Brothers Alex and Mark Rechichi always enjoyed constructing hearty, Dagwood-esque sandwiches, but noticed that most of the breads they employed in these edible masterpieces literally crumbled under the pressure of supporting a glorious quantity of healthy meats, veggies, cheeses, and sauces. Naturally, the brothers fell in love when they discovered the sturdy pita, which was both nutritious and versatile. Flatbread in hands, the two brothers founded Extreme Pita in 1997 with a goal of delivering enormous, structurally sound sandwiches to the masses. Since then, the eatery has spawned franchises throughout the U.S. and Canada, where customers can enjoy a variety of pita-based creations ranging from made-to-order wraps to pizza-style flat bakes to jalapeño cheddar chips. Extreme Pita's locations put an emphasis on reducing their carbon footprint by implementing an array of green practices, such as recycling and reusing, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and warming pitas with the sighs of a dragon.
“We hold the record for world’s smallest food truck,” Verts Kebap owner Michael declares in a prominent German accent. “They are Smart cars, all three of them. They took a year to develop.” German engineers spent those 12 months retrofitting sinks, refrigeration units, and food warmers into the backs of cars each roughly the size of two stacked bathtubs. But the record-setting vehicles—which each hold 50 sandwiches or one competitive eater who just ate 50 sandwiches—have a greater function. “They are for learning about the city, and teaching the city about our food. That’s how we hope to bring our food to the U.S.”
Verts is a casual-dining concept built around the döner kebap sandwich, which over the last 40 years has became the most popular fast food in Germany. “It doesn’t exist in the U.S.,” Michael explains. “We are wanting to share that.” While pursuing their MBAs, Verts founders Michael and Dominik craved the street food from their native country, inspiring their business concept. Their tasty pita-stuffed sandwiches employ Texas-raised meat, locally made bread, and house-made sauces––all the same composition as those found in Germany. That’s not to mention Turkish-style seasonings of pepper spices, basil, cayenne, and paprika.
The mobile food trucks, while conceptually innovative, are meant to bring people into their stubbornly immobile restaurants. They believe this is their true calling. “We get many people coming from Germany. People who have been in the military or traveled across Europe. Students. They are all happy to have those tastes again. And we are pleased to bring them."
Maria Maria's menu springs from the musical mind of the legendary Carlos Santana and the experienced hands of chef Roberto Santibañez. Maria Maria specializes in Mexican cuisine that sprinkles a contemporary twist on time-tested traditions. For lunch (served daily 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.), you may pair one soup or salad with one lunch-portion entree ($10.50), or you can add an additional soup, salad, or a side of rice and beans ($12.50) for a meal as balanced as a tight-rope walker giving unasked-for nutritional advice. Tomatillo tortilla soup is soulfully simmered with all-natural vegetable broth, roasted jalapeños, tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro, and then topped with diced panela cheese, crispy tortillas, and wild mushrooms in a hearty mixture. Fresh mangoes, grilled shrimp, queso fresco, toasted almonds, raisins, and sesame seeds get cozy atop the spinach mango salad tossed with honey-lime vinaigrette. A burrito Maria arrives on plates perfectly packaged with red onions, roasted corn and poblanos, black beans, and cheese rolled in a flour tortilla with beef or chicken and topped with creamy tomatillo-pasilla sauce.
Every pitted pita at Pita Pit comes with your choice of flavorful vegetables and toppings, and you can even build your own—although you'd best leave the actual construction to Pita Pit's pita pit crew, who can skin, field-dress, chop, and fold your pita in under 15 seconds. Exercise your mastication muscles on any of the Lebanese-style pita-ria's meatiest contenders: the Dagwood, with turkey, ham, and roast beef ($6.65 for regular, $5.40 for small); the chicken souvlaki with lemon-garlic chicken ($6.15 for regular, $4.90 for small); or the Philly with grilled onions and mushrooms ($6.50 for regular, $5.25 for small). Vigorously vegetarian options abound as well, including the hummus with feta cheese ($5.50 for regular, $4.25 for small) and the Garden, which packs a farm's worth of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and anything else that grows roots and is not human hair into its warm, bready folds ($4.95 for regular, $3.70 for small). There's even a breakfast menu (the Morning Glory contains scrambled eggs, avocado, grilled peppers and onions, and sauteed tomatoes, $5.50) and a healthy menu, which somehow finds a way to cut even more calories and fat from the already healthy regular menu, particularly if you ordered a build-your-own triple-cheese and bacon pita deep-fried in chocolate.
Beaming with an energetic atmosphere and pulsating doorframes, Kenichi, awarded Best of Citysearch 2010, offers a modern dining experience where eating enthusiasts can comfortably gobble classic sushi and contemporary Asian cuisine. Keep taste buds on the tip of your tongue with a menu filled with tantalizing treats such as the smoked salmon roll ($8), the Kobe beef roll ($13), or the Austin-style sashimi, made with yellowtail, cilantro, serrano pepper, and basil vinaigrette ($16). Though this Groupon cannot be used toward alcohol, consider providing the sushi with a tour guide of sake to ensure a safe journey to the stomach.
Frank's professional sausage stylists enliven the casual downtown restaurant with gourmet makeovers for the humble and plainspoken hot dog. The Jackalope, with antelope, rabbit, and pork smothered in huckleberry compote, sriracha aioli, and applewood-smoked cheddar ($7) shares the culinary salon with the Carolina Pork It, a Vienna dog stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and topped with grilled coleslaw and green-chile pimento cheese ($6). Meataphobes can switch out any standard dog for a veggie dog ($0.25 extra) and top their soy delight with veggie chili ($1 extra). Traditional bar-food sides round out the quirk of curry and sage sausages. Waffle-fry nachos come pinned down to the plate with cheese, refried beans, sour cream, and salsa ($7), while a cup of baked beans ($2.50) closes the savory, pork-based circle.