This and That 

Memphis gets a Pita Pit; Trolley Stop Market gets an update.

Tejal and Jay Patel open Memphis’ first Pita Pit franchise on Union Avenue.

Justin Fox Burks

Tejal and Jay Patel open Memphis’ first Pita Pit franchise on Union Avenue.

The first Memphis location of Pita Pit, a nationwide chain that started in Canada, was opened by Tejal Patel and her husband Jay in October.

click to enlarge Tejal and Jay Patel open Memphis’ first Pita Pit franchise on Union Avenue. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Tejal and Jay Patel open Memphis’ first Pita Pit franchise on Union Avenue.

While her husband is a Memphis native, Tejal is from Oklahoma. It was there that they first experienced Pita Pit.

"We were in Oklahoma for a football game. We ate at Pita Pit and loved it, and we went from there," Patel says.

The menu features a handful of breakfast pitas, including the Awakin' with Bacon, which has bacon, eggs, grilled onions and peppers, hashbrowns, and cheddar cheese. Among the vegetarian options are the Spicy Black Bean and a pita with falafel. Those looking for something meatier will find it in the Philly Steak, the Chicken Souvlaki, and the Dagwood, among others.

Patrons don't have to stick to the menu, however.

"There's nothing not to love about pitas. You can customize it. There's a billion ways to make one pita. We've got all the sauces, vinaigrettes, just about anything you could want," Patel says.

That versatility goes beyond the food. Although the restaurant is a franchise, it is designed to allow individual locations to adopt local color, including customer participation in creating food specials.

"We have our 'Local' pita, where we encourage our staff and customers to give us ideas," Patel says.

This also extends to marketing. To-go orders are served in plain brown bags with handwritten slogans like "We stuff pitas. You stuff your face."

"I plan to add a container where customers can leave suggestions for messages," Patel says.

This is Patel's first restaurant, but she does have experience as well as a calling.

"My dad had sit-down restaurants in the past, so I have a bit of a food background. Plus we're foodies; we like to eat," she says.

Pita Pit, 2105 Union (207-1541),

Trolley Stop Market is undergoing renovations to the restaurant and changes to the menu.

"We've had so much going on. Now that farmers market season is over, we can reinvest back into this place," says co-owner Jill Forrester. "We're trying to expand on the initial vision that we had," she says.

The physical changes will be significant. The floors and walls will be redone and the bathrooms renovated. Booths will be added for a cozier feel.

Shopping at the market will be changed as well, including expanding beyond the physical space.

"We're going to be enclosing the market area so that the food section is all in one area. The rest of it will be the one-of-a-kind crafts that people like. We've also opened an online store where people can shop for several of the items we sell here in the store," Forrester says.

Changes are also afoot for the menu.

Forrester says the plan is to expand the bar to include some 20 beers on tap and to have French press coffees using local roasters such as McCarter, J. Brooks, and Ugly Mug.

Good things to eat are not being neglected either.

"We have a new menu coming out. We're expanding our dessert selection. We're going to be getting a new pizza case and a new dessert case. We're going to be expanding our cookie selection because it's been a hit of late," Forrester says.

Forrester is also seeking to balance the menu.

"We're in the middle of the medical district. We get a lot of students and doctors and lawyers from downtown. We want to feed them what they want to eat. We have a nice little combination of healthy and comfort. We're just trying to expand on the healthy," she says.

In addition to adding to the menu, Forrester wants to make Trolley Stop a place for events.

"We're installing a movie screen so we can stream games live, like Tiger and Grizzlies games. We're not looking to have a sports theme. We won't have the screen pulled down at all times, just game days," she says.

Local music will also be featured along with local sports.

"The other part of the puzzle is that we want to start staying open on Friday and Saturday nights and having live music. We're getting a new PA system installed and new speakers. We'll be open late-night and do pizza and beer and live music," Forrester says.

The key for Forrester is that the restaurant be welcoming.

"We want the atmosphere to be kid-friendly, to be family-friendly. We want people to be able to come in and enjoy the space with their friends," she says.

Trolley Stop Market, 704 Madison (526-1361),

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