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Mr. Gyros > Greek diner earns customer loyalty February 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.

The Jovaras family has been serving Greek food, such as the gyro sandwich and small Greek salad, at Mr. Gyros since 1982.

It was a late-night confession, whispered in a smoky bar, his voice husky from the glass of wine in one hand, a smoldering cigarette in the other. I didn’t say a word, just listened as this noted local foodie secretly, guiltily, spoke of the food he ate at Mr. Gyros. He loved their food, he said, and stopped in whenever his work took him to southern Johnson County.

Mr. Gyros (pronounced “YEE-roh-s” in Greek) is a family-run restaurant owned by Ted and Soula Jovaras and their son, Chris, and his wife, DeeDee. At Mr. Gyros, homemade Greek fare draws a loyal clientele. Even though it was after 1 p.m., the parking lot was full, and a line of diners was waiting to place orders. Color photos of some dishes headlined the menu board.

Through the pass-through window into the kitchen, I spied five spits of meat, one chicken and four beef and lamb blend each shaped like a cyclone and slowly twirling on its axis. A pastry case held rows and rows of shiny, layered sweets, many made with delicate sheets of phyllo dough. I recognized the baklava and pecan blossoms. The others were exotic and hard to pronounce: galaktoboureko (custard baked and layered in strudel), flogeres (phyllo dough stuffed with nuts and honey) and kourabiedes (buttery cookies).

I ordered the daily lunch special: a gyro sandwich with a small Greek salad. By definition, a gyro is made of spiced, minced lamb, shaved off a spit, and piled onto a grilled pita with onions and tzatziki. But, bowing to American tastes, Mr. Gyros serves several variations, including chicken, KC Strip and vegetarian.

I wanted authenticity, though, and ordered the standard version. Ribbons of almost paper-thin meat were laid accordion-style on warm pita bread like old-fashioned, hard Christmas candy. Ringlets of white onion and slices of tomato were tucked into the sandwich. A tiny paper cup of tzatziki was part of the meal deal.

The tzatziki was as thick as good-quality sour cream, flecked with dill and chunky with tiny cucumber and garlic bits. I smeared the sauce, rich and robust in flavor, all over the meat, which was terrific, with slightly crunchy edges and the dusky, sweet taste of good lamb.

The salad, a mix of several kinds of lettuce, cucumber slices, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, Greek olives and feta cheese, was dressed with a house-made herbed vinaigrette. The dry feta was crumbled into tiny flecks and nuggets, and the cucumbers were as crunchy as potato chips.

I took home a side of moussaka, an earthy eggplant and ground beef casserole richly seasoned with nutmeg and topped with a traditional creamy béchamel topping that had the consistency of mashed potatoes. I also took my sweets to go, including the baklava, galaktoboureko and flogeres. The desserts are made by Soula using recipes from her family.

After my visit, Chris Jovaras explained his family got into the restaurant business in 1968, serving American-style food. In 1982 they opened Mr. Gyros. They spent 14 years in a building across the street from their present location. In 1996, they moved to their current location. In a few weeks, the family will be opening a second Mr. Gyros at 135th and Antioch. Although it will be slightly bigger, with 125 seats, the food and the hours will be the same.

Mr. Gyros Greek Food and Pastry: 8234 Metcalf, (913) 381-4218. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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