I've mentioned before that there seem to be a lot of new middle eastern places along Roosevelt Road in the Lombard/Oakbrook Terrace corridor. Sure enough, Zabihah.com lets you look for zabihah halal restaurants in the Chicago area, choosing between "downtown" (including the south side), "near north" which includes Devon, and "Western suburbs" which includes Lombard, Oakbrook and Naperville. In the western suburbs they list 15 restaurants and 10 stores.
I stopped for lunch today at the Pita House. They had their zabihah halal certificate on display, along with a poster of the 99 names of Allah. At 2 p.m. it felt like a middle eastern coffee house. Except for me and one other woman with a child, it was all Arabic men, concentrated in one half of the room, chatting over 89 cent cups of turkish coffee and $1 pieces of baklavah.
Some of the food, I'm sorry to say, was mediocre. The chicken and the shawarma were dry, and the pita was so dry it was almost brittle, as though it had maybe been rewarmed one time too many. On the other hand, the kefta kabob was great, not dry or overcooked at all, and the falafel, though it looked like a hockey puck, was in fact light and delicious. The real winner, though, was the lentil soup. Perhaps the best I've ever had. Chunky with carrots and celery, spicy with curry and cumin and lots of other spices I couldn't identify. So I'd go back for falafel and soup any day.
And then, here's how chowhound has changed my life, After I'd finished eating, I struck up a conversation with the men behind the counter. The family is from Palestine and Lebanon. They opened their first restaurant in Skokie 28 years ago, their second in Schaumburg 10 years ago, and this one 4 years ago. Naperville is next, and since the man running the Lombard branch has six children, they're hoping for many more. I asked about the funny looking orange dessert and they heated up a piece for me, waving away my dollar "since this is your first time here." It's called kanafe--ricotta-like cheese, shredded wheat, sugar syrup--and it's very good.