USC might have football glory and George Lucas, and UCLA has the basketball banners and academic heritage, but if I were a prospective college student choosing an L.A. school based purely on the surrounding restaurant options, CSUN would be a better pick. Northridge hosts an international cornucopia filled with scintillating Sri Lankan, Peruvian and Jewish deli options. Northridge also hosts Pita Pockets, an Israeli sandwich shop from Haifa native Amin Elmor and mother Sawson that LA Times writer Linda Burum recently put on the citywide map after 12 years of business.
If you’re looking for fancy decor, don’t bother. All the nuance is either between bread or on the plate. The look is simple, with black-and-white checkerboard floors and framed photos of Haifa on the walls. All the action takes place behind the counter, where you’ll find twin spits, one for chicken shawarma and the other for gyros.
The Elmors rely on family recipes for their kebabs, cilantro- and parsley-flecked falafel and stuffed grape leaves. They also offer an array of salads. Think babaghanoosh, hummus and tabbouleh. Still, Pita Pockets’ biggest seller is the shawarma, which is available in pita, on a plate, or (preferred method) wrapped in pliable, pull-apart laffa.
Shawarma Laffa ($7.75) features juicy dark meat chicken soaked in curry spices and shaved from the spit, served on puffy, naan-like laffa with iceberg lettuce, tomato and rice or fries. The toppers: drizzles of creamy tahini sauce and spicy jalapeño vinaigrette.