New Middle Eastern Joint, Pita King Express, Now Open On South Craycroft

A new home for chicken and beef shawarma, kafta, kabobs and falafel opens today at 2027 South Craycroft Road.

Pita King Express will take over the space left behind by Chaco’s Café, which closed its original location in that spot, last December after 21 years.

Pita King owner Mike Shiha is new to the restaurant business.

His background is in groceries.

In 1993, he, his parents and five brothers opened a store on Tucson’s south side and ran it for more than two decades, before selling it last year.

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Shiha, who also owns and operates the Carniceria El Vaquero next door to Pita King, said a restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine was a good fit for South Craycroft, blocks from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

“It is a healthy choice for the military staff that we have here,” Shiha said. “Many of them have been to the Middle East and have tasted this kind of food.”

Pita King Express is years in the making for Shiha. His parents are from Jerusalem.

He has been testing recipes since 2008.

The restaurant will offer a range of meals in platter or wrap form, including kabobs grilled on skewers over mesquite charcoal, a falafel dish for vegetarians, five types of salads and King’s Fries, a plate of fries, topped with chicken or beef shawarma and a house dressing.

Beef kabobs will be served with cuts of filet mignon.

“That is the best piece of meat for a kabob,” Shiha said. “People expect the tenderness, that juicy flavor.”

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With 2,400 square feet of space, the restaurant seats 80 comfortably. Customers order at the front counter and can enjoy their food in the open dining room or take it to-go.

Shiha said Pita King will initially be open for lunch service only, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. He would eventually like to expand into dinner.

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Gerald M. Gay covers breaking food news.