Sometimes even the best and brightest among us have to eat a big ol’ slice of humble pie. This occurred the first time I ever considered eating at Papa Gyro’s in Huntsville (GOOGLE MAP LINK). Greek was one of the few genres of food I’d yet to try & quite frankly I was a little scared of it. The only thing I knew about gyro’s came from an episode of Seinfeld. The ingredients, flavor and hype associated with them had alluded me up to this point. And as I told friends & colleagues of my recent endeavours in this Mediterranean table fare it was if I was the only one who hadn’t frequented Papa Gyro’s and/or had grown up eating these greek dishes. It was if I had stumbled upon some sort of secret society
The Brotherhood of the Gyro
Upon hearing my excitement about the newly discovered dish & eatery, my friends in the “gyro-know” met me with all the enthusiasm a pet owner gives a cat after being presented with a freshly killed bird . And by simply posting a picture of the spinning wheel of meat to Facebook I was flooded with a barrage of comments from those who couldn’t believe that I’d only just now had my first Papa Gyro’s experience.
Needless to say I felt about six inches tall. Here I am claiming to be the eyes and the ears of the local food scene and yet there are food genres that I can’t even speak to. Sadly, greek isn’t the only one either. It was at this point I simply had to throw myself upon the mercy of my peers and hope they’d still trust my opinion or at least click on some sponsored links once the sun came up the next day. I even debated scrapping this whole article because it seemed I’d be the only one it’d serve.
Then I thought of all of those poor souls who, like me, had never tried a gyro. I’m writing this for them! If I can bring the magic that is Papa Gyro’s and their gyros to one lost soul all the ridicule and shame will be worth it!
What is a Gryo & Why Do I Care?
There’s a few things those outside of the “gyro-know” will want to know before they even consider trying one. These are the questions I had before my first time & I’m willing to bet you’ve got similar ones.
#1: What in the heck is a gyro? A gyro is usually a hand-held dish wrapped in pita bread. Picture a really big overloaded taco, subtract the Mexican food & add Greek toppings. The ones at Papa Gyro’s are exactly that. The meat, cooked on a spit (spinning wheel of meat, see above) ranges from lamb, beef and chicken. The toppings can be anything from diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce.
#2: Should I try one? This question couldn’t be simpler, if there’s a food you’ve never tried I believe you shouldn’t waste any time stuffing it into your face at least once. This is especially true when it comes to the gyro, there’s a reason it’s a world-wide favorite. There’s also a reason that after I finished the first one I knocked down three old ladies and a puppy to order the second.
#3: What are the chances I’ll even like it? Among the foods that I’m sure everyone has tried in their life, there aren’t too many that compare directly with the flavors in your garden variety gyro. However a few that let you know you’re probably on the right track include pizza, cheese steaks, tacos/taco salad, burritos and some Italian cuisine.
Now that your gyro crash course is over, we’ll move on to my first gyro experience.
The Gyros at Papa Gyro’s
I’m sure you noticed the title: “Papa Gyro’s & the Gyros at Papa Gyro’s”. It’s named this because the only thing I’ve had at Papa Gyro’s is the gyro & a side of their potato wedges (which are also pretty daggum good). And while this is a full review of the restaurant, the quality of the rest of the menu remains a complete mystery to me. Some might consider it bad journalism to post about an entire establishment without trying a good core sample of their dishes and this is true for most restaurants. But when it comes to Papa Gyro’s, it may be years before I get passed the “Number 1″ aka the Classic Gyro.
The Classic Gyro was one of the few things I’ve eaten in my life that had me instantly hooked. The chunks of lamb & beef are freshly cut from the spit, laid on a thick piece of pita bread, topped with a heaping portion of feta cheese, lettuce, tomato, scallions and tzatziki sauce. Please don’t go into this endeavor thinking you’re gonna wrap this pita bread around this pile of grindings & fold it up like a burrito. The laws of physics are working against you in this situation. In fact for you to finish this meal you’ll need to reassemble the gyro several times as a few ingredients always jump ship after each bite.
Now here’s where y’all start waving your arms, throwing rotten fruit and screaming: “Wait, wait, wait Bobby D.! You can’t just introduce a new sauce and leave it at that!”
You couldn’t be more correct. And If you’d just been patient, I would have had time to explain that this tzatziki sauce deserves more than a sentence in a paragraph. I described it as “souped up ranch dressing” the first time i tried it. It’s a very simple mixture of yogurt, dill, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. The consistency is that of very thick sour creme. And while they use it as a topping on the gyro and a lot of their other dishes, it performs just as admirably as a dipping sauce for the potato wedges or any other side. I also recommend adding a little more to a few gyro bites as you progress.
So you get the point? The gyros here are mighty tasty to say the least. What’s got my curiosdity for this dish sparked now is hearing my friends & colleagues say that on a world scale these are middle of the road caliber gyros. I guess I better purchase my plane ticket to the Meditteranean ASAP and find out for myself!
Papa Gyro’s The Restaurant
I’d been to the area surrounding Papa Gyro’s hundreds of times in my life which is why I’m still a little amazed I’d never stopped in before now. It’s a smaller restaurant with only a dozen or so tables & I hear it gets pretty jammed up during the lunch rush. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as Papa Gyro’s is expanding as we speak and will probably be about double the size when it’s all said and done.
Your order is taken at the counter and the menu is posted above the cashier’s head like you’d find at any “fill-in-the-blank” fast food place. Even though I’ll have grand kids before I can’t speak personally on the subject ,there is a little of bit or a range to their menu. They offer items from veggie burgers, falafel plates, soups & salads and even cheeseburgers for the faint of heart. There was also mentioned of “cheesesteak coming soon”, perhaps it’ll be the gateway to the rest of their selection.
Depending on the amount of people in line ahead of you, it can take any where from 5-10 minutes for your food to come up. Any faster and I’d question the freshness, so I was very cool with that wait time. Some may see this short wait period as a time to find a table and fill your drinks & secure some condiments. As for me, I spent it being mesmerized by the “spinning wheel of meat”!
Wrap it up
I hope those of you who weren’t in the “gyro-know” before this post now have the courage to stop by and give em’ a shot. As for the world travelers who have a gyro tattooed on their chest and don’t need any advice from a southerner with a blog, go get one anyway! They’re freakin’ delicious!
I hope y’all enjoy it & GO EAT!