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THE EATBEAT: Pita Pit finds niche with healthful choices, big servings

Pita, unleavened pocket bread from the Middle East, has found a niche in Grand Forks during the past year and a half. And Patrick Streyle, owner of the Pita Pit franchise here, says he has learned a lot since he opened his shop.

Pita, unleavened pocket bread from the Middle East, has found a niche in Grand Forks during the past year and a half. And Patrick Streyle, owner of the Pita Pit franchise here, says he has learned a lot since he opened his shop.

Pita Pit is the place to go if you are like Dagwood of comic strip fame. It's for people who like to create their own combinations of sandwiches that come wrapped inside a large, round white or wheat pita pocket.

It took me a while to figure out how to order, since I hadn't been to Pita Pit since it opened. Most customers just line up at the cash register and rattle off their orders. They make their choice and move along the line, selecting condiments they want included.

Pitas include a Dagwood Club, Philly Steak, Turkey, Club and Falafel, which is a grilled chickpea patty. A Babaganoush is made with roasted eggplant spread. The Local Bullseye has chicken, roast beef and hot sauces.

On the first of two recent stops at Pita Pit, I ordered a Black Forest Ham pita ($5.45) and selected my toppings as I moved along. The healthful choices include romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, red onion, green peppers, cucumbers, pickles, olives, banana peppers, jalapenos, sprouts, mushrooms and pineapple. That's just for starters. Then, there are cheddar, Swiss-American and feta cheeses. And then, there are a dozen or so dressings.

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What you get is really a meal in a bundle. And since they are so large, some people take half of them home for another meal, according to Streyle. I noticed it was no problem for young men to polish off a pita sandwich.

And I noticed that there were three or four breakfast-style combinations on the menu. So, I took a Sunday run back to Pita Pit and ordered a Ham N' Eggs Pita ($5.25) and found it a tasty way to get a whole meal wrapped in pita and served inside waxed paper without the need for tableware.

With it, I had ice water. Pita Pit also sells 20-ounce soft drinks, juices and other beverages for $1.50. And you can find chips for $1 and cookies for 75 cents. That's it.

During the past year, Streyle has developed a separate room where drive-through orders are handled, and he has started delivering. While the majority of business is done inside building on South Washington Street, about 15 percent comes from takeouts and deliveries. There is a $1 charge for deliveries in Grand Forks and a $2 charge for deliveries in East Grand Forks. Pita Pit also has a special catering menu.

Pita Pit experiences lunch and supper-hour rushes. And since opening, Streyle has discovered there also is an opportunity for late-night business after the bars close.

Streyle opened the Pita Pit shortly after he graduated from UND, where he studied banking and economics. His brother, Roscoe Streyle, had just opened a Pita Pit in Minot. And Patrick has found it helpful to compare notes with him. The brothers are sons of Jo and Keith Streyle of Leeds, N.D.

There now are 20 full- and part-time employees.

Streyle says Pita Pit is a young franchise that started in Canada and now has 150 shops in the U.S. The Grand Forks Pita Pit was the 109th. The restaurants usually are in college communities and usually stay open late.

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The restaurant here is bright and cheery with accent colors of red and green. It has tables and chairs and a counter across the front window facing out on South Washington, where customers can sit on stools. There is a tile floor and some colorful food signs.

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

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