Review: Passion in every bite at Pita Pockets

An Amherst hidden gem


(Jacob Abrams/Collegian)

By Jacob Abrams, Collegian Correspondent

From its outward appearance, you may not expect much of Pita Pockets.  Located in an alley in downtown Amherst, it isn’t the most eye-catching restaurant in the area, but the smell will surely draw you in.

Yussef Khobat, the restaurant’s owner, looks at my friend and I as we stare at the menu, and he says we look confused. “Just taking it all in,” I told him. He reached down and pulled out two pieces of falafel covered in tahini, as if they were waiting just for us. “Here, my friend, try my falafel and then order.” We sit down and dig in. It’s perfect — crisp and delicate. My friend and I gave each other a knowing look; we were in for something incredibly special. I returned to the counter, but before I can tell him what we want to order, he asked, “One to 10, how much did you like the falafel?” “It’s a 10,” I told him. “And one to 10, how hungry are you right now?” “Also 10,” I told him. He pointed at us and said, “I’m going to make you a surprise pita pocket.” My friend and I threw our initial plans out the window, and we surrendered ourselves to Youssef’s unwavering confidence in his own menu.

His hummus, lusciously creamy and perfectly spiced, is best enjoyed scooped up in warm pita bread. Grape leaves stuffed with rice and onions pair wonderfully with tzatziki, a tangy yogurt sauce infused with cucumbers. We devoured these in short order as we waited for our “surprise pocket.” Youssef assembled our pockets as he simultaneously removed falafel from the fryers and took orders from customers waiting in line, never missing a beat. A few minutes later our pockets are ready. “Should I be nervous?” I asked him. “Do I look nervous, my friend?” he asked me. He was confident as ever.

As soon as I got the pocket I looked for the “surprise.” It looked like most other pita pockets I’ve enjoyed from Halal food carts: lettuce, onion, pickles, tahini, tomatoes, hot peppers, hot sauce and, I think, gyro and falafel.  The smell, however, was nothing short of divine. As expected, it tasted heavenly as well. Cool, crisp veggies and savory gyro are enveloped by a pillowy pita pocket. It was the ultimate vessel for transporting a plethora of flavors and textures in a concise package. It was the embodiment of classic Halal food. We devoured our pockets quickly, and I asked Youssef what the “surprise” was. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me. But this element of mystery makes me want to return and try it again as soon as I can. Just when I thought he couldn’t have better service, he called me back over to the counter and gave me two complimentary pieces of baklava.

As we finished, we notice that Youssef knew seemingly everyone that enters his restaurant. When customers walked in, they looked like they’re at home. Youssef treats all of them like family. He knows regulars’ orders by heart. He exudes a singular amount of passion for his business that is unrivaled by nearly every other restaurant at which I’ve eaten. Not only can you see it in the way he carries himself, but you can taste it in his food, too.




Pita Pockets is located at 103 N Pleasant St, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002.


Jacob Abrams can be reached at [email protected].