, tabouli, falafel, grape leaves, and a salad, the "Pita Plate" being much like the Sampler but with baba ghanough instead of grape leaves, and one of the specials featuring spinach pie, hummus, and a Mediterranean salad. For those who might want dessert, Baklava is one option offered, while beverages include Moroccan tea and organic juices.
Albany Street isn't exactly "restaurant row" and will never, ever, be mistaken for Tremont Street, but because of that, South End Pita is a nice alternative to the trendy, "hot" eateries nearby that often have long waits even on weeknights. And with its relatively cheap prices, easy parking (typically a number of metered spaces are available along the street), and unpretentious overall feel, this dining spot offers quite a different experience from some of its competition a few blocks away. It may not be the best restaurant in the South End (or the best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant in Boston), but South End Pita is certainly worth a try if you're looking for a quick bite to eat while in the neighborhood.
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