I remember when I was in high school and a Pita Jungle location finally opened on my side of town, the chain-rich West Valley. Finally, something local in the Arrowhead Towne Center area my friends and I haunted, something more sophisticated than food-court fare, something with options for the vegetarians among us. Plus, there was cool local art! And the servers didn’t have to wear uniforms! It blew our suburban minds, and I cannot count the number of hummus trios, broiled chicken pitas and glasses of guava lemonade we’ve consumed there over the years. Now, more than a decade later (aahh!), there’s a PJ in every part of town and everyone has “their” location.
I now have two: Arcadia (10 minutes from my office) and Desert Ridge (10 minutes from my house) and, while the menu is an obvious choice when I’m dining with veg and gluten-free friends, it has enough meaty options to convince my carnivorous cutie to eat Mediterranean with me every so often. (His go-to: beefy kafta or silky seared ahi tuna over cilantro-jalapeño hummus.)
I did happy hour with friends at the Arrowhead location before we could even drink because the HH tapas are such a steal – and you don’t have to be 21 to order those. It had been a long time since I indulged in a mezze of little bites, though, so I stopped in recently for a media tasting at the Arcadia outpost to see what happy hour at Pita Jungle is like on this side of the drinking age.
Spoiler alert: It was just as good as I remembered, and just as delightfully inexpensive. Tapas range from $1.50 to $5.25, so you could literally order every single one of the 20 dishes and spend less than $60. We ordered eight dishes, pita chips and two drinks and our check was about $34. It may be the best budget happy hour in town.
My old favorites were there: crispy falafel ($2), hummus trio ($1.50), shrimp in ajo sauce ($3.50), glazed chicken pizza on Greek pita ($5) and my favorite of all, the garlic dip ($1.50), which I order a side of 100 percent of the times I eat at PJ, it’s that good. (Pro tip: When you come for lunch or dinner, order the hummus with grilled chicken and ask your server for half hummus, half garlic dip. You’re welcome.)
I tried a few new things this go-round, too. Cubes of feta were perfectly salty and tangy, dressed with vinaigrette and piled with shards of cucumber and red onion. Tzatziki was creamy and cooling, with an appropriately thin but not watery texture. Why haven’t I ordered that before? My favorite new-to-me discovery was the chipotle black bean slider, a miniature version of the vegetarian patty made of carrots, corn, garlic, onions, bell peppers, jalapeños, chipotles, oats, cilantro and cranberries (I know, it sounds crazy, but they were a nice surprise – sweet and tart). It was almost too spicy for me because I am a pansy, but for normal people it’s not spicy at all. And it was so good I kept ignoring the other dishes until I finished it. When was the last time you ignored pizza for a veggie burger? Give it a try.
I can honestly say that this was the first time I consumed alcohol at Pita Jungle. I’ve been missing out. In addition to a crackerjack wine list (which is what most people go for during happy hour, according to our server; $5 for select glasses), there are four specialty cocktails, each discounted $2 during happy hour: Botanist Martini, Fuzzy Lemon, mango margarita and Mediterranean Mule. A house margarita costs just $4 during happy hour.
I went for the mango marg, which is sweet but not overly so, and enlivened with fresh cilantro leaves. I’m a cilantro fiend, and I couldn’t get enough of this drink. My happy hour companion let me take a sip of her Mediterranean Mule, which is made with a Mediterranean liqueur and almond syrup. The almond reminds me of orgeat, which reminds me of tiki drinks, so the overall effect is of a tiki Mule – something I can get on board with.
THE INSIDER SECRET
Jazz hounds should head to the Chandler location on Thursdays for the longest-running jazz jam in the Valley – 19 years this spring! Also keep an eye out for seasonal menu items, which PJ’s four co-owners conceptualize themselves. The next seasonal swap will bring the local chain’s “greatest hits” for a fun throwback to celebrate its 25th year in business.
Happy hour runs daily from 3-6 p.m. and from 9 p.m.-close (closing time varies by location; call ahead to verify).
- Draft and bottled beers are $1 off.
- Glasses of select wine are $5 off.
- Prosecco is $6 a glass.
- On Wine Wednesdays, bottles of wine are half-price all day.
- Select specialty cocktails are $2 off.
- House margaritas are $4.
- House sangria is $4.50 per glass or $9 per carafe.