Is street food not served in the street still street food? We say no, but the fact remains: Doner Kebab (the Turkish name for Gyros) is a shoo-in for the fast-casual restaurant format.
It's done the world over, in the street, in holes-in-the-wall, yet we haven't seen it slickly packaged and corporatized (some might say co-opted) quite like the burrito, the taco, or the pizza. We were underwhelmed by national chain Naf Naf Grill, which arrived in Minneapolis last year.
Could Spitz do it better?
The Los Angeles chain was started by a couple of college kids after they returned home with that good old-fashioned European study-abroad inspiration. They've now got locations in four cities, including this one.
The colorful interior is the polar opposite of any hole-in-the-wall kebab place you've seen. There's graffiti that takes inspiration from album covers and musicians. Staff told us they had the impressive mural of Prince on the wall prior to the great musician's passing, and that they considered taking it down for fear of being disrespectful in any way. We're grateful they didn't because it's awesome (see it below).
The menu is made up of wraps and sandwiches, house specialties and salads. Heartbreakingly, they were out of their signature "Doquitos" when we visited, a mashup of doner kebabs and taquitos. But the Street Cart Doner held up to our close inspection, with an excellent blend of spit-roasted beef and lamb, seasoned to precision and wrapped up with garlic aioli (where would the modern American sandwich be without aioli?), lettuce, tomato, onion, bell pepper, cucumber, and tzatziki.
If it sounds like a lot, it is. Portions are big. There's also some fried lavash chips tucked in there for crunch and whimsy. It's a nice touch. For $9 it's an excellent buy.
We were somewhat less impressed by the falafel, which had a bit of a greasy cloy to it, but it's important to note that Spitz is only a week or so old and so small wrinkles (like oil temperatures) might well get smoothed out in coming weeks and months. We'd also recommend the high-quality Greek side salad over the over-seasoned fries. The accompanying balsamic vinegar is worthy of a dipping sauce in its own right. Delicious.
Much of the menu is a young, cheffy, boys-gone-wild- stoner-food-meets-tradition mashup, but it seems to work well here.
See the Doner with Pommes, where the fries get mashed right into the sandwich (an actual European street food tradition, making walking down the street with fries a one-handed endeavor).
Or, the Berliner fries, sort of their version of a poutine, where fries get blasted with "the works": Berliner red sauce (a tomato-based harissa), tzatziki, cabbage and carrot slaw, cucumber, tomato, onion, feta, olives, pepperoncinis, zesty feta, and your choice of meat.
Happily, Spitz also serves beer and wine on tap (and by the bottle) and an array of house-made sangrias. The white sangria with basil is a blast of summer.
The space strikes a nice balance for families, daters, and big rowdy groups of friends. They're open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, which sadly takes them out of the running for the all-important post-bar booze soak, the way that god intended gyros and kebabs to be eaten, everywhere. A late-night downtown location would singlehandedly elevate our local nightlife. Fingers crossed that this is in the cards.
In the meantime, check out their “recovery brunch,” available beginning sometime in June, on weekends from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu takes variations of regular menu items and smothers them in eggs and American cheese. They’ll even carry your bag out to you curbside, if you’re too hungover to walk your sorry butt inside.
Hangovers. They're what happens when you don't get your kebab late at night.
518 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis