When I first started hanging out in Astoria four years ago – a year or so before I decided to move here – I had a very different cognitive map of the neighborhood. The X-ray brightness of post-midnight N/Q cars, the last call clamor of bars spilling into the street, and the vivid awnings of late night/all night places, their bright glow an oasis in the darkening night. And so I learned there may be no better way to lure New York’s night crawlers off the street than with a bold yellow awning emblazoned with the words ‘PITA HOT.’
My girlfriend first spotted the sign one night, likely quite late, and we have been passionate fans of the place ever since. The original Pita Hot location was homey and warm, like hanging out and chatting in the living room of the always friendly, generous owner, Khaled Shallah. I say generous because there is almost always a tray of crisp pita triangles doused in Za’atar for free sampling (I have been subtly suggesting he bag and sell this addictive snack for years). You are also likely to get the lopped-off top of your pita as a sample too, submerged in one of Pita Hot’s exceptional sides like hummus or baba ganoush.
Over time, my list of Pita Hot favorites have grown, but I am especially fond of their Falafel Hummus Pita stuffed with crunchy, made-to-order falafel, uncommonly smooth hummus, and a fresh, crisp salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Pita Hot’s hearty baba ganoush is my favorite in Astoria: smokey, garlic-studded, and heavy on lemon juice, this is an absolute flavor bomb. Make sure to let them hit it with olive oil and spices to round out the experience. More recently, I have fallen for their spiral Spinach Pie, with a thin flaky shell and a great balance of spinach and feta rolled inside. Khaled’s light-as-air custard-filled baklava with crumbled pistachio and laced with rosewater is a must-try as well.
Due to rising rents, Khaled recently embarked on the difficult task of packing up this place that looked and felt like home, and moving one door down into the space most recently occupied by La Papa. The new Pita Hot retains its chaotically bright, busy, welcoming vibe but has a scrubbed up newness that will be attractive to Astorians that have not yet ventured into this local eating institution. And if you haven’t tried it, you really probably should.
Pita Hot is a rare restaurant that can be all things to all people at any time of day. I imagine stopping in at 9am to start the day with Khaled’s strong tea with rosewater and cardamom pods (you can have it with sugar or without – I prefer unsweetened). I imagine working at the nearby hospital and having Pita Hot as my loyal lunch spot. And, because I am no longer one of New York’s night crawlers, I know that picking up Pita Hot for an early dinner after a challenging day at work will lift my spirits, and remind me of what I have always loved about this place and the neighborhood that surrounds it.
Connect with Jerusalem Pita House – On Yelp
Jerusalem Pita House is open daily from about 9am to 3am.