Some good advice for anybody thinking about opening a food truck: keep it simple. Space is limited and even with the relatively low overhead of a mobile business (at least compared to brick-and-mortar), there’s no need to offer a diner-length menu on four wheels. Figure out what dishes work consistently well and give the people what they want.
That was the winning approach for this year’s Best Food Truck, Pita My Shawarma, which has kept its core menu to a svelte four items since opening last year. Clearly, the minimalist approach is working.
If you’re unfamiliar, shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish generally consisting of marinated meat cooked slowly on a spit, sliced thin, and served with vegetables and other garnishes in a pita wrap (it’s sort of a cousin to the gyro). Pita My Shawarma’s “Modern Mediterranean” approach involves using fresh ingredients for the garnishes (lettuce, tomatoes, pickled turnips), pita made fresh from Pitaland in Brookline, and letting the richness of the meat speak for itself.
Back to that menu: There’s beef shawarma (bottom round roast beef with lettuce, tomatoes, pickled turnips, and lemon sesame sauce), chicken shawarma (chicken with lettuce, tomatoes, pickled turnips, and garlic sauce), hummus wrap (fresh hummus with garnishes, parsley, and olive oil), and fries served with a sesame-thyme seasoning. Whether for special events, catering, or just regular appearances around town, Pita My Shawarma delivers these four items with remarkable consistency, a testament to the simplicity of the menu, the freshness of the ingredients, and the unbeatable formula for marinating meat overnight and cooking it slow the next day. (The meat and the wraps get a lot of love, and deservedly so, but the fries are easily some of the best in the city, food truck or otherwise.)
According to Pita My Shawarma’s owner Jason Taylor, the idea started “with an empty truck” (an old mail truck bought on auction) and “a book of his favorite Mediterranean recipes.” The plan was to provide the city with the type of cuisine he craved and couldn’t find consistently, and on that front, he’s nailed it. In the short time the truck has been in business, word of mouth and love from the press have woken up Pittsburghers to the simple joys of slow-roasted meat, pickled turnips, and fresh pita. If this is what he can do in a year, we can't wait to see what he does next.