Lunch’er Michael Reports: Pitopia is Better Than Maoz!?

Yesterday we let you know that Pitopia was now open on Broadway and 37th, and Lunch’er Michael couldn’t wait to try it (plus score his free side salad.) He was kind enough to send in this early report:

Hey Zach, Got a review of Pitopia from their falafel freeloader soft-launch special. Long story short, I’m very impressed.

The assembly line basically is Maoz‘s concept. No fancy mint lemonade or fresh-squeezed OJ (yet?) but there are cold drink mixer machines not yet configured. Avocado is extra, but it’s there.  [Also] hard-boiled eggs, eggplant, roast green and red peppers… pickled peppers, green and red olives, chickpea salad, beet salad, eggplant salad, pickled tomato and onion salad, not to be confused with Israeli salad…  shredded white cabbage, tabouli salad (it’s just bulgur wheat with herbs – not nearly enough parsley to be real tabouli), red cabbage salad, and at the far end, spicy tomato and green tomato sauces. Not pictured: squeeze tubes of tahini, garlic sauce, and cliantro sauce.

The salads are head and shoulders far better than Maoz. The eggplant salad is garlicky and savory, with enough tomato to it to impart a good color and texture. Do not miss the spicy green tomato sauce – a little dab will do ya – it has an amazingly perfect kick to it. Honestly, skip the tabouli salad entirely and just fill up on Israeli and eggplant salad. Both are darn near perfect examples. The red cabbage is a good bulk-builder for your salads, and the garlic sauce is enough to be flavorful but not enough to make your breath stinky.

The base pita is amazingly fluffy, more like a focaccia cut open, and seems dense. Maybe too filling, but in my opinion, perfect to prevent against pita-based structural failure. Pickles, shredded white cabbage, Israeli salad, pickles, tahini, and falafel go into the pita in that order (so you don’t have to dig down to get at the falafel, but on the other side, your pita is slowly getting saturated from the bottom).  So once you complete your pita and/or salad bowl (my “salad bowl” was just a small plastic container, no lettuce, no cheese, nothing) you can pack up the pita in these well-designed cardboard carrier cases [which look incredibly similar to the Crisp Handbags]. This is a great move – it’s a lot easier to carry them than a pita that’s been wrapped up. It’s also got enough room that you can walk and eat. Just slide the pita in and close it up, and you’re off. (Mine’s already half torn open)

[The falafel itself is] definitely better than Maoz – it has more crunch to it, but it’s got a nice yielding texture in the middle. You get a lot of flavor, lots of garlic and spices to it without being too spicy. That upper half of the bread is all dense bread. It’s good, though. No overdose of green, so it doesn’t look particularly alien.

Maoz-killer? I think so. It’s tough to judge a global chain against a startup (their website goes nowhere and they don’t seem to be anywhere other than Midtown Lunch at the moment) but I have no regrets saying that Pitopia makes fresher stuff and better falafel than Maoz. Me, I’m still a Mahmoun’s and Rainbow Falafel loyalist, but the bar is quite well set by Pitopia.

Pitopia, 1369 Broadway. 212-792-6765

18 Comments

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I agree. I stopped by for dinner last night because it’s right on the corner by my office and it was going to be a late night (on top of the free salad). I agree with everything Michael says. My only extra note was that you can also steer clear of the chick peas at the salad bar, they were pretty dry. Other than that everything was really good.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    It was $6.35 w/ tax for a falafel with hummus.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    holly cow this place is awful! totally disorganized layout & staff is less than helpful. was hoping the food would out weight the less than pleasant atmosphere and ordering system, but i’m sorry to say that this is some of the worst food i’ve had in midtown in quite sometime. the falafel is soaked in oil, the tomatoes seem like they’re a few days old, and everything else lacks much flavor & also tastes old. should have named the place feel-awful! never going back

    • Mine definitely weren’t and the tomatoes tasted OK to me. I’d say let ‘em know if you haven’t already, as this seems to be a working-out-the-kinks period.

