Mr. Pita Loco

Packing a hummus sandwich involves true artistry

Pita Loca is a place I usually frequent alone, even when my wife comes along. She pretends she doesn't know me. She'll stand a few feet away, as if she's a separate customer, when I order my hummus sandwich to go.

It works like this: The man behind the counter hands me the pita bread with a schmeer of unimpeachable hummus inside, points to the salad bar, and tells me to add whatever I want. I proceed to the meticulous task of selecting as many options as possible, and, through shrewd space-management techniques learned from years of packing suitcases and car trunks, fitting them all inside the flimsy pocket of bread. My wife takes another step back. I start with the basic dice of cucumber and tomato, along with obligatory slices of onion. "Roasted eggplant is a must!" I might mutter to myself while dismissing the pickles and ignoring sticks of turnips dyed in beet juice; I often bypass the beets as well, if only for the sake of avoiding potential purple stains. Tomato salad is redundant; ditto the cucumber salad. First tough choice: red or white cabbage salad? I usually take both, and regret doing so later on when I've got to leave a poor Tuscan pepper behind. I never leave out the roasted, hot green peppers.

Next comes the important part: dousing the only-partially overstuffed sandwich with tahini and hot sauce -- if you wait until you've packed the pocket to capacity, as rookie pita-stuffers are apt to do, the bottom of the sandwich will never see those sauces. Parsley-riddled tabbouleh salad starts the shorter second stuff, followed by chickpeas rolled in paprika and garlic. Finally, a last splash of tahini before giving the sandwich back to the counterman to wrap in foil. His hand always drops by a good six inches when the plumped pita is placed into it. I'm not certain, but I think I once overheard a Pita Loca worker whisper to another, "Here comes Mr. Big Spender," as I walked through the door. "You're probably imagining things," my wife reassured me. "In reality they would be calling you much worse."

Location Info


Pita Loca

601 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Middle Eastern

Region: South Beach


305-673-3388. Open Sundays-Thursdays noon to midnight, Fridays noon until one hour before Sabbath. Closed Saturdays.
601 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

While it's true the hummus sandwich is just $2.95, I often get a beverage too -- sometimes even one of the fruit nectars imported from Israel, which at $2.75 quenches thirst and guilt. Actually I could avoid the whole situation by simply eating my sandwich on premises, in which case I'd be given a plate and be free to pick from the salad bar as I pleased -- but what's the challenge to that?

I've tried other dishes at Pita Loca, like the cleanly fried, coriander-flecked falafels, and the beef, chicken, and lamb shwarma, which is especially excellent in the larger, fluffier laffa bread. I pay the extra for laffa when it comes to all sandwiches and platters except hummus -- the delicate spread tends to get smothered by the thick folds of bread. As I believe I've made clear, I prefer smothering the hummus under an avalanche of salad instead.

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