Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Groovy Gyros

One of the best things about living in DC, is its rich and diverse culinary scene: You can literally find any type of food, pretty much anytime (with the irksome exception of late night.) Mediterranean food, my favorite and perhaps healthiest, has its fair share of choices (both in food and locations.) We decided to test the Mediterranean staple... the beloved gyro, and came away with the following recommendations (and warnings.)

Astor Mediterranean
: Perhaps Adams Morgan's favorite spot for gyros, Astor certainly doesn't cut corners when it comes to quantity. You get a lot of seasoned lamb for $6.50, although the seasoning leaves something to be desired. So far, Fresh Med is the only place that understands flavor profiles (at least when it comes to gyro meat.) The 1829 Columbia Road, NW space is a bit of a dump (their new Arlington digs are much nicer) but they get you in and out quickly. They're also open until 10:30 Monday-Saturday, which almost qualifies as late night in DC.

Grade: B-

Astor Mediterranean's Gyro Sandwich

Booeymonger: Normally reliable Booey's drops the ball with their mistranslation of a gyro. For starters, it's a chicken gyro (fine by me) but the meat looks like it came straight out of a can (tastes that way too.) It's also not wrapped in the pita, but laid out between two pieces... like a sandwich. This results in chicken and yogurt sauce literally pouring out the sides and ends. Couple that with overdone potato wedges, and you have a $7.95 disaster.

Grade: D-

Booeymonger's Chicken Gyro

Café Romeo’s: You get plenty of bang for your buck at Café Romeo’s, home to perhaps the best pita deal in the area. $6.50 nets you a well-filled Lamb Gyro with a veggie salad and Mediterranean potatoes. Their gyro meat is tasty and well-cooked, but a little short on zip (a problem I've found with most gyro joints in and around DC.) The salad and potato wedges are a nice touch; but I wish they'd swap out their doughy pita for something more generic. Good value bumps Romeo's past Greek Deli and Catering for second best in town.

Grade: B

Lamb Gyro at Café Romeo’s

Fresh Med: Where's the Beef? Look no further than Cleveland Park's Fresh Med, whose beef & lamb gyros are literally stuffed with meat. Not only will they make it any way you want; but they'll only charge you $6.45 for it ($8.99 for the all-day special with fries and a soda.) Customer service is without equal, and the restaurant is clean & spacious. Most importantly, the gyro meat bursts with flavor. Best gyro sandwich in town.

Grade: B+

Fresh Med's Gyro Special

Greek Deli and Catering: It would be easy to overlook Kostas Fostieris' tiny Dupont Circle eatery at 1120 19th Street, NW, were it not for the long, long lunch lines that stretch around neighboring Nooshi every Monday-Friday. Walk inside, and you surrounded by Greece... and a wall filled with "Best of" mentions from the Washington Post, Washingtonian and others.

I see more than five people lining up for anything, and I run for zee hills; but stop by just before closing time (4:00 PM) and you'll likely have the whole place to yourself. Thankfully the recipe doesn't change no matter what time you pop in. Portions are huge, and you can sense a level of pride from each and every employee inside. I love the doughy pita, and the gyro meat is tasty (though not as zesty as current frontrunner Fresh Med.) A sandwich alone runs 9 bucks with tax, so it's hard to go higher than a B... even if all of DC disagrees with me. BTW, this place doesn't just do gyros: Their Athenian Baked Pastitsio and Greek Meatballs are killer too. Quite possibly, the best Greek deli in DC, MD & VA.

Grade: B

Greek Deli Gyro

Moby Dick House of Kabob
: I had a guy stop by my shop once, more than three miles from the closest Moby Dick. I wound up giving him directions to their Dupont Circle restaurant at 1300 Connecticut Ave. NW (technically around the corner on N St.) because he refused to eat anywhere else: Talk about a recommendation! Personally, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Sure, you get a mountainous sandwich cut in half for $6.29; but it doesn't look or taste like a gyro. For starters, the house pita is awful. It's hard, and cracks when wrapped. The gyro meat is unseasoned, and you don't get enough to balance out all that bread. I appreciate having yogurt sauce on the side, but it's not enough to overlook an otherwise disappointing sandwich. P.S. Don't get sucked into buying their $3.75 sliver of Bamiyeh... It's bad too.

Grade: D-

Moby's Gyro