When you emerge from the T at Downtown Crossing, you’re met with the noise of jackhammers. The distracting din is for a skyscraper going up on the old Filene’s block. You’ll also see a crush of summer tourists, office workers, and bargain shoppers. Two nearby eateries — offering dramatically different lunch-only menus — cater to this crowd.
Bonapita is based on anything that goes with pita, the flat Middle Eastern bread, InBoston Modern Korean Kitchen specializes in fried chicken, rice bowls, and tacos.
On the sidewalk outside the gleaming doors of Bonapita, open just over a month, a smiling young blond woman offers passersby freshly baked pita. Even a harried financial worker interrupts a call to accept a puffy, warm round. Step inside the cool, high-ceilinged space (it once housed a church, but sat empty for 10 years) and place your order at the counter. The compact menu at this 50-seat spot is organized as “fill it” (stuffed pitas, $6.99), “plate it” (with rice and roasted vegetables, $8.49), and “toss it” (salad, $7.99). Two vegetarian and two meat options are on offer to stuff in your sandwich, eat as a platter, or as topping for fresh greens.
Bonapita’s chef and owner, Ilan Barniv, 42, draws inspiration from the crossroads of cuisines of his native Jerusalem. A Johnson & Wales grad, he went on to manage Daily Bread bakeries and restaurants in Providence, and is a firm believer in the Mediterranean diet.
On crisp romaine dressed with olive oil and lemon, we get black bean and beet patties — moist and flavorful from being steamed and then finished on a plancha grill. They look like falafel, but Barniv is quick to say they are not fried. Nothing is fried at this spot, nor is there any dairy — but you won’t miss either.
A pita stuffed with warm lentils, sauteed crimini, and thyme is hearty and satisfying, especially with the finely diced tomato, cucumber, and sweet onion tucked inside, and a drizzle of lemony tahini dressing. Bonapita meatballs, which we order as a platter with fluffy basmati and wild rice, plus a melange of slow-roasted eggplant, red pepper, and zucchini, are outstanding. Tender and beefy, we taste lemon, dill, cilantro, and mint in the mix. Help yourself to house-made hot sauce, an altogether addictive slurry of cilantro and kicky serrano peppers.
We can eat virtuously most of the time, but when overtaken by a hankering for fried chicken, InBoston Modern Korean Kitchen, four blocks from Bonapita, is the place. Owned by realtor Jason Li, 34, this eatery opened in January and has only eight seats, so most customers opt for take-out.
InBoston’s chicken has the crispiest, densest crust that ever dressed a bird. Drumsticks and wings are dipped in a flour batter, deep fried, allowed to cool, and then dipped into the fat bath a second time. The crowning touch is a sweet-sticky glaze. The spicy version (it could be spicier for our taste) blends up Korean red chile pepper, brown sugar, and mirin. The soy version is like a mild teriyaki. We get a small half-and-half combo (six pieces for $8.95) offering both glazed flavors, with one side. We choose a cool corn salsa ($1.95 ordered a la carte).
Less successful is the taco ($3.95 each; three for $9.95), a double layer of soft corn tortillas filled with thick-cut short rib that is stewed in soy, but it’s chewy and oddly lacking in flavor. Cubes of pickled daikon radish ($1.95) offer sweet crunch.
We’re bobbing and weaving through the downtown throng with two take-out bags — one with crunchy, sticky chicken and the other with a sleeve of fresh baked pita. No need to decide which craving will win out. We’re covered on both fronts.
49 Franklin St., Boston,
857-350-4606, www.bonapita.com. All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Pita sandwiches $6.99. Platters $8.49. Salads $7.99. Beverages $1.99-$3.89. Bag of 5 pita, $3.99.
Hours Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-
What to order Pita stuffed with lentils and mushrooms, salad greens with black bean and beet patties, meatball plate with basmati-wild rice and roasted vegetables.
INBOSTON MODERN KOREAN KITCHEN
85 Bedford St., Boston,
617-426-0785, www.inbk-kitchen.com. All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Fried chicken combos $8.95 - $34.95.
Tacos $3.95. Rice bowls $8.95. Beverages $1.25-$2.
Hours Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-
3 p.m., Sat 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
What to order Spicy fried chicken, corn salsa.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.