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      Agree. I waited a long time for the cashier to get ready to take my order, then waited in another line to relay my order to the assembly line (while people cut in front of me). Falafel and broccoli were very oily. The eggplant salad and tahini sauce were good, but overall everything was bland. I’m sorry for cheating on Maoz.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    i’m not impressed. their falafel IS very good, but their hummus has very little to no taste. the salads are okay, not worth the price. (i got the hummus bowl). they also didn’t give me pita. seemed very disorganized.

  • Whoa, better than Maoz.
    Def NEED Frites though! :P

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    AMAZING-the pita is the softest thing i ever ate, it tastes like heaven and it goes perfectly with the crispy falafel! This for sure is my favorite falafel place(I’m very picky about my food)! I wouldn’t even think about going anywhere else! Thank you Pitopia!

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      RM- I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that you joined exactly 5 hours ago to write your first post the second after you joinged and it was a rave review of Pitopia. You wouldn’t happen to be the owner/employee of Pitopia now would you?

      • User has not uploaded an avatar

        I wish i was the owner, I’d get all the free food! Of course I wrote a rave review right after I joined; what would the point of joining be if I wasn’t going to write a review and I don’t make a habit of criticizing people my mother always taught me if you don’t have anything don’t say anything at all.

  • I was reading this with some excitement until I got to the end where the reviewer said he’s a Mahmoun’s loyalist. Now I don’t think the reviewer’s tastes match up with mine very well, and I’m skeptical of Pitopia. I’ll have to try it eventually anyway though. I’m too curious. But I’m not expecting much now. If that’s the standard, then… ugh. I’ve always thought Mahmoun’s tastes like mushy cardboard. Sure, it’s cheap. But mixing up some wet half-fried chunks of cardboard in a pita is cheaper and tastes the same. Also, does anyone go there when they’re not totally wasted? I don’t drink much, so I can’t appreciate late-night post-bar-crawl faves like Mahmoun’s.

    • Let me clarify a bit: I liked Mahmoun’s more for the serious amount of crunch and thought their flavor was OK. I think Pitopia’s got the flavor way down pat – more so than Maoz – but they, like Maoz, lack crunch (Also Taim lacks the crunch but has flavorful falafel – maybe it’s just a difference in regional styles).

      I’ve only gone to Mahmoun’s and Pitopia sober, so I can’t vouch for their post-bar-crawlitude, but if you’re going to Mahmoun’s for your post-bar-crawl chow, why not go the extra hundred yards or so to Pomme Frites right around the corner? Just my $0.02, I’m not really a bar kind of guy but damn, it’s good stuff.

    • This is a really really late follow-up, but I FINALLY tried Pitopia. It was great. Tasty falafel. Better and more flavorful than Maoz’s falafel. Pitopia also had some tasty jumbles of veggies in their salad bar that I haven’t seen at Maoz. However the red pickled eggplant is not quite as good as Maoz’s is sometimes. Not quite as firm; a bit mushy. It’s not a really huge difference though, most people probably won’t notice. Overall I think I prefer Pitopia now.

      Also the employees were absurdly friendly. Almost too friendly.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I happen to find out about Piotpia through Midtown lunch.. I was a regular at Pick-a-Pita and I miss it (God knows why that place closed). I tried Pitopia yesterday and I was little after the lunch hour. There weren’t too many people there. I walked into the place looked a little lousy . The menu looked intimidating, two girls walked in said its too much to decide and walked out. I ordered for a full sandwich with hummus. Total came out $6.35( Maoz I remember is $8 something and Pick-a-Pita was $5.50). Wait was five minutes. I got my sandwich with hummus and falafel. Salad bar is like Maoz, I am not a big fan of stuffing the sandwich myself, did the best I could. They ran out of Tahini so they offered me Samba ( I don’t know if I got the name right), it was made of mango. They offer you a box to pack your sandwich and a little container for the sauce. Finally I had the sandwich and it was really good. The falafel, hummus and the salad had so much flavor. The Samba sauce was like the best part with the tangy flavor its a must try. I think next time I can do with half the sandwich . With my last bite I realized it was the best tasting pita bread I ever had. I am definitely going back!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Also this place does not serve meat so they should serve cheese( according to Kosher principal). I didn’t see cheese on my visit. I know people go to Maoz for the Feta.

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