Restaurant Review: District North
District North set up shop in the Atlas Building, one of Downtown’s more notable structures, last fall. The Atlas isn’t notable because of hype or glitz, it’s notable because it’s historic. The building was designed in 1905 by Frank Packard, a renown local architect. Somehow, the structure has survived a history that includes foreclosure, code violations, and the relentless wrecking ball of constant, churning redevelopment Downtown. Today, the upper levels of the Atlas Building offer fancy apartments, and you’ll find District North below at a streetside entrance.
District North has a definite theme, but it might be hard to tell from the name. It’s a place that serves up casual Mediterranean fare in a fast-paced, bustling environment. You order at the counter, but they’ll bring big plates, loaded with food out to the table. It’s a smallish joint, but equipped with seating that includes a long, community cafeteria-styled table at the center of the establishment.
The pita sandwiches have been largely successful. Right-priced and served on soft, thick pita, the Chicken Shawarma Pita ($4.99) offers a flavorful, leaner variation on traditional shawarma, with shards of well-seasoned poultry in a mix with lettuce, tomato, onions, some peppers and tahini sauce: enough tahini sauce to coat all the contents inside the pita. While the abundance of sauce makes it a little hard to appreciate the contributions of the ingredients inside the pita, it’s a very good sauce, so no complaints.
Even so, the favorite pita was a Philly Cheese Pita ($4.99). It features a generous supply of slices of beef, with the now-familiar mix of tomatoes, lettuce, and onions, but this time with peppers and a savory cheese sauce that hits the right balance.
Beyond the sandwich scene, you can score more traditional entrees, including kabobs, flafel, and Pastitsio ($12.99). The latter is mostly a noodle event. It offers a nicely caramelized bechamel lid, densely packed layers of pasta, and a modest layer of ground meat. Aspirations had been for something more robust and flavorful. It’s kinda one-note-noodly.
You can also build-a-bowl at District North. While it’s not set up like a cafeteria line where you point and pick, the menu does list options that can be thrown together however you like. For foundations, you can do rice, lentils, pasta or a big crunchy salad ($8.99). Then there’s a meat selection (the chicken option offers nice flavor and texture), saucy binders that include tzatziki and hummus, and cheese choices that range from American to feta. The feta here is a strong, traditional one. The innocent-looking snowy crumbles will start mild, and then charge right through the rest of the flavors in the dish.
For lighter bites, there are traditional noshing options that include stuffed grape leaves and spanakopita, but it’s soup season, and the house Lentil Soup ($2.99) provides a warming, soulful sustenance that will inspire an involuntary, satisfied smile. That makes it a real bargain.
District North, and the historic Atlas Building that hosts it, can be found at 10 E. Long St. Downtown.
For more information, visit district-north.com.
All photos by Susan Post