Ok, before we get started on these monster, meat-loaded pita sandwiches, lets talk about three things:
- How to say “Gyro” When I see the word, I want to say “Jai-ro” but I force myself to say “Year-o.” I researched the correct pronunciation and there is not an absolute consensus, but the majority of authorities seem to agree that it is pronounced like “Hee-ro” but with a very soft “g” sound in front, so “gheero”, I guess. See, e.g. http://www.chowhound.com/post/pronounce-gyro-443408. Actually, Greeks do not use the singular “gyro,” that’s an American thing.
- What kind of meat is this? Gyro meat is made like a meatloaf, using different meats and spices. Most, if not all, of the places that serve gyros, buy their gyro cones (the meat cylinder placed on the vertical spit) from Kronos Foods, which manufactures the meat cylinders just across the border in Illinois. Kronos gyrokones are made with a combination of beef and lamb. (Amazon has 20 lb Kronos Gyrokones for $75) http://kronosfoodsinc.com/products-and-brands/food-service-products/meats/authentic-gyrokones/
3.What about that sauce? The yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon sauce is called Tzatziki (pronounced Zaa-Zee-Kee according to the Kronos website) By the end of this Take Three I convinced myself that gyros were diet food because of the abundance of meat and the low fat yogurt sauce. Seriously, gyros (sans pita) must be A-OK on low-carb diets.
On to the gyropalooza. Our page members overloaded us with suggestions with places to try; as usual we chose three of your suggestions. We liked all three places, but the meat wasn’t really different or a deciding factor. It came down to the sauce.
Coming in at number three:
Oakland Gyros, 530 W. Layton Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (No website)
Oakland Gyros has two locations – one on the North side of Milwaukee, the other near the airport. From what I can tell, it is Milwaukee’s go-to place for gyros. When you order one of their platters –no joke– a skinny family of four would be fine ordering just one platter.
We ordered the Gyro platter for $8.99. With the platter, Oakland offers a choice of French Fries, Rice or Greek Salad, but they will let you do halfsies. So you can get half rice, half salad etc for the same price. Further, I was told by the knowledgeable order taker that you can also split the type of meat (1/2 gyros, 1/2 chicken). End result, a huge amount of tasty food for $8.99; there is no comparison.
We chose the rice as our side which was topped with a sort of tomato-based gravy. Very good. Loved the huge chunk of feta and the kalamata olives on the side as well.
Unlike the other two places we visited, Oakland puts the tzatziki sauce on the side, which is what I am accustomed to. Actually when you eat-in, they give you an entire ketchup squirt bottle full of the stuff.
The onions were slightly thicker than I like and off season tomatoes are off season tomatoes — not ideal. The meat was tender and the pita on the bottom was soft and pliable. The only place that this gyro fell off slightly for me was the tzatziki sauce. It was just not as flavorful as the other places. I saw no spices or chunks and tasted only a very slight garlic flavor.
That being said, if I were going out for a gyros platter, Oakland would probably be my first choice simply because they offer a variety of sides and not just fries.
Coming in at number two:
Tino’s Carry Out, 1100 Washington Avenue, Racine, Wisconsin. (No website)
Tino’s has two locations in Racine, we only tried the one on Washington avenue. This is truly a carry-out only place with a drive-through pick up window, however, there is some outdoor seating. There is something like a Tino’s on every major corner in Chicago.
Whenever you order a sandwich or a gyro at Tino’s, it automatically comes with fries and a can soda. We ordered the original gyro and got a can soda with fries for $6.45 — a bargain.
As with all the other places, the gyro was HUGE. The tzatziki, or cucumber sauce as Tino’s calls it, was automatically added — not on the side. The meat was tender and the pita was soft. The onions were thinly sliced which I appreciated. The sauce was unexpectedly sweet tasting but at least it had flavor — I still wanted more garlic in the sauce. For an extra fifty cents you can buy an additional side of the cucumber sauce.
Coming in at number one:
Gus’s Gyros, 2100 Douglas Avenue, Racine, Wisconsin. www.greasybag.com
Gus’s is newer to Racine and is connected to a BP Gas station.
The interior is cute, 1950’s decor with many tables for seating.
We ordered the 1978 Gyros “The Original” for $6.25. Unlike Tino’s, this price is the Gyros only — fries and drink are additional.
Gyros at Gus’s are served almost like a wrap with the tomatoes, onions and sauce rolled up with the meat and the pita.
The meat was tender like all the other locations, the onions were a little thick cut for my taste, but Gus’s sauce was tops. You could see dried herbs right in the sauce and taste a healthy amount of garlic. Get an extra cup of sauce for fifty cents (although it wasn’t really necessary).
In summary, because we were solely judging gyros and not sides, Gus’s is tops because of the sauce. If you are looking for a cheap full meal deal, head to Tino’s. If you want a load of food (enough for two) with a variety of sides take the short trip to Oakland Gyros in Milwaukee.