gfr1111 Jun 23, 2010 04:09 AM
In Chicago, the Greek establishment, the Parthenon Restaurant, on Halsted Street used to carry on its menu an explanation of the origin of the gyro, which I believe was also confirmed in an article (circa the 1970s) in "Chicago Magazine". Bill and Chris Liakuros, the owners of the Parthenon, remembered the super crispy, ultra-thin grilled meat (probably lamb) from their youth and wanted to duplicate it. The goal was to obtain as much "char" as possible.
They decided to take lamb scraps, pork scraps, and maybe beef scraps (I can't remember) with various Greek spices and mold them onto a spit. They then rotated the spit vertically and played a gas flame over the surface of the five foot long, round, molded meat. The meat quickly charred on the outside and could be carved off the edge of the rotating meat with a sharp knife. The thickness of the meat was about a quarter of an inch.
Then they laid the inch to two inch wide and about three to six inches long meat carvings (remember, about on quarter inch thick), sizzling hot, on a bed of thinly sliced raw onions.
Gyros became so popular that they founded a separate company to sell the equipment and the molded rolls of meat to restaurants throughout the country.
(Unfortunately, as is so often the case, restaurateurs throughout the country bastardized the process so that in many places what you get is something with no char, heated in a microwave oven, and bearing a disappointing resemblance to pieces of meat loaf with with some Greek spices. The raw onions disappeared also and people started stuffing the meatloaf-like meat, carved way too thick, into thick pita bread and topping it with tzaziki (cucumber and yogurt) sauce. It's not bad, but it doesn't hold a candle to the properly made original.)
So, to answer your question, my understanding is that the gyro is a Chicago invention, created by two Greek-American restaurant owners. The Turks had nothing to do with it, but then, neither did the Greeks.
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