In honor of the 49th Annual Original Greek Festival (which kicked off yesterday and continues through Sunday), I made it my mission to explore the in’s and out’s of Greek gyro culture in Houston.
The gyro sandwich is a version of Greek street food, as banh mi sandwiches are to Vietnam and gorditas are to Mexico. The gyro is a regional variation of the original Turkish doner, traditionally cooked on a vertical rotisserie, layered with slowly cooked lamb, beef or a combination of the two, served in a warm pita with tomatoes, onions and tzatziki (a strained yogurt sauce).
Below are four of the best Houston dive spots to grab an authentic Greek gyro, if you haven’t already had your fix at The Original Greek Fest this weekend. Opa!
AL’S QUICK STOP
2002 Waugh, 713-522-5170
Waltz into the convenience store located on the corner of Waugh Drive and Welch Street, and the last thing you would expect is to smell the thick aromas of garlic and onion. At Al’s, you can get your gyro two ways. The gyro plate is made with rotisserie beef on a bed of rice, accompanied by warm pita bread, hummus and mixed cucumber and tomato salad, while the gyro sandwich piles that same rotisserie beef high inside pita bread with onions and a side of thick tzatziki (which we could eat by the spoonful). If you’re feeling extra special, add an order of marinated feta to the top of your gyro plate.
1730 Jefferson, 713-739-0990, mythkafe.com
A difficult find tucked behind the CWA union hall on the east side of Downtown, this Greek sandwich was the most memorable out of the bunch. The gyro beef is unbelievably tender and rich, which is balanced by the acidity of their thick and herbaceous tzatiki. The pace of service here is traditional of Greek culture — a typical 30-minute lunch could easily turn into an hour (or two) feast.
2520 Montrose, 713-528-4976, nikonikos.com
This list would not be complete without this Houston staple. But sometimes waiting in that infamous line isn’t our idea of time well spent — no matter how hard the craving strikes for their delicious baklava. But place your order online and forgo that daunting line. You’ll get the evil eye from those waiting in line as you breeze past them to the to-go counter. We suggest you order a gyro with a side of oven-roasted potatoes, and your stomach will love you forever. Don’t forget the baklava.
EKKO’S GREEK AMERICAN DELI
5216 Richmond, 713-622-2625, ekkosdeli.com
You might be just as surprised as I was when you pull up to this Valero gas station on the corner of Chimney Rock and Richmond. Just know that some of the city’s best Greek sandwiches lie just behind that deli counter. The gyro sandwich is generously stuffed with seasoned lamb and fresh vegetables, and the gyro plate comes with all the same fixings found in the sandwich plus a side of fries.