Cook a Wood Fired Mahi Mahi, Southwest Chicken Wrap and Spicy Mango Shrimp in #ABiteToat with Pita Jungle in Tempe, Arizona.
How did you get started?
I was born in Lons-Le-Saunier, France and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon. I came to Arizona in 1985, to attend school at Arizona State University (ASU). While studying Bio Engineering, I met Nelly Kohsok and Fouad Khodr, two other international students. The three of us socialized outside of classes, and I was impressed by their brilliance, structure, hard-working attitudes, and vision for the future.
Upon graduating college, I – alongside Nelly and Fouad – recognized a need for more healthy restaurants around ASU’s Tempe campus, and to leverage each of their own experiences gained in working in restaurants around town, to make a difference. It was then that the vision for Pita Jungle was born.
My partners and I founded Pita Jungle on the principle of serving the best quality food at a reasonable price with exceptional customer service. Instead of focusing on profit right out of the gates, we placed bringing people through the doors as top priority. Another key component and differentiating factor for our restaurant was the vegan and vegetarian menu items. At the time when the company started, there was only one nearby market offering these kinds of options, and we wanted to make healthy, great-tasting food readily available for those leading both lifestyles.
With only $15,000 and a vision, the three of us opened the first Pita Jungle location in Tempe in 1994. We built the location with our own hands, employing the help of only one handyman. We were awarded “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” in The Ariona Republic’s “Arizona Best Yesterday and Today“ list in our first year, and it didn’t take long for the restaurant to take off. In 1997 our second location was opened in Chandler. The openings of the first and second locations were the turning point for the brand, when we realized people truly liked the quality food being served, and the experience that went along with it.
Where are you located?
Pita Jungle has 18 locations across Arizona and one in California.
What are your specialities?
With the mission of helping guests sustain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, our restaurants serve up a diverse menu of tasty, fresh, wholesome food, including a variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Pita Jungle’s menu is influenced by tastes from around the globe to offer something for every palate, including dishes inspired by Mediterranean, Latin, Asian, and American cuisines.
What's your personal favorite thing on the menu?
I like the adaptability of our menu, overall. I am not set on one menu item, but adapt the menu according to my preference: one day vegetarian, another day protein-driven, etc. As our menu is made from scratch, it is easy for us to adapt to our customer’s preferences and dietary needs.
What's on the stereo?
Nelly hand selects the restaurants’ playlists. At the start of each year, she spends countless hours compiling a new music library to create just the right vibe for guests.
From Billie Holiday to Fallulah, the list is eclectic and always includes local artists. This also ties into our larger aesthetic approach. Artwork of local artists is displayed on the walls in each restaurant, because we are passionate about reflecting the culture of the neighborhood.
Where else should we visit in your area?
We have so many great restaurants in the Valley. Specifically, I recommend Pomo, Beckett’s Table, Virtu, Chelsea’s Kitchen, LGO, Cartell Coffee Lab, and AZ88.
Do you host any special events?
Yes, Pita Jungle loves to help guests celebrate special special occasions and also participates in many festivals and City events outside of the restaurants.
Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
Do you have a favorite cafe, restaurant or bar in your town that we should feature? Send us a message!