Two cousins are bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to Solana Beach.
Micheline Mattar and Mike Shamshoum opened the second location of Micheline's Pita House in the Solana Beach Towne Center in late January, following three years of success in La Jolla.
The fast, casual restaurant combines flavors from the Mediterranean diet, most of which are healthy.
"It became an obsession to create something that people can build on their own, such as a variety of salads, from all over," said Mattar, who previously owned restaurants in Los Angeles and Arizona. "It's not just Egyptian, it's not just Israeli, it's not just Greek or Lebanese. We just wanted to accumulate all the Mediterranean with different sauces and flavors to represent the healthy aspect of the Mediterranean."
The menu is based around fresh rotisserie meats, including Greek gyros, chicken or beef shawarmas, and vegan falafel.
Mattar said she and Shamshoum each value healthy food but realized there aren't many options for people to eat out casually while watching their diets.
"I like healthy food, and when I go into diet zones, there's nothing to eat," Mattar said. "I either have to go to a fancy restaurant and order salmon or tuna or I have to just eat junk or cook at home. I started thinking, 'Why can't people that want to be healthy find an accessible healthy food that is affordable?' Healthy food can become very expensive to most people."
She added what makes Mediterranean food so healthy is its ingredients. Dishes are more focused on vegetables than protein, and healthy fats, like olive oil, are used while cooking.
The menu is entirely customizable, too, so people can choose their healthiness to their liking through a series of steps.
First, customers choose their base of a pita sandwich, rice bowl, lentils quinoa bowl, fries bowl, hummus bar or combo plate. Next, they choose from proteins like falafel, roasted seasonal veggies, chicken or beef shawarmas, chicken kabobs, gyros and ground beef kabobs. Patrons can also choose from several toppings, sauces and sides.
"You can come into my restaurant and create your own healthy options," Mattar said. "Definitely, not everything that you can eat is healthy, but it's fresh and it has a lot of variety of vegan and vegetarian options, as well as meat. You can build it the way you want. The pita is not the healthiest option, but it's not that big and when you stuff it, you have a lot of vegetables in it."
The restaurant also offers a variety of vegetarian salads, which boast different flavors. Customers can choose to add meat, like a chicken kabob, to the salad for extra protein.
"It's not just a salad, which can be basic and have no flavor," Mattar said. "I created a lot of flavors in it, like sweetness and couscous. There's Greek salad. The Mediterranean is more pesto and makes it more Italian. There's a lot of variety that also offers a lot of tastebud varieties."
Shamshoum said Solana Beach was an easy decision for the restaurant's second location because of a lack of healthy food choices that he saw in the area.
“I felt this community needed this,” he said.
Eventually, he said, the cousins would like to open several Pita House locations throughout San Diego County.
For more information, visit www.pitahousesd.com. The restaurant is located at 691 Loma Santa Fe Drive, Suite A, Solana Beach, 92075 (Solana Beach Towne Center).