WATERTOWN — A new pita sandwich eatery has opened in the former Wayback Burgers spot in Salmon Run Mall.
Pita Hut & Cafe in the food court, which opened Oct. 23, offers a variety of pita sandwiches, fresh roasted coffee, kombucha, soups, fries and baked goods. Customers can select fried chickpeas, falafel, chicken, or steak as their protein to accompany a variety of pita combinations, including the Black River, which incudes cheddar cheese, apple slices and caramelized onions; the Constantinople, which includes tzatziki sauce, red onion and cucumber; the Dirty Pita, which includes jalapenos, cheddar cheese and dill pickles, and more.
Cheryl M. Chaif said her Clayton restaurant, the Hops Spot, which has a sister location in Syracuse, closed for the season, and she wanted to provide winter employment for her cooks, prompting her and her husband, Ryan N. Chaif, to open the eatery. She also said she wanted to diversify from other mall restaurants by providing healthier food options, albeit “with a little indulgence,” that were still fast and fresh.
“Honestly the space was there, and everyday, we were thinking ‘What’s going over there?’” she said.
The space needed little work before opening Pita Hut, Mrs. Chaif said, save a facelift and new equipment. The toughest challenge Mrs. Chaif faced was selecting the appropriate pita bread for her sandwiches.
“I think we found good enough pita for now, but I still think we’re looking for the perfect pita,” she said.
The restaurant employs four-to-five workers who cross prepare some menu items with Skewed Brewing, owned by Mr. Chaif, including hand-cut fries, soup and sauces, Mrs. Chaif said.
The eatery also offers pins with pita-themed puns on them such as “I pita the fool,” and “Pita best you can be.”
Mary Benjamin, a worker at Pita Hut, began working for Mrs. Chaif at the Hops Spot in June as a salad preparer and line cook. Mrs. Chaif has helped out Mrs. Benjamin and her husband, Justin, who works at Skewed, she said, prompting her to join the Pita Hut crew. Unlike her job at the Hops Spot, Mrs. Benjamin said she provides customer service.
“I actually like it because it got me out of my shell,” she said, adding that she learned a couple of phrases in Spanish and sign language as a result. “I just like to be able to interact with other people, meet new people and learn different languages.”