Once upon a time when James and I just moved in together, we lived in the pre-gentrified neighborhood of Inglewood. Just to the east side of downtown it was still a bit run down, a little seedy, and full of dusty antique shops and tiny eateries, before the upscale chocolatiers, restaurateurs and designer furniture stores moved in. The yeast factory added a brewers aroma to the air, as did the poultry trucks rumbling through the truck stop in the summer heat.
Our proximity to seventeenth avenue afforded a great deal of shopping and eating experiences that the suburbs simply don’t have, and we often drove the streets looking for a little place that may have something good to eat. Being dedicated night owls we often drove the streets at the later hours, being faced with a lot of closed signs since Calgary has a penchant for dining early. One night cruising the streets looking for a quick dinner to go, we drove past a little donair shop that always had an open light glowing. Tired of searching and quite hungry, I persuaded J to pull over, despite his reluctance to do so, since it looked like any other donair shop with generic food of dubious quality.
I went inside and chatted to the owner behind the counter. Not feeling like choosing I asked him what his favorite dish was, and he instantly replied the steak kabob in a pita. Not one to turn down a recommendation I said ‘I’ll try it’, and amended ‘make it two’ as J was frantically waving from the car, deciding to brave the shop after all. Ten minutes of idle conversation later, we grabbed two bundles of full toasted pitas and went home. Really hungry by now, I dug into the pita the moment we walked in the door, and had a revelation. Tender, juicy cubes of steak in a tangy marinade replaced the traditional ground pressed meat of a donair, tossed with a garlicky sauce and the standard veggies – lettuce, tomato, onion and hot peppers. Wrapped in a pita that was pressed and toasted until crispy the bundle was so much better than a typical donair that I marveled how I’ve never seen this before. Washed down with mango juice it was one of the best quick dinners I’ve had in a long time.
Since that momentous occasion we went back to Eat A Pita an embarrassing amount of times. We got to know the owner and chatted about his home country of Lebanon, his children, his hope to return there one day, and his love of cooking. Even when we moved to one end of town and then another, we still make our way down there at least once a month. Since then the owner, Ali, sold his shop to another great family who expanded the cooking area a bit, but kept the menu and the quality. Ali purchased an apartment in Lebanon and moved his family there for his children to get to know his homeland, and unfortunately had to come back as the civil war broke out. I hope he opens another shop, but in the meantime I’ll keep driving back for the steak in a pita that changed my views on donair shops.
The restaurant is small with a half dozen tables inside, and if you go, get a large steak in a pita. It gives you two skewers of that wonderful meat, and is the best value. They will cook the meat to order, so f you’re a carnivore get medium rare, and if not, get well done. Get a mango or a guava juice too, and perhaps some great baklava, not made onsite, but still quite good. They also have the usual assortment of marinated and stuffed olives, stuffed peppers, small meat pies, and a variety of sweets. Sadly they are no longer open until ten, which was one of their huge draws, and now they close at eight like many others. All their meat is halal.
2-4602 17 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T2A 0V1
Mon. – Fri: 11:00 – 8:00
Sat. – Sun: 12:00 – 8:00