A taste of Jerusalem in Coolidge Corner

By Susie Davidson

Special to the Advocate

Rada Roda (left) and her employees at Jerusalem Pita & Grill offer a variety of delicacies.

When Jerusalem Pita & Grill, located at 10 Pleasant Street in Brookline, opened its doors on Chanukah in 2008, the eatery offered sufganiyot (jelly donuts) and latkes before filling out the rest of its menu.

Those sufganiyot and latkes, in many flavors, are still available for Chanukah, as are hamentashen for Purim and other holiday specialties. But the full menu, by popular demand, remains mostly the same year round, except when certain times of the Jewish year call for a bit of tweaking. For example, during the upcoming first nine days of Av, which precede the commemoration of the historically tragic Ninth of Av, observant Jews forsake eating meat.

During those days, Jerusalem Pita & Grill’s selections change daily. “Our menu is about the same no matter what season, but on certain holidays we change it a bit,” said owner and chef Rada Roda.

But above all, she strives to offer a dining environment that is comfortable, hamishe, and reliably delicious. And with the number of local kosher restaurants dwindling by the year, it is up to the community to enjoy this unique experience while helping to keep tradition alive.

Welcome Home!” announces the restaurant’s website, as it promotes its “Home-cooked Middle Eastern cuisine, everyday flavors bursting with taste.” Jerusalem Pita & Grill is certified glatt kosher “Crown-K” by the New England Kashruth Lemehadrin and supervised by Rabbinical Administrator Rabbi Aaron Hamaoui.

We chose Brookline because of the demand for good kosher food,” said Roda, who noted the area’s significant Jewish population. “Where else can you get a rib steak or lamb chops and unique Israeli dishes like couscous with veggies?” she asked. But Roda was quick to point out that it’s not just falafel and shawarma at Jerusalem Pita & Grill. “I focus on foods that I know customers can relate to,” she said. It’s also the atmosphere. “When they come here, they feel a part of Israel.”

Roda said that some regular customers like the restaurant’s Meurav Yerushalmi dish. “It’s a mix of lamb, chicken and beef that is sautéed with onion on our flat grill,” she explained, adding that diners can have it in a pita laffa or as an entrée served with two side dishes. “Customers always tell me that the portions are too big,” she smiled.

Lamb shish kebobs, chicken shish kebobs and of course, the shawarma, are other favorites. The vegetarians and vegans have many options as well. “We’ve added many items for them, so if a group comes in and some like meat, but others are vegetarian, both can enjoy the food,” said Roda.

Recent offerings include falafel stuffed eggplant, which is baked, not fried, and a favorite among the patrons. Other newer items include Middle Eastern salad, mushroom patty, barbeque and buffalo wings and tenders, and more. The restaurant also features daily specials.

Desserts, some made in-house and some imported fromIsrael, include baklava and rugelach. The restaurant also serves domestic and imported beer, including Israel’s Maccabi and Goldstar.

Late risers can enjoy Sunday brunch (and free parking at the meters) with a Sabich, a pita filled with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, Israeli salad, pickles and tahini sauce; Shakshuka, a spiced tomato mixture with poached eggs on the inside, and other options. On Fridays, freshlybaked challah is on sale, and, indeed, all of the restaurant’s bread is baked in-house.

Roda said that she makes most of the dishes. “But I could not do it without my kitchen staff,” she emphasized, adding that her employees are a diverse mix of Israelis, Hispanics and Americans. “Most of them are still with me since the 2008 opening,” she deservedly kvelled. This is a rarity in the food industry, which is generally characterized by high turnover rates. “To me, it is very important to have good relationships with the staff,” she said.

Diners are loyal as well. “We have many regular customers,” said Roda. “Some come daily, some every other day, and some visit whenever they can.” She added that people hear about the restaurant by word of mouth, and that Jerusalem Pita & Grill also works with online ordering services like Foodler and Dining In. Jerusalem Pita & Grill services functions as well. “Some are held at the restaurant, and some we cater,” to any occasion, said Roda.

And as for her future plans? “Only G-d knows what the future holds for us, but I can tell you this,” she said. “I have been approached by customers who live in other states, who have asked me to come and open another JP in their town.”

All this is thanks to Hashem,” she said. “He guided me when I was in doubt.”

Visit www.jerusalempita.com for more information.