Thank You Baraca For Not Changing Too Much About Olympic Pita


It’s never a shock when a bad restaurant resorts to something crazy to help boost business.  You’ll see name changes, expensive redecorating, crazy specials, and yes, even sushi being added to a Kosher falafel and kebab place.  But Olympic Pita (on 38th btw. 5+6th) was not a bad restaurant!  Home to my favorite falafel in Midtown (you may say the secret ingredient is their fresh baked laffa bread) Olympic Pita shouldn’t have to resort to this nonsense.  And yet there it was, last week their new sign, with their new name (Baraca), promoting their new menu item (sushi?!?)  Oh, and of course there was the gussied up interior.  Why Olympic Pita?  Why?


The name change is not just for show, according to an employee Baraca is no longer owned by the same people who own the original Olympic Pita in Brooklyn (not good.)  Thankfully, the take out area in the front looked like it hadn’t changed- so yesterday I stopped by to survey the situation.


Apparently they added sushi long before the name change, but I had no idea.  Admittedly I’ve never eaten in the sit down portion of Olympic Pita.  Almost everything on the menu is outside the $10 Midtown Lunch price range, and once you add tax and tip it’s waaaay outside.  So, it’s always been take out for me from the front counter; and always falafel (the rest of the sandwiches are over $10).  A sandwich on pita is cheaper, but their laffa is worth the extra money, which you can see being fresh baked in the front window brick oven. The oven is still there, and it’s still churning out fresh baked bread.  So far so good.


Next stop, the pickled salad bar.  $7.50 is a lot for a falafel sandwich, but it’s completely worth it at Olympic Pita (sorry, I mean) Baraca.  Not only do you get to stuff whatever you like into your sandwich, but you also get a small plastic container to fill up with assorted cabbage slaws and pickles from the salad bar. 


You’re only limited to however much you can stuff into the container, and still close the lid.  (Your threshold for embarrassment will also have an effect.)  The salad bar is now smaller by a few items, but still mostly intact.  But what about the free french fries *in* the sandwich…


Bingo!  They’re still willing to stuff french fries in your sandwich… for free.  Man, I love this place!  Hot sauce + their famous spicy and savory mango sauce (known as amba) and we’re in business.


You don’t want to walk too far with this thing, because the fresh baked laffa gets a little chewy wrapped in the tin foil.  And while I don’t normally advocate buying one lunch and sharing it (fat guy no like sharing) once you add the container from the salad bar, this lunch could easily be split.  It could also just as easily be devoured solo (which is what I did yesterday.)  I could get into the finer taste points re: the falafel  (whether or not it is slightly drier than Crisp or slightly less flavorful than Azuri Cafe.)  but why bother?  With the fresh baked bread, the salad bar, and the french fries, you will not hear a single complaint from me about this sandwich.


Baraca… I will probably never eat your sushi (sorry!), but I wish you good luck in your attempt to expand dinner time business (I can only assume that is why you’ve done what you’ve done.)  Midtown Lunch’ers, however, will continue to enjoy the take out area in the front… and on behalf of all of them, I’d like to thank you for not messing with a good thing!

No +/- today. It’s pretty much exactly the same as the one I posted in my original write up of Olympic Pita.

Baraca (formerly Olympic Pita), 58 W. 38th St. (btw. 5+6th), 212-869-PITA


  • I’m still dismayed that they got rid of the eggplant from the salad bar last summer. The container always ends up being fairly redundant to the sandwich ingredients for me.

  • that’s like a $7.50 falafel burrito. so good looking too.

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    I miss the carrot salad they used to have in the appetizer bar.
    Regarding Olympic, I was a big fan of the Brooklyn location, however was not so crazy about the midtown version. I know do the out of bounds thing and take the D train to West 4th and hit Mamoun’s that is sheer brilliance and perfection in the Falafel world…

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    Pretty good! And Zack, I’m sorry you’re so fat…

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    So, I don’t recall ever seeing mango sauce there… is it something you just have to ask for?

  • I tried heading over to Maoz on Monday to see if it was open yet (which it wasn’t), but remembering my difficulty finding “Olympic Pita” last week, I headed there instead. All I can say is the thing was a revelation. Amazing bread, tasty falafel, and insanely huge. I’ve never carried a bonafide ‘fat guy card’ so I could only finish half, but man it was good. I even forgot about the mango sauce which for me would have taken it to another level.

  • @TheFatBaron – I think you used to have to ask for it, but not it’s on the salad bar in a squeeze bottle. (looks like mustard)

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    Am I the only one that finds Olympic pita to be the MOST confusing place ever?? I went there once and thought maybe it was becuase I was new that I wasn’t fully understanding their system, but there was no reason to it at all. it’s just a cluster of people trying to get their food, there were no defined lines, and when the guy behind the counter calls something out – everyone standing there claims that it’s “their order”. Sure the falafel was good, but not worth it. I even went back a 2nd time to see if I could make more sense of it and was more frustrated than ever. They really need to put numbers on the tickets so that you know when they are calling your order. I will stick with Kwik meal – in my opinion their falafel is better and so much easier to order

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    Yeah – but not the ‘burrito laffa falafel’ that Oly, er, Baraca has going; thing is enormous, bread perfect.

    Name changed but rest hasn’t.

    Props to Zach for NYT press from a orig lurker; don’t change a thing; your passion comes through in site and makes ‘midtownlunch’ authentic in a world of inet foodblogfluff…

    Keep the eats coming…!

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    Btw – cruised past all the regular MTL joints and they were packed…! Mohammads’ Kwik Meal, swamped; Crisp, line out door; Carts, Kati Rolls – everything w/ :15 min lines.

    Nothing like a name change to kill your business; almost empty at Olympic-cum-Baraca…

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    Wait – a Kosher/Israeli restaurant that’s kinda confusing, and adds weird food to the menu (like sushi)? Yeah, like that’s all that unusual…

    The last time my gf and I went to Olympic Pita we were charged a gratuity fee. There were two of us total. I was pissed, and asked to be shown where on the menu it stated we would be charged – obviously the waitress couldn’t find it. I believe they did this because my gf didn’t order that much – although our bill still came to over $30. I was pissed and vowed to never go back – I don’t care how good the food is.

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    JenJen, on June 3rd, 2009 at 4:30 pm, said:

    “Am I the only one that finds Olympic pita to be the MOST confusing place ever??”

    Unfortunately, Olympic/Barca is typical of far too many “Jewstaurants”… except the food here is actually really good. The Israeli’s that run the place either because they have no concept of things like “waiting your turn”, or they don’t care… The first time I went to Olympic, I had the same hideous experience- a mob of people standing around, with no order whatsoever. The tickets you get from the cashier do indeed have time and order numbers printed on them, but these are usually utterly disregarded. And complaining was pointless, because business was obviously good, so they didn’t care. I didn’t go back for several months…but then that damn bread and schwarma called to me and I just couldn’t resist. So now I try to go close to noon when it isn’t crowded yet (and I also know how the “system” works).

    So if anyone from Baraca is looking at this, and cares, put up some signs or something at least to let newcomers know how to order! I.e. “Go to cashier towards back of restaurant (well, partway back now), place order, take order up front to counter man, get salad box and go back to far end of salad bar, fill it, come back to front to pick up order).

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