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History of The Gyro

Updated on May 5, 2016

Gyro Origins

While there is no definitive known beginning of the gyro and where it came from, there are a few beliefs of its origin, all of them hailing from Greece. Greek historians believe that the gyro goes back to the times of Alexander the Great. His soldiers would use their swords to skewer the meat and rotate it over an open flame to cook it.

But Gyros as we know today began in 1922 when Greek and Armenian refugees migrated to Asia-Minor (Turkey) and brought gyros along with them. Most of them were merchants who opened up little shops and began selling gyros on the street corner. After WWII, gyros began to travel wherever Greeks immigrated. It became Americanized in 1965 in Chicago at Parkview Restaurant and made it big in New York in the early 1970’s. Gyros really made their mark in the United States when George Apostolou opened up the first gyro plant in 1974.


How Do You Say It?

The name gyro comes from the Modern Greek term “guros” which means ‘turning’. Gyro is also short for gyroscope, which is a mounted wheel device that spins, like how the lamb or beef that is used for a gyro rotates while it is being cooked. While there is no question on how gyro inherited its name, there are many different pronunciations for this delicious sandwich. “Jai-roh” is probably the most common pronunciation that you would hear on Long Island, but that does not mean that it is necessarily the correct way. A few other pronunciations you may hear are “gee-roh” or “eu-roh”, but if you want to sound like a native of Greece while talking about gyros, then the correct pronunciation is “yee-roh.”

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What's In A Gyro?

Gyros are typically made with seasoned lamb meat or beef, but can also be made with chicken or pork, that is put inside of a pita or flatbread. This would then be topped with diced vegetables and as well as the signature tzatziki sauce. The tzatziki sauce is made up of strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, pepper and sometimes even dill.

Similar Dishes To Gyro

Gyros are not the only wrapped sandwich to come out of Europe. Their neighbor Turkey also began making Doner Kebab’s dating back to the 18th century Ottoman Empire. The word “doner” is Turkish for ‘turning itself’ and the word “kebab” means grilled meat, which is very fitting because that is exactly how the meat is cooked! The meat is cooked the same way as a gyro, making the two delicacies incredibly similar. Another culinary delight that is similar to gyro hails from the Middle East and is called Shawarma. Shawarma is an Arabic rendering of the Turkish word çevirme, which means ‘turning’, referencing the way the meat, whether its lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, or even veal is cooked. Similar to the gyro, the meat is then wrapped in a pita and topped with all different condiments such as tahini and hummus.


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