Free food at the new Verts, a fast-casual Mediterranean eatery

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Chicken pita and a beef meatball rice bowl from Verts Mediterranean Grill, opening at 1601 Market St.

Center City is about to get Verts Mediterranean Grill, a branch of the upwardly mobile Texas-based fast-casual eatery that serves pitas, bowls, and salads.

Free food (one full-size entree per person) will be offered from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. opening day — Friday, March 10 — at 1601 Market St.

The first 100 guests that day will receive swag bags including recipe cards, water bottles, koozies, and sunglasses. Verts also says it will donate 100 percent of sales of sides, drinks, and extra entrees on opening day to the CAPA Foundation, which supports the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.

Founders Michael Heyne and Dominik Stein, both raised in Germany and studying business at the University of Texas at Austin, started the company in 2011 and based the menu on the doner kebab, the Turkish variation of the rotisserie meat also known as shawarma and gyros. 

Verts has been described as the Chipotle of Mediterranean food for its customization.

Customers choose a base (pita, salad, rice bowl or quinoa bowl), add four lean proteins (beef and lamb, chicken, turkey and mushroom meatballs, and falafel), followed by toppings such as spiced chickpeas, pickled jalapenos, carrot slaw, marinated green olives and sumac onions, and then a sauce, including spicy cilantro, tzatziki, hot harissa, hummus and roasted red pepper.

The competition in the area is keen, what with Naf Naf Grill at 1919 Market St., Real Food Eatery at 207 S. 16th St., and King of Falafel, the street cart at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard.

Verts will take advantage of the wide sidewalk along 16th Street in warmer weather. A Sweetgreen is on the way to the Market Street side.

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