This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

It's a mighty gyro they spin at GYRO KING: lamb and beef compressed into a hexagonal slab, twirled slowly on a spit so the meats meld into one another. When you order a gyro sandwich, a cook shaves lengths from this dense mass and lays them inside toasted pita bread alongside lettuce, tomatoes, onion and crumbles of feta cheese. Although the veggies are crispy, the feta salty and the requisite dash of tzatziki sauce creamy, the gyro's flavor remains bold: slightly spiced, soft but firm like licorice, with a dab of grease glistening on the dark skin that lends a fatty-sweet delight.

George and Anna Ekizian know the art of the gyro. They've operated Gyro King from humble Irvine spots for the past 20 years. In October, the couple opened a second location in the Back Bay area of Newport Beach. This is not a dine-in place, as evidenced by the “20 minutes only” warning sign painted on Gyro King's allotted parking spaces. But business already hums with bros and corporate suits rolling a Mercedes-Benz fresh off the lot of the nearby Fletcher Jones.

The Gyro King menu is simplicity at its most appetizing, consisting of five basic meals. Falafels here differ from their Arab and Israeli cousins—they're drier, crunchier, sweeter and twice as big. The moussaka, a thick and earthy eggplant casserole, is superb, but I prefer the spanakopita, a bitter spinach pie bloated with cheese. I already sang the praises of the gyro sandwich, but even tastier are the other meats. The grilled chicken is naturally succulent on the inside, with a charred skin that assumes qualities I've never quite tasted in the bird before, a sort of candied smokiness. The Ekizians also grill lamb and beef kebabs; for $10, you can order all the Gyro King meats in the epic Athenian Combo, the finest meat deal not carved out at a Brazilian churrascaria. Seafood is also an option, in the form of grilled salmon and swordfish, but please don't order the latter, as delicious as it may be—the critters are endangered.

My only complaint about Gyro King is the hot sauces. Where there ought to be a bottle of the world-famous fotia of Greece, you'll find instead the Asian Sriracha and a bottle labeled “Hot Sauce” that tastes suspiciously similar to the Mexican mass-marketed salsa Cholula. But worry not, my friend: the herbed French fries soak them up good.

GYRO KING, 3601 JAMBOREE RD., STE. 4, NEWPORT BEACH, (949) 474-7300; 2626 DUPONT DR., IRVINE, (949) 752-4976.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *