The name may be generic, but the food is handmade.
By all appearances, Lake City Gyro belongs in the food court of a mall. Sandwiched between a generic pizza place and (another) teriyaki joint at 12336 Lake City Way N.E., the grill and assembly counter that fill most of the space inside conjure images of precooked Quarter-Pounders.
But that's where the similarities to a fast-food chain end, and owner Malek Sarhiny would never consider tainting his grill with anything frozen or premade. "We make everything here from scratch; it takes a little more time but usually people don't mind waiting," says Sarhiny, who also imports many of the spices used from his home country of Lebanon, where he says they are fresher.
It may go without saying that the $7.99 namesake gyros are the most popular item. Ample amounts of tender lamb and beef are cut and grilled with onions to order, then wrapped in thick, warm pitas with crisp lettuce and topped with tahini sauce. The succulent morsels of meat fall apart as you bite into them, every bit infused with savory spices.
The seductive gyros may entice unwavering loyalty, but allow your eyes to wander to some of the lesser-known menu items and you'll be rewarded. Besides the well-known falafel and shish kabobs, Sarhiny recently started making fried kibbeh, a small football-shaped bulgar patty stuffed with beef, for the month of Ramadan.
"We're only making them this month because they each take five to seven minutes to make, since you have to stuff and shape each one by hand," explains Sarhiny.
The texture of the kibbeh is similar to falafel, and both the nutty bulgar outside and meat inside are delicately seasoned with Sarhiny's imported spices (allspice). The kibbeh are served with refreshing yogurt sauce, similar to tzatziki, for dipping. Bite-sized samosas filled with a nibble of spicy lentils are also currently available.
An entire tub of tangy, smoky, homemade baba ghanoush is $4.99, a steal compared to many grocery-store prices. It even comes with pita.
Top things off with the $1.50 baklava--triangles of puff pastry, buttery and flaky on top, layered with coarsely chopped nuts, and soaked with golden honey on the bottom--and you'll be salivating for weeks.