Once limited to burgers, tacos, and chicken, the diner-on-the-go has more choices available these days than just going through the nearest drive-thru. Fast casual is still one of the hottest new segments of the restaurant game, with sub sandwich shops, delis, and build-your-own burrito places racking up impressive business. Even Asian food has entered the fray with places such as Pei-Wei and Roti Grill. Now, Mama Pita Mediterranean Grill has joined the battle as well, promising fresh ingredients assembled into a tasty feast right before your very eyes.
The Shops at Legacy can sometimes be daunting to navigate, yet Mama Pita is easy to find, clearly marked and located on Legacy Drive itself just East of the Tollway. The décor of this box features dark woods, bricks, and photos depicting everyday life in the Mediterranean. Merely make your way to the back, where your smiling hostess stands at the Chipotle-style assembly counter ready to tell you how Mama Pita works.
Basically, there are four different styles of meals at various price points, and each meal contains two or more categories of eats: salads, dips, mains and sides. Prices start at $6.95 for a simple Pita Wrap, progressing all the way up to $9.90 for the Combo Platter with shrimp. At these prices, I decided that I could easily afford to try a little bit of everything, so I splurged for the Combo Platter. My sprawling salad was Fattouch, which combined lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers with a deft touch of pomegranate molasses, and a sumptuous olive and lemon dressing crowned with toasted pita chips. A little heavy on the dressing, but this salad sported good, fresh produce and was a sign of things to come. My dip was Mama’s Homemade Garlic Paste, which was intensely flavored garlic overload and was a great accompaniment to the other dishes when used sparingly. I chose Kafta and Falafel for my mains, and these were a bit disappointing: The Kafta, grilled minced lamb and beef, was slightly underdone and definitely underseasoned (my garlic dip came in handy here), but the Falafel was better, two crispy pucks of garbanzo and minced fava beans, nicely spiced indeed. Both mains were on the smallish side, but I sure couldn’t quibble about the price. Mama’s Patatas proved to be the star of my platter, wonderfully crisp potato bits seasoned with parsley and spices, and better than three-fourths of the French Fries you can get around town. Finally, I had asked for a pita to wrap my ingredients, and these proved to be quite tasty and large, the size and shape of your basic manhole cover.
The serving ladies at the counter were quite cheerful and eager to explain the process, and they did a wonderful job of speeding me through the line without feeling rushed. In short, Mama Pita is no Café Istanbul, but with low prices, quick service, and fresh food, they present quite an intriguing alternative to the burgers, tacos, and chicken joints that make up the usual fast options.