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EARLY MORNING STUFF DOWN ON THE AVENUE

The first Pita Pit to open in town, out by UCF, has already been distinguished by our Best of Orlando 2004 award for Best Late-Night Restaurant. We know it's a fast-growing chain restaurant (www.pitapit.com) that's penetrated the country at an alarming rate, but there just aren't that many places in Orlando to find fast food with fresh vegetables and sizzling meats after the clock strikes 12, much less into the wee hours.

Now the company has staked out its second claim in town, right in the heart of downtown on Orange Avenue, near the corner of Central Boulevard. The tried-and-true menu is simple and easy on addled brains when it comes to decision-making. There are pitas (don't bother asking for another kind of bread, this is what makes it a low-calorie bonanza), salads, toppings, sauces, snacks and drinks. Start with one of the suggested pitas ranging from $5.50 at the high end (the sauced-up "chicken Caesar," which can be filled out by asking for more veggies) to the $3.50 cheapo (the "garden" pita; it'll take two hands to handle all the greenery). From there, follow along Subway-style, overseeing the addition of toppings (the usuals plus mushrooms, cucumbers, sprouts, pineapple, Swiss and feta). Then comes the pièce de résistance, the tantalizing sauces, such as tzatziki, teriyaki, honey mustard, ranch, Dijon, Caesar and a "secret sauce."

Once you get the hang of ordering and find those favorite tastes, the customizable options are unlimited. And genuine veggie options go beyond the "garden" to Middle Eastern standbys like falafel, baba ghanoush, hummus and feta. Extra meat ($2) or extra cheese (75 cents) can bump up the protein. Best of all, the downtown Pita Pit takes care of the lunch crew and then remains open until 3 a.m. Monday-Thursday, and until 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The staff reports that there's always someone walking through the door.

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