The Mediterranean restaurant in Battle Ground has become an area favorite since its opening in 2015
Michael McCormic, Jr.
BATTLE GROUND — There’s something about walking through the door of The Pita House that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped across the globe. Perhaps it is the decor that feels reminiscent of a marketplace in Lebanon. Perhaps it is the smell of fresh gyro as it is carved from a cone in the kitchen. Perhaps it is the friendly and personal greeting from the manager, who knows your name and has your order memorized from the last time you were in.
Five stars on Yelp, Google, and Facebook speak for themselves. The fact of the matter is that Jaber Sukaria, manager and part owner of The Pita House, knows how to make people feel welcome. When he helped establish the Mediterranean restaurant in June of 2015, serving customers as he would guests in his own home was — and still is — of the utmost importance. Now, as The Pita House prepares to celebrate three years in business, Sukaria recalls the long road to becoming an area favorite establishment and community gathering place.
Long-time Battle Ground residents will remember the old Jerusalem Cafe, owned by Fadul Farran, in the now demolished A-frame building off Main Street. In 2008, Farran, a friend and distant cousin of Sukaria, changed his menu and his business from the Mediterranean cuisine of the Jerusalem Cafe into Old Town Burgers and Breakfast. The change was made because, according to Sukaria, Battle Ground “wasn’t big enough for this type of food.”
However, as Battle Ground continued to grow, Farran and Sukaria began to consider reopening a Mediterranean restaurant in the area.
Sukaria explains, “We were thinking around 2010 or 2011 to bring this type of food back because we had realized how many people move into this town from different areas.”
Within a few years, having done some significant research on the population demographics within Battle Ground and the surrounding area, Sukaria and Farran agreed to open The Pita House.
“We opened in 2015; it was a good idea. We started getting business right away,” says Sukaria. “People were very happy to have this type of food back here.”
At the Pita House, the food itself tends to be largely inspired by Syrian and Lebanese cuisine, with some Greek and American influences, as well. Customers and staff alike praise the restaurant for its fresh foods with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Even the french fries, which by all accounts should be nothing special at a Mediterranean restaurant, have become increasingly popular among area residents.
Sukaria says of the items he and the rest of The Pita House’s staff chose for the restaurant’s menu, “Everything on the menu is our favorite dish because the Mediterranean kitchen or Lebanese kitchen or Syrian kitchen has a lot of variety. We choose [to put] on the menu what we really love and like.”
While he claims to love just about everything that his restaurant serves, Sukaria says some of his favorites include kofta kababs with grilled lamb and beef, the lamb and chicken special with garlic sauce, and, of course, hummus.
“The hummus is the best; we love hummus. We try to make the best hummus because we love hummus and we know the difference between good hummus or not,” Sukaria claims.
Even more important than serving quality food is providing quality service; Sukaria, who emigrated to the United States from Syria, claims that he makes it his goal to give customers a glimpse into his own culture by treating them as he would close friends and family.
As Sukaria explains it, “When people come to visit you, they’re putting their time and their money into your place, then they need a special treat, a special service. I believe that is the most important thing when you start a business. You don’t want to deal with them just as a customer who’s coming to spend their money at your place; you want to deal with them as people coming to visit you.”
In fact, many Pita House regulars can attest to the staff and management going the extra mile to make its guests feel welcome. Whether it’s the occasional Turkish coffee on the house, or simply one of the employees sitting down to talk with a customer about their kids or their job, people know they are valued when they walk in for a meal at the Pita House, and Sukaria says that this comes “from the heart.”
Both Sukaria and Farran came to the United States from the Mediterranean region; Farran from Israel and Sukaria from Christian Valley, a region in western Syria. As a graduate from Damascus University with a degree in geology, Sukaria spent years satisfying his desire to see the world before he took a nine-year job in Saudi Arabia at the age of 26.
Sukaria met his wife, who lived in Vancouver, during this time in Saudi Arabia, and Sukaria moved to the Clark County area shortly after they married.
“My wife, of course, she’s the main reason why I moved to this area,” Sukaria explains. “She’s originally from here. And when we decided we wanted to live in the United States, I applied for all my paperwork to move.”
After spending a few years living in Vancouver, Sukaria met Farran, and the two discovered that they shared both their Christian faith and a common family lineage. As such, the two refer to one another as “cousins,” although they are unsure of the exact relation between them.
Sukaria soon began working for Farran in the restaurant industry, which Sukaria describes as a dream come true; as a college student, his favorite job that he held was working in food service.
“That used to be my thing I wanted to do. It was a dream for me to have a restaurant business,” Sukaria recalls.
Ten years later, Sukaria operates and co-owns The Pita House with Farran, who runs Old Town Burgers and Breakfast across the parking lot.
When asked about what lies in the future for the Pita House, Sukaria says the goal is “to have more than one restaurant.”
This, however, comes with its conditions. Sukaria says the only way he will start new Pita House locations is if the business can maintain its current quality.
“Our future is, we want to build at least, in the next two to three years, three more restaurants besides this one,” says Sukaria. “And it has to be the same way, the same quality, the same service, the same everything.”
The Pita House will be celebrating three years in business on Tue., June 26. Sukaria will announce the details of this event on The Pita House Facebook page.