Alibi V.28 No.35 • Aug 29-Sept 4, 2019 

Restaurant Review

Need a Pita, Take a Pita

Need-A-Pita does Middle Eastern food perfectly

Beef shawarma is officially a new favorite of mine.
Beef shawarma is officially a new favorite of mine.
Eric Williams Photography
I’ll be honest. As much as I come across as a man about town, eating and delighting in many different foodstuffs, there are some gaps in my knowledge and experience. For example, Middle Eastern food. There was never really a reason why I haven’t eaten more of it. In fact, like many people, after the first Avengers movie where we see our valiant heroes celebrating victory with a sit-down shawarma meal, I was intrigued to try it out. But it never happened, and part of that was just me putting it off. There are so many places to try, and man, what happens if I pick the wrong one and end up hating the whole country’s cuisine? So, I skipped out time and time again until I realized that it’s been nearly 7 years since that moment, and I’m still un-shawarma’d. Then, something changed.

Being in the position of food editor with Weekly Alibi, I was in a slightly strange position. I’m a notoriously picky eater, to the point that I typically turn down dinner at a friend’s home because I don’t want to be that person who didn’t like their objectively good food just because of an unrefined palate. I mentioned none of this in my interview, because I had an ulterior motive in taking the job. It was time for my tastes to grow up. It was time to eat anything and everything with abandon and joy. Yeah, some things just won’t ever click with me, but adventure and boldness go a long way in terms of dining, and I wanted in. That’s where Need-A-Pita shows up.

You see, Need-A-Pita found a niche here in Albuquerque. Yes, we have other Middle Eastern food spots that have long been established, and yes, they all have unique things that could qualify them as “the best around.” But they called me and told me that I had to come by. This wasn’t an ask; it was an obvious statement. They were here, they were cooking, so why wasn’t I sitting down and eating? So, I realized, much like Tony Stark, my time had come.

Located in the Northeast Heights, Need-A-Pita sits tucked into a small strip mall that could make it easy to miss. The interior is simple, with a large well-lit dining room surrounded by walls of both wood and brick. I didn’t tell them I was coming; I usually never do, and I don’t say anything until after the meal. But as I walked in, the owner came over instantly and invited me in, full hospitality. Walking me through the menu, I ended up making some choices based on recommendations that left me fully stuffed and with a scratched itch I hadn’t known was itching in the first place.

Let’s start with the drinks. Nothing too wild or fancy here, but they do offer Turkish coffee ($1.95), which is arguably my favorite form of coffee. If you’ve never had Turkish coffee, here’s the gist of it: It’s like a regular coffee with a smoother and more consistent flavor, and an excessive amount of finely ground coffee in it. Without filtration, you’re left with a thick drink that leaves your lips a little numb from caffeine and joy. Their take on it is no different, and I was enamored with the robust flavors and how smooth it went down.

Maybe it’s Middle Eastern culture, but every person I’ve met from out there has been so immensely kind and gracious that it’s almost disconcerting. I was offered extra things to try at no cost, I was checked on constantly in regard to every piece of the meal and I was treated better here than at almost any other restaurant I’ve ever been in within this city. Kindness was at the top of the menu here.

I had a spinach pie ($1.95) and a meat pie ($2.25) that was filled with chicken. The spinach pie was great. It came out hot and fresh, and the doughy exterior melted in my mouth while the warm spinach took over the whole taste profile. The meat pie was this twirled creation loaded with meat that just felt comfortable to eat. I knew my main course was ahead of me, but I struggled with the idea of not finishing either of these, worrying that they just wouldn’t be quite as good on reheat.

Falafel that isn’t awful.
Falafel that isn’t awful.
Eric Williams Photography
But then the moment of truth came. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes all agreed to shawarma, but how would Dan feel about it? The answer, in a shock to no one, was that I loved it. The beef shawarma platter ($12.45) not only came with a heaping mound of meat and tzatziki sauce, but also a whole helping of rice, a side of hummus, a small salad and some peppers for tasting. The flavor of the meat was just spicy enough to let you know it meant business, but not so hot to warrant needing a glass of water as to. The rice was about the best damn rice I’ve ever had, cooked to just the right consistency where it stuck together well enough to eat, but was never mushy or crunchy. The hummus was a great fit for the rest of the dish, and I ended up using it to pair with the leftover pies to ensure I didn’t miss out on anything.

I finished with the baklava ($1.59), which was simply done well. It was crunchy, it had flaky layers and it was sweet enough to sate my need for dessert. Much like the baklava, Need-A-Pita is all about layers. It would be easy to mistake it for just another eatery on Menaul but peel back a few layers, and it’s a place of love and care towards the food that gives it more oomph than you find in some other parts of the city. While I could never officially endorse it on behalf of the Avengers, I can certainly endorse it on my own behalf.

View in Alibi Chowtown Chowtown

Need-A-Pita

5017 Menaul Blvd. NE
610-9721

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11am-5pm Closed Sunday
Vibe: Family friendly and open
Alibi Recommends: The beef shawarma, spinach pie, baklava