The rain was coming down in sheets as I made my way along Kingsley Ave looking for someplace to grab a quick lunch. I had never been to this area of Orange Park and a large red, white, and blue sign caught my attention. It was for a place called the Sheik and advertised a steak pita combo for $7.49. I cut across two lanes of traffic and slid into a parking spot. The building was a squat structure with a blue roof. I dashed for the door only to find I had to use the one on the other side of the small alcove. I was soaked by the time I entered and joined the end of the line waiting to order.
I arrived at the counter and looked over the menu. A pita called the Camel Rider* immediately caught my attention. The cashier said it consisted of a pita stuffed with ham, salami, bologna, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, onions, and Sheik dressing. She noted that they were known for the steak sacks. This sandwich had tender slices of steak cooked with onions and placed in a pita. I decided to follow her advice and made it a combo. I gave her my name and went to find a seat.
The interior was spartan and felt like something out of the 1980s. Light wood paneling covered the walls. The dining room was flanked by three walls of large windows. The walls themselves were largely devoid of decorations except for a few faded prints and a couple of fake plants. Brick pavers lined the floor. Faux wood tables surrounded by black metal chairs with black vinyl padding provided a place to eat. Ceiling fans hanging form the ceiling lazily spun.
My name was soon called and I grabbed the blue plastic tray. The sandwich came as advertised. Slices of steak were sauteed and stuffed into a piece of pita bread that had been opened to form a pocket. Small pieces of chopped translucent onions were mixed amongst the beef. I took a bit. The steak was tender. The pita was soft and fresh. The onions gave it some zip. It was, however, bit salty, but overall was a good steak pita. The French fries were lightly seasoned and crisp on the outside while maintaining some chewiness in the middle.
Lunch at the Sheik was fast and affordable. The service was very friendly and restaurant, including the tables, were very clean. I would stop in at the Sheik the next time I am in that part of Orange Park, and may even give the curiously named Camel Rider a try.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating:
*For a brief history on the Camel Rider sandwich in Jacksonville, FL check out this article from the New York Times, A Taste of Jacksonville Tucked into a Pita.