Souvlaki or gyros? All I can say is I won’t make that mistake again. I’m in Athens, Greece and one of the things on my to-do list is to find authentic Athenian street food experiences. Well, on my first excursion I got more than I bargained for. I was walking in the Plaka and came across a street vendor grilling skewers of meat which he then wrapped in thick rounds of pita bread. It’s a presentation I’ve been familiar with since the 1970s when my family would order GIE-rows at the local Greek restaurant, Athenian Garden.
Today I know enough not to call this Greek classic GIE-rows so I got in line to show off my pronunciation of “two gyros please”. According to my time on Duolingo the phrase goes something like “δύο γυροσ παρακαλώ” or more phonetically, “DEE‑o YEE-ros para-ka-LO”. Once I got to the front of the line I confidently placed my order only to be told no pita gyros only pita souvlaki. I could see by the twinkle in the street vendors eye that I was not the first tourist to make this mistake. He seemed happy to school me on the subject of souvlaki or gyros while never losing a beat in the rhythm of his grilling.
Souvlaki or Gyros
Meat dressed with tzatziki, garnished with tomatoes and onion, then served with grilled pita. That’s gyros, right? Well, yes and no. It seems souvlaki is actually meat cooked on a stick dressed with tzatziki, garnished with tomatoes and onion, then served with grilled pita. But gyros is meat cooked on a vertical spit dressed with tzatziki, garnished with tomatoes and onion, then served with grilled pita. Can you spot the difference? It’s the cooking method. Souvlaki is made with pieces of grilled meat often skewered on a stick, while a gyros consists of slices of meat shaved from a vertical rotisserie.
But it can also be the size and presentation. There’s a difference when it comes to “pita souvlaki or pita gyros” and “merida souvlaki or merida gyros”. One is wrap. The other a platter. But I think I’ll need another lesson from my street vendor to master that subtlety. GREG