Street food doesn’t alway have to be found literally on the street. In some places, it can be found down alleys, in plazas, or even on small boats. In Phoenix, one of the challenges of serving street food is that the unshaded pavement can be uncomfortably hot much of the year. Those details sometimes make food dispensed from a cart or truck difficult to appreciate when there’s no obvious place to sit in any shadows nearby. In Uptown Phoenix, a purveyor of Israeli street food has created an attractive, albeit hidden, environment of its own at Mika’s Kitchen.

eggplant sabich sandwich

Mika’s location is an unlikely and somewhat invisible one. The owner, who is originally from Israel, has adapted a patio attached to a used car shop specializing in German automobiles. The closest light rail station is two blocks away at 7th Avenue / Camelback, but the slightly more distant station at Central / Camelback offers a pleasant walk through the Pierson Place historic district. The small outdoor restaurant is found at the boundary where the single family homes of that neighborhood yield to the commercial development of Seventh Avenue’s Melrose district.

beef plate

To find Mika’s, look for a bold, blue mural created by local artist Luster Kaboom. The painting may be hidden behind parked cars from the auto shop, but it can be found on the north side of Pierson Street directly across from a recently constructed senior living apartment building. Small black signs identify the two businesses that share the space. Go left for Munich Motors; turn right to enter Mika’s Kitchen. Customers who arrive at Mika’s on bicycles can bring them onto the patio, and the staff sometimes offer to stow bikes behind the food cart during busy times.

chicken pita pocket

That food cart lies at the end of a linear patio that has been upgraded with a stenciled pattern on the ground, colorful paintings on the wall, and abundant shade overhead. Customers approach the counter where a large printed menu is displayed, place and pay for orders, and then find their way to one of five tables in the compact space. The menu is equally compact with just two plates, three sandwiches, and three drinks available. With most food prepared at the cart or in a small indoor kitchen to the side, the approach is focused and streamlined by necessity.

chicken plate

The sandwiches at Mika’s are built upon a foundation of airy pitas. They’re described on the menu as “cloudy,” and they do seem as fluffy as cumulus with not only a generous main pocket, but also numerous little holes from air bubbles throughout the bread. They can be stuffed with sliced chicken, tender beef reminiscent of short rib, or a meatless filling known as “sabich,” which combines roasted eggplants with hard-boiled eggs. All the sandwiches can be accessorized with cabbage salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, hummus, and sauces.

beef pita pocket

Within these cloudy sandwiches, all the ingredients meld into one seamless blend; however, hot sauces are often applied strategically so that each one plays a distinctive role. A green sauce like a spicy chimichurri can coat the ingredients inside while an orange sauce made from Fresno peppers “kisses the pita.” For heartier appetites or customers who prefer to keep their foods separated, the beef and chicken plates are an alternative to the handheld pita pockets. They have the same ingredients as the sandwiches with the addition of rice, potatoes, or both.

red lentil soup

A few additional off-menu items complete the offerings at Mika’s. A mixed plate combines a little beef and a little chicken on one platter with all the same trappings as either single meat option. A hummus plate is a vegetarian entree with a generous portion of the creamy dip served with an egg, vegetables, and pitas. A recent addition that will appeal to anyone wanting a vegan choice is a weekly soup. During cooler fall and winter weather, recent selections have included red lentil and split pea. Paired with a pita for a dollar more, they make a hearty meatless lunch.

rose water lemonad

Mika’s drink selection is limited to sweet iced tea and two varieties of tart lemonade, flavored with either rosewater and mint. There are no desserts on the menu, but pastry and paletas are both a few blocks away. Umbrellas and evaporative cooling keep the patio comfortable much of the year, although a hiatus during the peak summer heat is planned. There isn’t much more to Mika’s, but customized orders are welcome. Although the restaurant isn’t literally on the street, it brings the spirit of Israelf street food to its hidden location in the middle of central Phoenix.

648 W. Pierson St., Phoenix AZ 85013