30 years ago, when “healthy” restaurants were a new and somewhat exciting concept, I frequented such an establishment in the funky neighborhood back east where I attended college. Over the course of a few semesters, I downed enough tabouleh and bean sprouts to keep a small Syrian farm happily humming. It all ended one cold, rainy afternoon when I sat down to yet another plate of falafel; its dense brown coarseness absorbing all light like a cosmic black hole.
I suddenly froze, my useless fingers unable to reach for my marginally clean fork. I just sat there, stricken by an unexplained paralysis, my body clearly staging a terrifying coup d’tat. My system simply wouldn’t tolerate another assault of mysterious, hinky foodstuffs from strange and forbidding lands. Healthiness be damned, what I needed was prime rib and creamy potatoes, white flour noodles dripping with cheese, crispy chicken coated in heavy breading and swimming in lard. And I needed these items in such endless bounty that after I’d had my fill, I would have to be wheeled from the groaning board in a hastily fashioned mechanical conveyance.
Upon that realization, I slowly regained the use of my limbs and used my new found strength to wave goodbye to the whole grain and macro-biotic. I promptly made my way to the nearest Steak & Ale, where I devoured a medium rare ribeye with such single mindedness of purpose never can it be said that cows die in vain.
The dining room is an airy, spacious affair with attractive industrial loft design thematics; its stark walls featuring original paintings by local artists. Off to the left was a full service bar with stools for approximately 20 thirsty patrons - it’s nice to know the establishment’s health concept isn’t taken too far - and it looked like a marvelous place to while away an afternoon over a few dirty martinis. Not that I would ever do such a thing.
My wife ordered a glass of the house Argentinean Malbec ($5.95), which she declared excellent, while I - needing to keep my critical wits about me - settled for a tumbler of ice tea ($2.95) that was promptly refilled whenever needed. For entrees, my much better half asked for a cup of coconut curry soup ($4.95) with a side order of dolmades ($5.79), while I could not resist the allure of that Chicken Tikki Masala ($9.25). My full immersion in the splendors of arugula and mango would have to wait for another visit.
The place was about half full, a respectable showing for a Monday long past the peak lunch window. I noticed several diners availing themselves of Pita Jungle’s selection of sandwiches and wraps, all generously portioned and reasonably priced - the sandwiches, not the diners - at a range of 5 to 7 dollars. I made a mental note to try the massive gyro on a future visit, as an athletic young man at a nearby table appeared to be blissfully enjoying his.
Our bill came to $31.25 with tax; a good value for what was, frankly, one of the best lunches I’d had in my 8 years in Arizona. While my re-embrace of healthy eating was far from complete, this first tenative step exceeded expectations. But I suspect I’ll require several more delicious sessions at Pita Jungle to complete the cure. And I can’t wait.
Pita Jungle Menu