Gyros and Souvlaki are the favorite food of most Greeks. The taste, the price and the preparation time are the main reasons why everybody loves them!
Many small taverns in Greece offer a very limited menu of souvlaki, french fries, Greek salad, pita bread, and tzatziki (yogurt, diced cucumbers and garlic cream). 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 Gyro sandwich and vice versa. To make matters even more confusing, you can order a Gyros sandwich with a souvlaki, gyro meat, or chicken! Often the souvlaki is referred to as “kalamaki” which means “stick”, and the Gyros sandwich is simply called a “pita”.
The Greek gyros pitta 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 pitta 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.
The meat that goes in the Gyros pitta consists of three choices. The traditional “Gyros” meat that gives the name to the food is a mixture of minced pork and lamb 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. 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 chicken for the content. Usually the gyros pitta 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 on a plate with a few extra (or more) ingredients.
Taverns 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 your travels you will always find a nice souvlaki place in any central square or by the waterfront. The food is good, the atmosphere genuine, and the price is always right.