I've been looking for a nearby Greek restaurant to satiate my cravings for the wonderful and healthy Mediterranean fare and thanks to Yelp, I have found a Grecian gem.
Located across the bustling South Coast Plaza, The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille is tucked into a shopping center that is currently undergoing renovation. Peeking through the scaffolding and ladders, do not be deceived by the small storefront of The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille.
Upon entering the door, you will be transported to Greece by a mural of the sea painted on the wall, the 2004 Summer Olympic Games playing on the flat-screen TV (which were appropriately held in Athens), and the magical expansion of the room right before your eyes due to the large mirrors hung on the walls. When you first cross the threshold, keep walking towards the back of the restaurant where you order and pay at the counter, take a number, self-serve your drink, and take a table indoors or outside to wait very shortly for your taste of Greece.
We began our meal with an appetizer of Hummus and Melitzanosalata, served with slices of pita bread and Tzatziki sauce. Hummus is a puree of garbanzo beans, olive oil, sesame tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. The hummus was creamy and very light with a small drizzle of olive oil on top to make it even smoother and more flavorful. The garlic was very prominent in this hummus, making for a zesty dip that lingered in my mouth hours after eating it.
I had never tried melitzanosalata before this visit to The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille. Melitzanosalata is a puree of eggplant, olive oil, and lemon juice. At The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille, the eggplant is roasted and then pureed into melitzanosalata, so the dip had a mild smoky flavor to it.
And I do love tzatziki sauce, a sauce made by combining yogurt, garlic, cucumbers, and dill; I could be satisfied just having the cool and tart tzatziki with pita bread. Served with warm, fluffy pita bread dusted with cheese and herbs, this appetizer was not only a light and refreshing start to our meal, but the portions of the hummus and melitzanosalata were quite large. An additional pita bread was complimentary, but I was told that subsequent pita bread would cost extra ($0.92).
For my main course, I ordered a Golden Falafel Bundle with sides of Herb Rice and Salad to make it a combo meal. The Falafel Pita Bundle was enormous! The warm pita bread was stuffed with three falafel pucks about two inches in diameter each and topped with lettuce, tzatziki sauce, scallions, red onions, and tomatoes. Falafel are balls or patties of garbanzo beans and spices, similar to a meatball, but without the meat. These falafel were crisp on the outside and soft and peppery on the inside.
The salad with Greek vinaigrette consisted of romaine lettuce, red onions, pitted kalamato olives, feta cheese, and tomatoes, too many tomatoes for my taste. The vinaigrette was lightly combined with the salad to prevent drowning the delicate vegetables in the olive oil, lemon, and basil dressing.
I love flavored rice and this Herb Rice did not disappoint. The rice was a perfect al dente, retaining its individual grains while giving way softly with each herb-packed bite.
For his main course, Devin ordered the Classic Gyros Pita Bundle with sides of Island Fries and Salad. A Gyros at The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille is pita bread stuffed with thinly sliced rotisserie meat and topped with tzatziki sauce, lettuce, scallions, red onions, and tomatoes.
What made the fries, "Island Fries", was the seasoning of Parmesan cheese, herbs, and spices, but I found them to be a little too salty.
To get away from the chaos of Orange County, I would suggest taking a nice long meal at The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille, where you can leave everything behind and settle into fresh and authentic Greek food surrounded by Grecian decor, if only temporarily.
The Whole Pita Island Greek Grille
3940 S. Bristol Street
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Sunday through Thursday 11am - 9pm
Friday through Saturday 11am - 9:30pm