Everything is excellent at Aviv Hummus Bar on Capitol Hill — hummus, falafel, salad and more. But this reviewer’s favorite was the pita.
Oh pita, my darling, my best beloved. I care not that your cushiony sides repeatedly burned my fingers — you probably think my lack of patience is cute rather than idiotic. I love you for your airy, ciabatta-like bubbles, and because you’re the exact opposite of those awful cardboard envelopes at the grocery store that you are forced to share your name with. You understand my unpredictable appetite, and when I decide I need a second piece, you arrive at my table within seconds. You’re like no other pita I’ve eaten, or even dreamed could exist. Custom could never stale your infinite variety, because I promise that as long as I am around, you will never last long enough for anything to stale you at all. It seems unfair that the restaurant that created you is named Aviv Hummus Bar, rather than Aviv Pita Bar, but you like that, comfortable with your unsung-hero role. If bread could get embarrassed, I’m sure all this praise would make you blush.
The hummus: I love you, hummus, I’m just not in love with you. Not every hummus could live up to such exceptional pita, but this one does, mostly because it lacks the spread’s most common problems. There’s no harsh raw garlic flavor, no flecks of chickpea skin, no need to reach for the salt shaker, no silly accessories like roasted peppers or edamame or beets. It’s worth eating plain, but feels like a more complete meal when topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions or a few well-made falafel. Masabacha is a chunkier, warm hummus variant of coarsely mashed chickpeas, with a brighter lemony flavor than the smooth hummus; the server noted that it would be “very Israeli” to add a hard-boiled egg, although it’s so good without, the option felt like unnecessary lily-gilding.
The everything else: The sole salad option — a plate of finely diced cucumber, yellow pepper, onion, parsley and tomato, with a lemon-olive-oil drizzle — is easily shareable between two or three people. Cheeps (the menu’s name for good, crispy fries) come with a cup of tahini for dipping and a generous layer of shawarma seasoning, which seems to include cardamom, black pepper, cumin and allspice, among other spices. As an appetizer, the cheeps can easily serve four. The falafel are available individually, in groups of three or seven with tahini, stuffed into a pita as a sandwich, or on a platter with salad and pita alongside. They’re just what falafel ought to be: crunchy outside, fluffy inside and lightly seasoned to perfectly accommodate a swoop of tahini on each bite. You won’t find soup, or dessert, or much in the way of drinks; just a few local beers, 14 Hands wine and a very spicy-sweet ginger ale.
Aviv Hummus Bar
107 15th Ave. E. (Capitol Hill), Seattle; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 206-323-7483, avivhummusbar.com
The condiments: If you like a little heat, ask for a complimentary dish of s’chug, a chunky paste of coarse chili flakes softened with olive oil. Every hummus bowl also comes with a little plate of small green olives, dill pickles and pickled shipka chilies.
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Prices: Salad ($4.50), cheeps ($4), masabacha ($12), hummus with mushrooms ($12), falafel (75 cents each) and extra pita ($1.50 each) added up to $34.75 plus tax and tip for dinner for two people.