Falafel King (addresses above): Head and shoulders above the rest, Falafel King has really thought every aspect of the gyros through. The meat is carved off the GYROKONE for maximum moistness then grilled to seal in the flavor and add crispiness. The pita is swabbed with olive oil and grilled until it's fragrant and chewy; the tzatziki is lemony, tangy, full of fresh dill, and generously apportioned. Red-onion slices and the only ripe tomatoes I encountered perfected the sandwich. But then, to gild the lily, a little dollop of king sauce (a puree of cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeño peppers, and other secret ingredients) is placed atop the tzatziki. Like the candles on the birthday cake, it elevates the concept to a new plane. This is the Twin Cities' high-concept, top-performance, state-of-the-art supergyros ($4.95 for a sandwich; $5.95 for the king-sized sandwich, served with potatoes and an excellent lemony cucumber and tomato salad). Score: 9.2

Gardens of Salonica (19 Fifth St. N.E., Mpls., 378-0611): It seems unfair to judge this Northeast Greek gourmet spot on its least characteristic dish--this is more a spot for roast lamb followed by a dessert of poached pears in pomegranate syrup with ricotta cream--but they make a good show of it: The pita is perfectly grilled, the meat hot, and tzatziki delicious, full of fresh dill, parsley, and lemon juice, and the fried potato wedges with vinegar that come alongside are swell (gyros, with hand-cut fries, $4.95). Score: 8.9

Holy Land Deli (2513 Central Ave. N.E., Mpls., 781-2627; 1264 S. Robert St., West St. Paul, 552-9660): The gray duck among the other ducks, Holy Land's gyros is entirely idiosyncratic. They use a plain, ungrilled pita, open it, and stuff it until bursting with meat carved right off the GYROKONE, iceberg lettuce, and a tahini sauce--no tzatziki in sight, though you can order a side of it. Talk about value--the finished sandwich is roughly the size of a football, and while it wasn't my personal favorite, I'd bet anything that some very tasteful readers are right now cursing my name for defaming their all-time favorite meal. All gyros connoisseurs should try this spot, which has super-friendly counter staff, Greek music crackling from tinny speakers, and a very nice market for olives, pitas, and frozen gyros meat (about $4 a pound) so you can take a crack at the art yourself ($4.99 for a sandwich, $6.99 for gyros entrée with rice or hummus and a salad). Score: 6.4

Shannon Brady

Location Info


Falafel King

701 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > Greek

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

It's Greek To Me (626 W. Lake St., Mpls., 825-9922): It's long been my opinion that this LynLake favorite does everything very well and nothing spectacularly, and this was borne out in the gyros: nice grilled pita, warm meat, good, garlic-touched tzatziki with a bit of parsley in it, tomato wedges, and thin-sliced onions; altogether very fine ($4.25 for a sandwich, $8.65 for a big platter with soup or salad). Score 7.8

Olympics Cafe (527 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 332-1375): This feisty little no-frills place is much beloved by cab drivers and downtown computer geeks, and it's easy to see why: Huge portions for tiny prices, late hours, and high-quality merchandise--in this case crisply grilled meat, a nice warm pita, and generous (though herb-free) quantities of tzatziki--all combine to create a sort of rebellious, seat-of-their-pants, plain-speaking mecca ($3.45 for a sandwich, with frequent specials like gyros, fries, and soda for $4.99). Score: 6.9

Saffron Cafe (3501 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 823-4442): The most disappointing of all gyros--greasy, undercooked, and the "tzatziki" seemed to be a commercial tartar-sauce preparation; it had pickles (pickles!) in it ($3.95 for a sandwich, $6.95 with salad and rice or potatoes). Score: 1.2

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