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