The Pita Man brings the daily bread to Caulfield

Red harissa falafel salad bowl.
Red harissa falafel salad bowl. Photo: Simon Schluter

THEME: IN BREAD WE TRUST

We're in, we're out. We're open, we're closed. We're busy, everything's cancelled. Only one thing is certain on the corona-coaster: we need to eat.

Chef Roy Shmidel gets it. The pita man opened his energetic Israeli hummusiya in September 2020 in the dark days of Lockdown 2. Socially distanced queues formed immediately, lured by fresh pita and fried cauliflower. Sure, there was an hour-long wait but who had places to be?

The pita are baked on a hot turntable.
The pita are baked on a hot turntable. Photo: Simon Schluter

As Melbourne opened up, people from all over realised that the Pita Man worked for takeaway, picnics and eat-in, as well as for most dietary requirements.

The food is kosher (they're closed Friday night and Saturday), everything is vegan, and all but the pita is gluten free.

Ah, the pita. Shmidel moved from Israel in 2006 and worked in cafes around town. Even while he was bowling up acai and smashing avo, he dreamt of bringing the Israeli shuk (market) to Melbourne.

Cauli bomba pita pocket.
Cauli bomba pita pocket. Photo: Simon Schluter

Pita was central to his vision so he had an oven made in Jerusalem: dough discs are baked on a hot turntable that does one revolution per minute. Pita emerge puffy, fluffy and hot, and pull apart easily: eating one is like falling into a cloud.

Israelis have strong views on hummus. Shmidel makes his daily, with lots of lemon juice but no garlic. It's very good.

The original falafel – bright green with parsley, heady with cumin – is the most popular but I'm a fan of the red harissa version, bright and spicy with dried chilli paste.

Advertisement

Sabich is another hummusiya essential: fried eggplant, chopped egg and salad in bread. The version here is cool: eggplant is cut long like a steak so it pokes out the top of the pita. I love the 2am souvlaki vibes.

There are only 20 or so seats inside, with a dozen more on the footpath. Lots of people grab "Israeli bento boxes" and take them to nearby Caulfield Park or head home with a "combina" for the family, but if you stay here your bonus is relentlessly upbeat Israeli music.

The Pita Man

Address 97 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North, 03 7038 0102, thepitaman.com.au

Humshuka (hummus with shakshuka sauce and hard-boiled egg.
Humshuka (hummus with shakshuka sauce and hard-boiled egg. Photo: Simon Schluter

Open Sun-Thu 11am-8pm, Fri 11am-5pm

Prices Pockets & bowls $11-$19; Bento $22; Family box $60

Also try

Dari Korean Cafe & Bar

Freewheeling Korean-Aussie fusion sandwiches include the Bulgogi Burger, which takes BBQ beef and puts it in a bun. The Idol Sandwich is inspired by K-pop. It's a wild mix of "Mexican" cabbage salad with egg salad and – wait for it – strawberry jam.

27 Hardware Lane, Melbourne, 0413 101 220, darifusion.com

Hot Dog Hustle

Since 2017, this Braybrook food truck has been showing Melbourne there's more to sausages in bread. The latest innovation in the LA-meets-Asian-fusion hotdog is the Ebi Prawn Dog: tempura prawns on grilled brioche, topped with Japanese slaw, mayonnaise and toasted nori. Also Footscray and Chadstone.

252 Ballarat Road, Braybrook, hotdoghustle.com.au

Bun Bun Bakery

People come from miles around for the banh mi here. It's always busy so prepare for a short wait to get your hands on shatter-crisp rolls that are soft on the inside, generously filled with roast pork or lemongrass chicken, pâté and salad.

1/288 Springvale Road, Springvale, 03 9547 8289