by Steven Doyle
What is there not to love about the Greeks? They brought us the Olympics and ouzo.
And do not forget the flaming cheese called the saganaki, which sounds more like a Japanese shooter than the table-side flambeed haloumi. This little appetizer is always festive and gives us a reason to shout “Opa!” at the top of our lungs as it’s set ablaze then doused with lemon juice.
The Greeks also brought us the gyro, which is sliced meat nestled warmly on a round of pita, dotted with tomato and onion and served with a side of tzatziki sauce, the cool cucumber and yogurt concoction.
The dish is similar to Turkish doner kabobs or the more familiar Middle Eastern shawarma, both a fresh-grilled meat pita wrap. But the more modern American version is sliced from a cone that is warmed on a vertical spit much like a trompo taco. Although there are several companies making the cones of beef and lamb, one of the largest is Kronos, which produces enough of these industrial-sized cones to make more than 600,000 sandwiches per day. All the companies that make these cones are based in Chicago.
Locally, Stratos Greek Taverna is run by Nick Rizos, a colorful restaurateur who made his way to America after working as a crewman for Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping magnate. Finally landing in Dallas, Rizos worked for local clubs and restaurants, making a name for himself in the community as one of our more consummate hosts, and eventually opened Olympic Pizza on Greenville Avenue. Nick claims he brought the gyro to Dallas at Olympic Pizza.
Max’s Greek Burger
When Stratos opened on Northwest Highway just west of Bachman Lake, he perfected his recipe and added a half-dozen combinations of the sandwich to the menu.
The dimly lit restaurant has undergone some changes in recent years, adding a rooftop patio presumably for a better view and comfort from the colorful neighborhood that sits below.
I made my way to the ample bar the day I visited Stratos and quickly ordered my gyro, opting for a side salad instead of the customary fries. This decision cost me a buck more but was worthwhile. When the plate arrived I was amazed at the size of the platter. It held both my sandwich and the generous salad that was made up of onion, tomato, lettuce and a handful of feta crumbles. I was particularly hungry and chomped into my first bite of the gyro. It was warm, crisp and tangy. Stratos adds its thin tzatziki sauce directly to the sandwich.
The pita was warm with crisp edges, hinting that it had just come from the grill. The meat was tender and freshly sliced from the cone, and the vegetation was crisp and cool. All in all a perfectly wonderful sandwich, and definitely Crave Eat Me worthy.