By Merle Exit
Each time my friends and I have passed Gyro Grill in Rego Park, the eatery always appeared to be busy and buzzing.
The restaurant, located at 63-02 Woodhaven Blvd., is more of a take-out establishment, offering Greek cuisine.
There is seating for 24 along the window area and two sections of the long food area. One section is designed for the grilling and gyro rotisseries, while the other has steam tables. My friend and I were lucky to get one of only a few unoccupied tables.
Gyros, a staple of Greek cuisine, are prepared here with either chicken or a combination of lamb and beef. Slices of the seasoned, raw meat are placed upon a thick skewer, which is on a vertical rotisserie. The lamb and beef has meat layered in an alternative manner to get the best flavor of the combination. Usually a slab of fat is placed on the top in order to give moisture as it cooks. The process involves making sure that there are no gaps in this cone-shaped meal.
Slices of the cooked meat are then plated, with the outside pieces the most well done and the gyro continuing to revolve and cook. Gyros are usually served in a sandwich consisting of pita bread, onions, and tomatoes, accompanied by tzatziki sauce made of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic and herbs.
Souvlaki, on the other hand, is a combination of small chunks of seasoned meat — either chicken or pork — placed on a wooden skewer and grilled. Bifteki is seasoned ground beef rolled and grilled. Sort of like a hamburger with seasoning.
There is no table service. You hop up to the counter, make your choices and either bring it to a table or get it to go.
We ordered the gyro platter, which came a pound of meat and different options on the side, one of which was grilled vegetables consisting of mushrooms, yellow and green squash and sweet peppers. Other alternatives included lemon potatoes. A second item of salad came with the meal, which I opted to try. The small Greek salad consisted of stuffed grape leaves, whole olives, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, red peppers, sliced red onions and romaine lettuce.
Not only was the meat perfectly seasoned, there is certainly a generous enough portion for at least two people. It does come with one piece of pita bread but for the extra buck you can have a total lunch for two with leftovers.
Two other items featured at the eatery are moussaka and pastichio.
Moussaka is kind of like having a ground beef and eggplant parmesan. Sliced potatoes line the bottom of the baking dish that absorb a good amount of the flavor. Gyro Grill uses both eggplant and green squash. The vegetables are sautéed, placed on top of the potatoes and then a layer of the meat sauce caps the whole thing off. A béchamel sauce is layered on the top of this and then the entire entree is baked. Parmesan cheese is often added to the dish, and in my case, it was.
Pastichio resembles something more like lasagna, where ground beef tops the pasta and béchamel sauce is layered on the top and baked. Rather than lasagna noodles, penne or ziti is used. There are seasonings added to both the moussaka and pastichio that give the dishes an authentic Greek flavor. My friend and I decided to try the Pastichio and we were both totally impressed.
There were two other menu items that I wanted to sample. Greek cuisine is noted for a soup called avgolemono, a Greek lemon chicken soup. Chunks of chicken, orzo and carrots are added to the soup, along with a bit of lemon juice. It had a nice taste and wasn’t overwhelmed with lemon.
Then there was the spanakopita, a spinach pie made with eggs and feta cheese, using that great flaky phyllo dough. What a great breakfast or brunch idea for me — or Popeye the Sailor.
For those of you who are vegetarians, Gyro Grill offers falafel, basically made from ground chickpeas and spices such as garlic, parsley, scallions and lemon, then rolled into a ball and deep fried. They are served with pita bread and either tahini dressing or tzatziki. Tahini dressing is a paste made from ground sesame seed while hummus is a combination of both tahini and chick peas.
There was just no room to even sample dessert, which is, you guessed it, baklava.
Gyro Grill is a family affair, as the owner runs the eatery, while the owner’s in-laws man the grill. The couple — who have Greek heritage — comes in early to prepare the gyros and food in the steam tables.
Prices are quite affordable. Expect to pay around $9 for a sandwich and $14 for a platter. A side of gyro meat can be purchased for $5.
Having been to Greece and some fine dining Greek restaurants in the states, I highly recommend Gryo Grill both for its authenticity and the freshness of the food. You may never go back to Italian lasagna after trying the pastichio.
Gyro Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from Mondays to Saturdays and from 12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays. Visit www.gyrogrill.com for more information.