Field trips are even more fun when you're an adult, but not when the bus pulls up to the corner of 9th and Passyunk to let all the "kids" off the bus to eat at either Pat's or Geno's. That's exactly what happened to me when I first arrived to the area many years ago. Not getting down with any cheesesteaks, around the corner I went and quickly ran into Bitar's, a Middle Eastern grocery and take-out. And, so Bitar's became the second place I ever ate at in Philly (first was Rangoon).Inside is a small selection of Middle Eastern groceries, pitas and flat breads baked by Soumaya and Sons bakery out of Whitehall, PA, a small case of pastries, and Bitar's own hummus and baba ghanoush in the wall cooler along with other perishables like Halloumi cheese.To the left of the grocery room is a high counter with a few stools in front, and a couple of tables along the window for dining in, but most people grab an order to go. All your Middle Eastern basics are up for grabs at Bitar's, and even bitzzas, Bitar's own Middle Eastern pizza made on Zaatar bread.A vegetarian combo, which includes pita, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli, falafel, and stuffed grape leaves, is a good way to cover a lot of the vegetarian options. While there is nothing ground breaking about any of these dishes, I like that Bitar's actually puts some flavor into their dishes.The tabouli salad is assertively tangy with lemon juice, and not shy with diced onions. Smooth baba ghanoush has smokey flavor, but also a little kick of acid from lemon. Hummus is classically silky, and slightly bitter from tahini. Even the falafel balls, which are unfortunately extremely dry, have a bit of spicy kick. And oil haters, fear not, Bitar's rice stuffed grape leaves are not covered in oil.
Given the choice of Pat's or Geno's, Bitar's is the better choice.
947 Federal St., Philadelphia, PA 19147