Sunrise Pita and Grill was the perfect spot to discover on the week of Yom Kippur. At this restaurant, you can get a bellyful of kosher food that will leave you satisfied while leaving your wallet similarly stuffed.
Open since 1988, Sunrise Pita sits near the center of a long, narrow strip mall along University Drive. On the window is white lettering with the boast “The Best Pita Sandwiches in USA.” Inside, you’ll find a small, fast-casual restaurant with several large portraits of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late leader of the Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Behind the counter and salad bar of pickled vegetables, you’ll find a trio of gregarious young men who banter loudly with customers in Hebrew and English.
In order to thoroughly review a restaurant, critics tend to order what can best be described as an obscene amount of food. Often, a server gingerly suggests that we may be ordering a bit too much. But here, we were advised with the vigor of a health-conscious mother trying to prevent her little darlings from getting fat. A rough re-creation of our conversation:
“And we’d like the beef kebabs, too, the large plate.”
“That’s way too much food! Trust me, you can’t eat it all.”
“No really, please. We’re … uh … taking extra home to eat the next day.”
“But it’s too much food. Seriously, buddy!”
“I know, I know. Really, I’m getting lunch for later, too! I hate to cook! I’m really busy tomorrow! I swear! Please make me kebabs … ”
“But that’s a lot of food!”
After we at last emerged victorious, our appetizers arrived either in plastic baskets or on Styrofoam plates, and they were the kind of hearty fried items you crave after a long night of bar-hopping. And most of the offerings taste best when wrapped in a warm, fluffy pita.
A helping of six falafel balls ($3.99 or 70 cents each) had a crumbly, crispy exterior. The kebba (a basket of six for $6.99) are stuffed with mushrooms, and they were a delight. Of course, we dipped everything into an enormous plate of outstanding hummus ($4.50), powdered generously with paprika. Baba ghanoush ($4.50), on the other hand, had an overly sour taste.
You can venture to the salad bar for eggplant salad, Israeli salad and cabbage salad, among others. The salads are either piled onto the plate with your entree, or they can be purchased by the half-pound or more. Our top picks are the not-to-miss, extremely spicy schug ($4.99 for a half-pound), made from hot peppers, coriander and garlic, as well as the Turkish salad ($3.99 for a half-pound), a rich, sweet tomato-based concoction that we adored.
Already nearly full (we were warned), we piled into slices of schnitzel ($10.95 small plate, $14.99 large plate) that ranks among the best we’ve had at casual Israeli spots, due primarily to their flavorful, crumbly breading.
On the other hand, the “Jerusalem mix” of diced chicken, turkey and onions ($10.95) was serviceable, though we expected it to be far more distinctive given the other aromatic spices we encountered here. The texture of the chicken didn’t impress, either.
Kebabs are an excellent bet here, with the ground-beef kebabs ($10.95/$14.99) seasoned just right. The kebabs weren’t served on fancy skewers, and the cutlery was made of plastic. Nobody puts on airs at Sunrise Pita, and that’s exactly how we like it.
Sunrise Pita and Grill
2680 N. University Drive, Sunrise
Cuisine: Kosher, Israeli, Middle Eastern
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday
Reservations: Not accepted
Bar: No alcohol
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Kids menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes