They attract huge crowds during the day, then disappear by nightfall. Surrounded by samey chain restaurants, food carts and kiosks serve some of downtown's most unique cuisine. They pop up all over the 16th Street Mall, but you might not even notice the variety of tastes being whipped up as the mall shuttles whiz back and forth. This is the first part of a safari on the best places for lunch on the mall, beginning with WikiPita, the humble little cart that's made a permanent home on Arapahoe Street, in the shadow of the Daniels & Fisher Clock Tower. WikiPita serves breakfast and lunch from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.
The first thing to know about WikiPita is that owners Israeli Itay Gal and his wife, Leah, put fries inside the pita. The couple serves handheld Mediterranean fare, with gyros, falafel, chicken skewers and more, all stuffed into warm, fluffy bread pockets. But for an extra 50 cents, they'll stick a few fries into your pita, saving you the trouble of sticking the little things in there yourself. Why don't more eateries put fries inside things? They add crunch, salt and fatty flavor to an already delicious meal. But there's more to WikiPita than the fried stuff.
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I took a shine to WikiPita a few years back when the cart started making appearances on the Auraria campus, but it seems that the pita sandwiches have come into their own on 16th Street. My Brad pita ($6.50), filled with marinated chicken, veggies, hummus and tahini, hit every necessary quadrant of the pita experience. WikiPita also adds a tomato-garlic drizzle if you want a little spice, and provides pickled veggies to add yourself. If you thought Mediterranean food was supposed to be healthy, try the Pita Parker ($6.50), jam-packed with thin fried-chicken cutlets. All sandwiches are also offered in platter form for $7.50 to $8, with a generous dollop of garlicky housemade hummus. Everything is tinted yellow with strong spices imported from Israel, as are the fresh-tasting pitas.
WikiPita hopes to transfer its operation into a larger kiosk down the street next month, and I'm sure the added space will keep the deliciousness coming fast and furious. It's places like WikiPita that give us one more reason to love the 16th Street Mall.