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Drop-in Dining: Gyros roundup

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Sep. 4, 2009 at 5:20 am | 2 Comments »
December 4, 2009 10:49 am
The gyro sandwich at Opa! Greek Cuisine
The gyro sandwich at Opa! Greek Cuisine

When I think of a perfect gyros sandwich, I think of fresh pita warmed on a grill and wrapped around meaty, juicy, thin slices of beef and lamb with crispy, roasted edges. I think of the sharp tang of yogurt tzatziki sauce and the cool crunch of lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

Gyros (pronounced YEE-ros) are one of those foods of dubious origin, but food historians trace the roots of the Greek sandwich in the United States to various restaurants in Chicago in the 1960s (among other locales).

The signature meat for gyros sandwiches is usually ground beef and lamb, or strips of each, pressed onto a long metal kebab and cooked while spinning vertically on a rotisserie grill. It looks something like a giant meat cone (or, as I like to call it, a “gyros lollipop”).
Different spins can be put on the sandwich, so to speak. Gyros sandwiches can be beef or lamb (or both) or chicken, or even pork. Sauces can range from tzatziki to sour cream, and the sandwich can hold crisp veggies or even fried potatoes.

Around here, the universal formula for gyros sandwiches are roasted beef and lamb with a drizzle of yogurt tzatziki sauce and finished with lettuce, tomatoes and onions, all wrapped up snugly in grill-warmed pita bread.

Here, a look at six South Sound Greek restaurants that serve gyros sandwiches. Click “more” to see the gyro report.

Opa! Greek Cuisine
6104 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Price: $8.25 lunch or $9.25 dinner (served with fries)
If there was a perfect gyros sandwich to be found for this report, it was found at Opa. The gyros sandwich at this full-service, sit-down Greek restaurant hit all my hallmarks – soft pita, lots of meat, a tart tzatziki sauce and crisp, fresh veggies.
Sandwiches here are hefty and served open faced, making them difficult to eat as a traditional hand-held sandwich. If you do, it’s a three-napkin, two-handed affair.
Opa’s gyros sandwich began with a soft, pillowy pita bread that was grill-warmed and soft, but with a toothsome, chewy pull. Meaty slices of juicy beef and lamb came with crispy, seared edges, and fragrant with oregano and garlic. The sandwich was finished with a drizzle of a tart yogurt tzatziki sauce, crisp purple onions, ripe tomatoes and chopped lettuce. The accompanying skins-on fries were golden brown and tasted like what they’re supposed to – potatoes.

It’s Greek to Me
1703 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Price: $5.99, sandwich only ($9 for a combo with small fry and drink)
For fast-casual Greek dining, most fans of Greek street food I know recommend gyros sandwiches at It’s Greek To Me, a fast-casual restaurant with a drive-through and a small patio seating area. It’s Greek To Me also offers more varieties of gyros than any place I sampled: traditional beef and lamb and chicken gyros, and also a Philly version, a barbecue, veggie, Italian and a chicken, bacon and honey mustard gyros sandwich.
The lamb and beef gyros sandwich came with a grill-warmed fresh and chewy pita. I liked the tzatziki sauce at It’s Greek To Me more than any other restaurant sampled – it was thicker, and yielded more yogurt tang. The shredded lettuce was crisp, the tomatoes were thickly sliced and meaty. My one complaint: Too many onions that overpowered the flavor – I removed all but a few. I made mine a combo and got a side of piping hot, crispy thin-cut fries and a small soda.

Gyro’s Place
7510 40th St. W., University Place
Price: $5.36, sandwich only
The gyros sandwich at Gyro’s Place doesn’t just smell of garlic, it screams garlic. You might smell of it for hours, if not days. Garlic assault aside, all the hallmarks of a good gyros are met here at this
order-at-the-counter casual restaurant: grilled pita with crispy edges from time spent on a grill and juicy well-seasoned meat sliced thinly and with a bit of a crispy edge. The tzatziki sauce is tangy and the tomatoes and lettuce noticeably crisp and fresh, but there is one thing that stands out about the gyros sandwich here – a liberal dose of creamy feta cheese. Creamy feta, unlike the aged crumbly version, is soft and licked with a piquant, creamy sweetness. That creamy richness nudged this sandwich up to one of my favorites.

Mediterranean Palace
2501 E. D St., Tacoma
Price: $5.59, sandwich only ($7.09 for a combo with rice and salad)
The beef gyros had a ground, processed texture at Mediterranean Palace, which is a small stand located in the Freighthouse Square mall food court. The texture had more of a Greek meatloaf feel than a beefy chunky texture that I like in a gyros. What it lacked in texture, it made up for in flavor. Slices of beef gyros came marked with a bit of grill char, scented heavily with garlic and wrapped up snug in a grilled pita that was soft, chewy and fresh. The sandwich was finished with ripe tomatoes, onions and a thin tzatziki sauce. The gyros sandwich plate came with a liberal helping of rice scented with herbs and brightened with lemon and garlic, and a salad of crisp green lettuce, ripe tomato slices, shards of pungent onions, and a sprinkle of feta drizzled with an herby vinaigrette made with garlic, lemon, olive oil and spices and herbs.

My Greek
Mediterranean Grill
13333 Meridian East, Puyallup
Price: $5.99, sandwich only ($8.99 with salad)
My Greek, a sit-down full-service restaurant on South Hill, does diners right with a healthy foundation of whole-wheat pita. The wheat pita offers a nutty flavor and a whole-grain chew, a nutritious and delicious change from the typical bleached white flour flatbread pita most restaurants serve. The juicy meat came spiked with garlic, was shaved thinly, and finished with sliced purple onions, tomatoes and a drizzle of watery tzatziki yogurt sauce (perhaps a bit too watery). They skip the lettuce on the gyros sandwich at My Greek, but I prefer the textural contrast of lettuce on a gyros sandwich. Like the acidic yogurt sauce, it’s a necessary ingredient to cut the fattiness of the rich meat.

Johnnie’s Greek Café
9602 Bridgeport Way, Lakewood
Price: $7.65, sandwich only
Was the meat on my beef and lamb gyros sandwich even seasoned? I was so distracted by the stale, tough pita, it became a secondary problem that the meat lacked flavor. The tzatziki sauce was the predominant flavor of the sandwich. The chicken gyros were equally as dry, and even less seasoned than the beef and lamb counterparts.

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