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Gyros - A Wonderful Mediterranean Food
This is one version of Tzatziki sauce
You can't go to Athens Greece without realizing very quickly what a big part of Greek cuisine gyros are. They are such a wonderful food, and I have never had any better than when I went to Greece last year. I had heard how great they were from some friends that lived there. We asked around for where to go to get a quick gyro. When we paid and were given our gyros, I was so hooked. It was a great meal, that tasted incredible.
When in Greece, its best to be clear to your waiter or waitress or the person behind the counter, that you mean gyro as in a pita type bread, and not the souvlaki that are char grilled meat on a stick. Souvlaki though, are incredibly tasty and are a "must try" as well in Greece. They are used interchangeably to some degree, so it depends on the person and the establishment.
There are many ingredients that can go into a gyro, so it's a rather versatile kind of food. The main ingredients you will find though, are meat, tomatoes, tzatziki, onions, and many spices to make it complete. Tzatziki, is a white tangy cucumber type dip, that can have garlic, or dill added, among other things. It is really good, and you can find different recipes for this. It really rounds out the gyro. My son didn't want the sauce on his though, and ordered it without and the gyros are still wonderful.
Gyros are considered a fast food in Greece, but I wanted to say that they do seem so healthy, that I don't think of it like fast food as I would in the U.S. They do often come with french fries, but those are excellent as well and worth the splurge. Some people have been known to omit the meat from gyros, say if they are vegetarian and they are still a great treat that way.
History of Gyros The history is perhaps traced back to ninth century Baghdad, where reference is made to a dish named judhaba was made that resembles that of gyros. There is not much mention of it from that time until it resurfaced again in Livadia sometime in the 1950's. This happens to be around the time the first souvlaki on a stick originated. It could have been around long before these dates however, yet just not recorded in a way that survived till now.
The Kind of Scene you will find in Greece where they serve Gyros
Meat in Gyros
You can generally choose from three different meats to go into your gyro. You can order it as a traditional gyro which comes with meat that is cut or shaved from these neat looking vertical "spits". This is where it gets its name actually, as gyro mean something that goes around in the Greek language.
You can order your gyro "souvlaki style" which is char grilled pork on a stick usually, but in this case it is in your gyro without the stick. The way to order that is to say "me kalamaki".
If you order your gyro as "bifteki", this means you will be ordering it with a variety of meats, which are grilled on a stick similar to the souvlaki. Many of the places we went to you could order chicken or pork.
They hand you your gyro wrapped in paper and napkins, ready to eat. I need to say that besides the vertical spits, I was very impressed to see these pita type breads that the gyro come in. This bread is like heaven, its simply unlike any pita I have ever had in the States. If you like, you can always order a gyro on a plate, and use utensils. They sometimes come with more food, but also are more expensive.
Depending on whether you get french fries or not, the gyro is considerably less fat than say pizza or hamburgers. Its healthy as it contains all the food groups. You are getting a variety of food, with a variety of nutrients. It is worth seeking out a good Greek restaurant, whether fine dining or fast food types, to try a good gyro if you have never had one. I would love to go again to Greece someday, and if I ever do, I want to go straight back to that little place where we got our very authentic gyros in Athens.