Gyros and Fast Food in Greece

The Souvlaki and Gyros Menu

gyros and souvlaki dinnerMany small tavernas offer a very limited menu of souvlaki, french fries, salad, pita bread, and tzatziki. The prices are usually low and the atmosphere and service is genuine and authentic.
Traditional Greek "Fast Food" includes the "souvlaki" and the "gyro". Two terms that are interchangeable and can refer to two different things depending on the town, restaurant, or waiter!

Traditionally, souvlaki refers to shiskebab (pieces of pork grilled on a stick) but many times it refers to gyros (the assortment of minced meat, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki, wrapped in pita bread). So you run the risk when ordering a souvlaki (the shiskebab) to find that you really ordered a Gyros sandwich and vice versa. To make matters even more confusing, you can order a Gyro sandwich with a souvlaki, gyro meat, or chicken!
Often times the souvlaki is referred to as "kalamaki" which means "stick", and the Gyros sandwich is simply called a "pita".
I usually order a "kalamaki" when I want a sishkebab, and a "pita" when I want a Gyros Sandwich.

The gyros sandwich is a very versatile food. Depending on the restaurant it usually has a few standard ingredients: meat, tomatoes, onions, pita, tzatziki, and a great deal of spices (salt, black and red pepper). Many times these ingredients are supplemented with french fries, and ketchup or even mustard! You can customize your own Gyros sandwich at the time you order by specifying whether you want any of the above omitted, or by adding anything else that might enhance the taste. You can even order your Gyros wrapped in double pita bread. My sister who is not a big meat eater often orders her gyros without meat. So in essence she is eating a vegetarian gyros.

The meat that goes in the Gyros sandwich consists of several choices. The traditional "Gyros" meat that gives the name to the food consists of minced pork slowly roasted by turning around on a vertical spit (gyros in Greek means "something that goes around"). You may also have your sandwich made with the "souvlaki" meat (without the stick of course) which is made of grilled pork cubes. In this case you would order your gyro sanwich "me kalamaki". There is also a third choice of meat called the "bifteki". It is a sort of burger made of a variety of minced meats and grilled around a stick like the "souvlaki". For those who favor white meat, many restaurants offer their gyros sandwich with chicken.

Usually the gyros sandwich comes wrapped in a piece of paper and napkin to be eaten without utensils, but you can opt for a "merida" which is the same food served open on a plate with a few extra (or more) ingredients. A "merida" of gyros contains almost double the food than a gyro sandwich, and is considerably more expensive than the sandwich so make sure you order the right thing.

Tavernas that offer gyros and souvlaki are inexpensive and offer the food as a take-out option something most Greeks take advantage off. They also have seating that varies from a bar stool to a full set of outdoor tables. During our travels we always find a nice souvlaki place in a central square or by the waterfront. The food is good, the atmosphere genuine, and the price is always right.

Fast Food in Greece

"Goodies" is by far the largest fast food chain in Greece and you will find a Goodies and you don't have to try too hard to also find the typical western fast food restaurants everywhere in Greece. Mc Donalds and KFC have restaurants in every large town in Greece.The menus of the Greek Mc Donald's and KFC are vastly different from their American counterparts and you can order beer with your meal. The menus usually include local delicacies (such as octopus and squid) and full dishes of pasta. Since the service and food are vastly expanded the prices of these fast food restaurants are high as well.

Greek fast food includes a variety of pies and food that can be eaten on the run. There are many small stores specializing in selling fresh individual-size cheese pies, spinach pies, and "bougatsa". They are inexpensive (about 1.40 €). There are so many people eating them, it seems as if cheese pies are the favorite fast food in Greece. Greeks usually eat them between meals, but they are rich enough to be substitute lunch and they certainly make a good breakfast. Popular chains bake their cheesepies constantly up to the late afternoon hours, but most get their supplies in the morning so you run the risk of getting a stale one after 1:00 o'clock.

The "Toast"

For a different kind of fast food (and less expensive) you can visit the local "tostadiko". They are usually small establishments that offer "tost" (or toast) in a variety of customized ways. You can make up your own toasted sandwich on the spot.

The term "toast" in Greece refers to what is known in the USA as a grilled sandwich. Greeks have a habit of eating fresh baked bread with every meal, and square pieces of bread that have been sitting at the super market shelf for some time are not very popular.

If you order a "toast" you will most likely get a grilled cheese sandwich often with ham (even at 8:00 AM), and specifying that you only want the bread toasted with nothing inside might win you a few curious looks. If you wish to spread marmalade on something tasty opt for fresh baked bread of which you can find plenty of in Greece.

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