Extreme Pita offers food that’s healthy and tasty

Healthy food certainly doesn’t have to be boring, and a new business in Minot is going to extremes to remind people of that.

Extreme Pita opened for business in the food court of Dakota Square Mall Jan. 31. It is the latest of six Extreme Pita locations owned by businessmen Robert Leslie and Troy Thomson.

Thomson, of Fargo, said he and Leslie were looking for a new franchise to bring to Fargo around eight years ago when they discovered Extreme Pita, a Canadian chain that combined healthy food with quick service and great taste.

“We researched quite a few of them and we fell in love with Extreme Pita up in Canada when we went to one. It was the closest location at the time,” Thomson said. “We just really fell in love with their menu board and how you’ve got pictures of food and descriptions of food. It wasn’t just handwritten.”

He noted that at the time, submarine sandwich shops were about the most healthy option around, and he said pita bread is actually a little more nutritional than a regular loaf of bread used for subs, making a pita franchise the perfect choice.

They opened three new Extreme Pitas that first year, and now have a total of six – three in Fargo, one in Moorhead, Minn., one in Phoenix, Ariz., and the newest one in Minot.

Along with the food, Thomson also loves the corporate culture of Extreme Pita. He said he can pick up the phone and talk directly to one of the founders, brothers Alex and Mark Rechichi, pretty much any time of day.

“I’ve talked to many other potential franchisees in the U.S., and that was the biggest thing that I could express to them,” Thomson said. “You’re not just getting a great concept, you’re getting a great overall corporate office, marketing and everything else they do.”

Speaking about the Minot store specifically, Thomson said it is the only one in the food court with digital menu boards. Extreme Pita has four 42-inch menu boards that can be changed at any time, and the menus actually have the calorie counts listed next to the food items, making it easier for customers to make informed eating decisions.

Thomson said the calorie count includes all the ingredients in the recommended recipe of each item. This means the 250 calories listed for a small grilled chicken freestyle pita would include not only the chicken and the pita bread, but also the tomato, cucumber, mushroom, romaine lettuce, red onion, green pepper and Tzatziki sauce, as well.

Thomson said Extreme Pita also participates in the Weight Watchers point system. For more information about that visit the Weight Watchers website at (www.weightwatchers.com).

While Extreme Pita doesn’t have a signature pita per se, Thomson said they are well known for grilling 99.9 percent of their food, including asking customers if they would like their mushrooms, green peppers and onions sauteed on the grill, as well.

“A lot of sub shops, they just get cold subs with cold vegetables. At Extreme Pita, everything is on the grill and everything is warmed,” Thomson said. “The lettuce and tomatoes and stuff is not warm, but Extreme Pita is known for a warm pita and that we can do the mushrooms, green peppers and onions (on the grill).”

At the Minot store, Thomson said the gyro pita has been a runaway hit, which probably isn’t surprising to anyone who walks through the food areas at the State Fair each summer and notes how long the lines are at the various gyro booths.

For those on the go, Extreme Pita uses a special perforated wrapper that exposes the top half of the pita while keeping the bottom half fully enclosed to catch anything that might drop out. Thomson said this makes eating a pita a very clean affair compared to a sub or burger.

In addition to all the varied ingredients customers can choose from, the pitas also come in two different sizes – the small 6-inch and the regular 9-inch. Thomson said the different sizes allow customers to get full without encouraging overeating.

“Having two sizes, you want to feel comfortable after you eat, and that’s the good thing about Extreme Pita,” Thomson said. “If you’re a guy you’re going to get filled up on a 9-inch Philly cheesesteak, but right after eating it you can get right back to work, you can go do something and you’re not going to feel so overly stuffed like you would with a lot of other food products out there.”

A kids menu cuts the pitas down to size for the little ones, and also offers appropriately-sized flatbaked pita pizzas. There are a total of six options to choose from on the kids menu, and each includes a small drink and choice of fresh baked pita chips or a cookie.

The pita chips are an interesting take on the typical potato chip, which Extreme Pita also offers for adults.

“We take our pita bread, we cut it up and we season it. We have five different seasonings,” Thomson said. “Those have been a pretty big hit already out there.”

The pita pizzas consist of a flatbread pita smothered with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and a choice of toppings, including pepperoni, grilled chicken and a Hawaiian version which includes ham, bacon and pineapple. As with the pitas, customers can also create their own specialty pita pizza.

“We send it through a pizza oven, it takes about three minutes for you to have a nice, personal pan pizza,” Thomson said. “It’s filling and amazing.”

Extreme Pita also offers two freshly-made soups each day, as well as salads, which are just as customizable as the pitas. There are three or four set recipes for the salads, and every pita ingredient on the cold table is also available for use.

“We’ve got just a ton of stuff on our cold table, between fresh romaine, we have spinach, we have mushrooms, green peppers, onions. There’s so much to choose from. We have bean salads, which are garbanzo beans and kidney beans and Greek feta dressing. We have a broccoli salad,” Thomson said. “Most of that stuff’s in pitas, but you can have anything in your pita or on your salad that you see on the front cold table.”

Something new in the Minot store Thomson is trying for the first time are the Purblendz smoothies. They have been going over well in Minot, and Thomson is looking forward to adding them to his other stores, as well.

“They’re an all-natural smoothie. We do all fresh fruits in there, you can add stuff to it if you want, your different supplements,” he said. “We have a 12-ounce and a 24-ounce.”

So far the response in Minot has been fabulous, and Thomson is glad they finally made it up to the Magic City. Never one to rest on his laurels, he’s already looking at adding store number seven, and credits the out-of-towners who visit his other stores as a big reason why he picks the markets he does.

“It’s been such an amazing response, and we’re looking at future growth in possibly Bismarck, next,” Thomson said. “It’s amazing how many people have been to Fargo from the Bismarck and Minot areas and asked, ‘When are you guys coming out here?'”