Every once in a while someone mistakes Scott for a food expert and risks ruining dinner by trusting him to answer to a burning question. Got a question about food or restaurants? Send it via Twitter @scottreitz, Facebook at /cityofate or in the comments.
Here's a question I got a while back on Twitter, from user @HeyItsHigbe:
Let's ask Twitter: @HeadPantsNow and I are in DIRE NEED of a good gyro. Who's your go-to for this? cc @cityofate
There's an imaginary go-to I've fashioned from past memories. In this fantasy a tiny Greek lady, age 108, comes into a small cafe early each morning and pulls bins of meat from the walk-in. The plastic containers contain beef and lamb, pounded thin and marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, cilantro, tarragon, mint and garlic, and the old lady spends her morning impaling alternate slices until she's built a tower of meat. You can read about this sandwich, the real gyro, here if you're interested. This is the gyro of my dreams. And sadly, I'm rather certain it does not exist in Dallas. It may not exist in all of Texas.
It should. If any restaurant in Dallas would make the above sandwich, food writers from all over the state would come to gush about it. They'd hands down have the best gyro Texas has ever seen. They'd have my business once a week. I might even set up a blog devoted to nothing but their perfect sandwich. Consider this an open letter to the Greek restaurants of Dallas. Build this and I will come.
But enough about what we can't have. Here's what we can.
The New York Times ran an article once about the history of the gyro in America. They even put together a video short that shows the familiar meat cones being processed at Kronos in Chicago (watch at your own risk). All the gyros I tried in Dallas are made from meat processed in this way. They all used store-bought bread. They all came with tzatziki. They all came with garnishes. Really, there were only subtle differences in how the ingredients are put together. So here's the play-by-play. Use the photos and descriptions to choose your own go-to.
Greek Festival Gyro pictured above This is perhaps my favorite. And it marks the second time Dallas' best sandwich can only be had at a special event. (Remember that State Fair Cuban?) Fair workers sliced meat from one of three cones before using a sauté pan to put a little color on the stuff before they tossed it into a pillowy flat bread with yellow onions, fresh tomatoes and an unmemorable tzatziki. Come to think of it, this may be my favorite because I ate it outside in the summer with an ice-cold beer.
Cafe Greek These guys make their own pita, but for whatever reason they use a store-bought round for their sandwiches. Their meat boasted a serious char that I liked, and the tzatziki, though bland and in need of more cucumber and herbs, was thick, strained Greek yogurt. They also use plenty of lettuce, tomato and red onion to dress their gyros.
Zorba's Greek Cafe This was my least favorite gyro. The sandwich was dry and uninspired, though the paper bag it came in was ... cute, I guess. Still, the differences were subtle. If I were stuck in Plano and needed a gyro, I would eat this again.
Stratos Greek Taverna This gyro is without a doubt the most pornographic of the bunch. After the kitchen slices meat from the cone, that meat spends some time in a sauté pan. The resultant slices are oily and laden with garlic. If you're a glutton you can order your sandwich with double meat. Nick Rallo did, and then he wished he hadn't. I found him weeping softly in the parking lot after I paid the bill.
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This is not a gyro for daily eating, but if I were to have a last gyro, or I wanted to eat a gyro that would suppress gyro cravings for months at a time, this would be it. The tzatziki is loaded with cucumber, the tomatoes and onions are finely diced, and the buttery sandwich comes out so hot you have to wait to pick it up.
All of these sandwiches are fine, but I think one constructed from a freshly grilled chicken kebob would ultimately be more satisfying. Sadly, the processed chicken cone is just as prevalent here in Dallas. I'll save a kebab breakdown for another post. For now, I'm gyroed out.