After traveling through the wonderful presentations of Africa and South America for Passport Academy at my son’s school we all had an appetite for something ethnic. Pita Jungle at Desert Ridge was the pick for the evening since it was close and inexpensive. This was not our first visit to the Pita Jungle chain and won’t be the last but this is the first time I’ve decided to write my review for the place.
The atmosphere at the Desert Ridge restaurant is bright and airy with a funky sophisticated twist. They showcase artwork by various artists that rotates on a regular basis so it’s got an artsy vibe as well. They have this great large family style eating table and a huge full bar near the entry way. Beyond that there’s the main dining area with a semi-open concept kitchen and a spacious patio outside– it overlooks the the parking lot but it’s set back alittle a ways so it’s not really an eyesore. Besides I come to Pita Jungle for the great price and good food so the atmosphere is just a perk. Note: The acoustics- I suppose because of the high ceilings– in this location are loud. I don’t mind since I usually come here with a larger group but for a quiet intimate evening this would not be my pick.
The service is generally good but tends to be inconsistent. I kind of feel like you never know what the service will be like the day you choose to dine in. There’s really no rythm or reason to it sometimes the service is great and the place is packed or sometimes the service is really slow and the place is only 1/4 full. But on as a rule I would consider the service good and what you might expect for this laid-back type of restaurant.
On to the important stuff…the food. I really like the food. It’s fresh, healthy, tasty, has many authentic nuances, nice sized portions and reasonably priced…I would go as far as to say inexpensive for what you get for most items on the menu. They even have nice house wine…seriously…for only $2.99 a glass.
The regular menu is quite extensive in addition they have a seperate specials menu and they even offer happy and reverse happy hour tapas menu. The tapas menu in my opinion is hit or miss. Most items I ordered from the tapas selections were over-priced and small in comparasion to the regular menu. My suggestion would be to stick to the regular or specials menu and skip the tapas.
Before I get into what we ordered this particular evening I find that as with the service the food tends to be a little inconsistent as well. Some days it’s really good and some not so much so if you tend to order the same thing when visiting a particular restaurant you’ll know what Not to expect.
Okay here’s what we ordered:
Mediterranean chicken salad $9.29 which tonight was great. Pieces of grilled chicken (I have to say Pita Jungle makes some of the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had–and honestly I’m never that enthusiastic about chicken–so that says a lot) tossed with diced tomatoes, onions, roasted red bell peppers, pine nuts, chopped cucumbers, corn, golden raisins and taboule, over a bed of mixed greens with feta and lemon vinaigrette. It’s basically a giant tossed chopped salad. It’s quite good.
The daily/weekly special wood-fired chicken entree $9.99. Fabulous. Whole wood-fired marinated boneless chicken breast on a bed of lightly seasoned wilted spinach and garlic herb smashed new red potatoes done rustic style with some skins. This was all topped with a light garlic and chopped tomato concasse and seasoned perfectly. A nice large portion as well. This I would say was the star of the evening.
Wood-fired salmon entree $14.59. It does not compare to the fowl version of this dish mentioned above. Although the salmon was nicely cooked lightly seasoned and grilled, the rest of this entree–garlic smashed potatoes and wilted spinach– is just plain, uninteresting and paltry.
The falafel pita $5.99– crispy croquettes (fairly large size) of chickpeas and the gyro pita $6.49–thin slices of broiled beef & lamb that’s been marinated with spices and herbs both with similar fixings of chopped cilantro, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, israeli-style pickles and tahini on the falafel or tzatziki for the gyro. With the exception of the falafels which are very good here and I highly recommend but I prefer having them in the Mediterranean Platter (see below) the rest is basic with traditional fixings. Either of these are a good sandwich choice but nothing extraordinary.
Mediterranean Platter $10.29. This is one of my favorite items on the menu at pita jungle. It’s a great share appetizer or as a full and I mean extra full meal. It comes chuck full of all the traditional middle eastern goodies such as hummus, baba ganoosh (eggplant-tahini dip), tzatziki, taboule, feta cheese, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), falafel and braised green beans with stewed tomatoes…reminds me of my grandma’s Turkish style green beans. Top it off with a couple of pitas to soak up all that goodness! Yum!
What I don’t recommend is the mozzarella tomato and basil $7.99. It was not that it was bad and it even looked delicious but it tasted bland and flavorless. The tomatoes were barely ripe and the mozzarella was tasteless. Even with the addition of a chiffonade of basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil. This is too simple of a dish to not use better ingredients.
Rice Pudding $3.69– This is one of the better rice pudding I’ve had. It’s nice creamy with plump and juicy golden raisins, sprinkled with cinnamon and garnished with fresh strawberries. If your to full–get it to go. You’ll be happy you did.
To sum this up I have had many meals at Pita Jungle that alone says that it’s a restaurant I would consider a good place to eat for a quick, good, inexpensive meal with a group.
Pita Jungle — Desert Ridge Location
20910 N. Tatum Blvd. • Suite 140 • Phoenix, AZ 85050
Open 7 Days a Week 10:30 am – 10:00 pm