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THE EATBEAT: Pita Pit emphasizes fresh, healthful fare at two locations

The University Pita Pit was right on the way to the parking lot for a Sioux basketball game, and I was hungry. So I stopped, thinking it would be good to eat something healthful and nutritious on the way. This was early on a Sunday afternoon, so ...

The University Pita Pit was right on the way to the parking lot for a Sioux basketball game, and I was hungry. So I stopped, thinking it would be good to eat something healthful and nutritious on the way. This was early on a Sunday afternoon, so I opted for the Sausage Sunrise for $5.95.

This was a combination of sausage, scrambled egg, hash browns, onion, green pepper and mushrooms. All in all, a hearty and good-tasting mix of food wrapped up in a whole-wheat pita. It was plenty to eat, and I watched some football as I ate in the streamlined, high-tech-looking shop located on the road that leads in to the Ralph and Betty Engelstad arenas.

It takes a few times to figure out what you want and how to order at a Pita Pit. The concept is a bit different from most eating places. Servers are ready to help you create a pita from a vast array of toppings, cheeses and sauces. Toppings include lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers, pickles, black olives, pineapple, sprouts, mushrooms and jalapenos. There are 16 sauces. It costs more for double cheese, meat or bacon. There are breakfast pitas, meat pitas and veggie pitas.

I was about halfway through my Sausage Scramble when I realized that I could have ordered my pita fork-style. As it was, I used about six napkins. They are small and almost dainty.

Pita Pit International describes pita bread as a flat, round bread also known as Middle Eastern flatbread. It is yeast-leavened and baked in a very hot oven with its two layers almost separated during baking. A hollow center can be split to make a pocket and opened at one end and filled for a sandwich or cut in half for two smaller sandwiches. The bread originated in Egypt and the Middle East.

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Pita bread is low in fat and sugar. It is a good source of protein, iron and B vitamins.

The quick-service franchise is fairly new. It expanded to the U.S. from Canada 10 years ago. There are 220 in the U.S., mostly in college towns. The owner of the two Pita Pits in Grand Forks is Pat Streyle, a UND graduate. His brother, Roscoe, operates one in Minot. Pat Streyle opened his first here three years ago on South Washington Street and the second one year ago on 10th Avenue North. He said business is best around the dinner hour Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

There are followers of the fresh, healthful theme of Pita Pit, and Streyle is slowly finding a following. However, he talks with guarded optimism and has found business tough during the past year.

I made a second trip to Pita Pit, this time on South Washington, for a chicken Caesar salad -- fork-style. I chose spinach and romaine lettuce for the base. I tailored the salad to my own tastes with mushrooms, black olives, green pepper and chicken on top along with Parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing. It was large, crisp and tasty.

Some Pita Pit regulars come for gyros and consider seasoned beef and lamb meat at Pita Pit the best around.

The music is loud and decor is red, green and white at the Pita Pits. South Washington seating is at small tables with a row of stools and a counter in the front of the store. On Wednesdays, the special is Chicken Crave Pita made of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapple, melted sweet cheese and honey mustard.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or call (701) 772-1055.

Related Topics: FOOD
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