We can’t blame you if you actually think that Arby’s invented gyros, especially if you aren’t familiar with Greek cuisine. Such a misconception comes from the fact that in 2014, it became the largest restaurant chain to offer this classic Mediterranean dish.
Such is its success that Arby’s now sells more than 27 million gyros every year, with the most popular being the Roast Beef and the Turkey variations. According to PriceListo, the average price is around $4.89 to $5.25, so it’s no wonder they’re flying out of the Arby’s drive-thru windows at a record pace.
Increasing Number of Choices
But Arby’s knows that even the most ardent fans of gyros will eventually tire of the same food after one too many orders. The chain then continues to add more choices, a few of which are for a limited time only, so customers won’t get bored.
There’s the Traditional Greek Gyro, a limited-time offering, which contains beef and lamb with Mediterranean spices placed on a warm flatbread with red onions, lettuce, and tomatoes. For the authentic Greek experience, it is topped with Greek seasoning and tzatziki sauce.
Of course, there will always be the Roast Beef Gyro, a delicious combo of thinly-sliced seasoned roast beef placed on a warm flatbread with the usual fixings. The Turkey version has the same fixings, too, but with roast turkey. Both are filling and flavorful, as well as savory, so it’s a matter of personal preference.
Greek Origins of the Gyro
As we previously mentioned, gyros originated from Greece, a country where many of our favorites also come from. These are made from meat roasted on a vertical rotisserie, usually lamb but it’s now also made of pork, chicken, and beef. The roasted meat is then either wrapped in pita, a type of flatbread, along with other ingredients like onions, tomato and tzatziki sauce.
It must be noted, nonetheless, that the concept of this meal started in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in Bursa, in the 19th century where stacked meat slices were grilled over a vertical spit. This was known as doner kebab, a dish that was then introduced to Greece by immigrants from Turkey and the Middle East. The Greeks then developed their own distinct version, a pork dish served with tzatziki sauce and called gyros.
Arby’s isn’t the first restaurant to offer gyros in the United States, far from it! In the 1970s, it was already one of the most popular fast-food items in New York City and Chicago; it was also popular in its home city, Athens.
There are also significant differences between gyros and shawarma. (Shawarma is of Middle Eastern origin, possibly from the Levant, although it’s a popular dish in Turkey)
The meat used in shawarma tends to be packed in and it can be meat from lamb, veal and even goat. Its emphasis is on the meat’s flavor, thanks to it being marinated all day in spices and seasonings like dried lime, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and garlic. It has a tangy, warm and complex flavor.
The meat used in gyros usually has a less complicated flavor since it isn’t marinated. Instead, most of the flavor comes from the variety of toppings as well as the addition of tzatziki sauce. (This sauce isn’t used in shawarma since it will come in the way of the marinated meat’s complex flavor) Both gyros and shawarma, however, have toppings – the latter has hummus, tabbouleh and tahini.
Tips on Eating Gyros
Of course, you can just dig in when gyros are placed before you! But there’s a certain etiquette in eating them and here are a few to remember.
- Note which part of the gyro is at its widest. Position the gyro with its widest end pointing upwards.
- Tear its covering, which can be paper and/or foil, in a spiral movement starting from its top part.
- Use several tissues in holding the bottom end firmly; the tissues are for preventing the leaks from getting into your fingers.
- Unwrap the rest of it as you eat your way downwards. In fact, you shouldn’t unwrap the entire gyro in a single go!
- While it may seem more sensible, eating it on a plate and using a fork isn’t the proper way to eat it. But there’s an exception to the rule: If you ordered a Merida, then you can eat it with a knife and fork since it’s a huge order.
- Try to bite into a gyro so that each bite means getting all the ingredients. You should have plenty of tissues to wipe away the leaks on your fingers and around your mouth.
- Plan your attack so that you don’t dribble tzatziki sauce and all the other ingredients on the table and on your clothes.
Gyros are all-in-one meals so no wonder these are popular dishes for people with an on-the-go lifestyle. Even schoolchildren and their parents like to have them for lunch because these are convenient to bring and share. So, the next time you’re hankering for a full meal, you may want to get to an Arby’s restaurant.