Gyros Galore: Circling in on Greek Food in New Orleans

Anticipation for the 49th annual New Orleans Greek Festival stirs a primal hunger for gyros.

Your morning coffee buzz has worn off and repeatedly glancing at the clock isn’t helping time move any faster or any closer to lunch. Facing your computer screen, you low-key zone out, fooling no one into thinking you’re actually working, but not really caring while you daydream about your Memorial Day weekend plans to attend the New Orleans Greek Festival.

You can see it now – friends and family surround you, lounging on bright picnic blankets on the banks of the Bayou St. John, sharing laughs and sips of ouzo over aluminum pans filled with pastitsio, buttery tiropita, stuffed grape leaves, and slow-roasted lamb. A line of Hellenic dancers are bobbing to traditional Greek music while pirogues of people are drifting by, but you suddenly snap out of the daydream by your stomach’s audible growl.

Though you can’t go to the Greek Fest right now, that is unless right now is May 24, 25 or 26, you can go out and grab a zesty bite, and though it may not be home cooked by kind Greek grandmothers, it can definitely scratch that itch before the big weekend. Go grab that hero of Greek street-foods, the gyro . . . but where?

While New Orleans offers a ton of different “Mediterranean” restaurants serving all manner of hummus, falafel, dolmah, shawarma and kebab, narrowing it down specifically to Greek cuisine can be a bit more of a challenge.

Possibly the first place on people’s minds is Vassiliki Ellwood Yiagazis’ new brick and mortar version of her pandemic-born pop up, Smoke & Honey. The bright yellow cafe, formerly Piece of Meat, stands out on its Bienville Street corner in Mid-City, where it opened this winter in the midst of carnival. The menu at Smoke & Honey offers “Greek and Jewish soul food” featuring her pop-up favorite the “Lambeaux,” a slow-braised lamb po-boy with whipped feta and pickled cucumbers. Since opening, all of the socials have been raving about her breakfast gyro with fried halloumi, scrambled eggs, French fries (always) and tangy tzatziki, with reason! But the pork and/or lamb gyros are equally rockin’, ringing in at a manageable $15.

Crossing over into the burbs, Metairie restaurant Acropolis Cuisine has long been a good go-to for Greek food. According to our eldest dining guru Tom Fitzmorris, Acropolis is one of the few hangers-on from an era when there were Greek restaurants a-plenty in New Orleans. Located in an old strip mall on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Acropolis’ menu offers puff pastry-wrapped spanikopita and saganaki (aka pan fried kasseri cheese) flamed with ouzo and lemon, and a mean eggplant moussaka, but the gyros a the best bang for your buck. Thinly-sliced seasoned beef and lamb are wrapped in warm pita bread with grilled pepper and onions, tomato, lettuce and lots of creamy tzatziki.

Believe it or not, that’s it!

Gyro at The Simple Greek

Well, in all honesty, there’s The Simple Greek, a national food chain founded by celebrity entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis in 2015. Touted as being uber-healthful and calorie conscious, The Simple Greek opened on Carondelet Street in the CBD during the summer of 2019. The menu offers a build-your-own pita/bowl where diners can select their protein, sauce and toppings and you’d think this quick-and-clean method would also afford a more reasonable price. Gyro meat and a pita will only set you back $3.95, but if you want the usual suspects – ie. red onion, tomato and tzatziki – it will quickly balloon the total to $14.50.

If you’re willing to widen your horizons a little, there are tons of local “Mediterranean-style” restaurants serving gyro. Mona’s, Lebanon’s Cafe, Cleo’s, Falafel King, Hummus & More, and more. But we’re only going to talk about one, and simply because it’s literally called Gyro Grill. Way, way out in the ultra-paved paradise that is Marrero lies a Mediterranean food miracle offering drive-thru. You heard that right! Gyro (hummus, baba ganuj, shawarma, kafta, lamb chops, fried seafood, lentil soup, Greek salad, fried chicken, and baklava) can be ordered and, within a reasonable amount of time, be picked up from a drive-thru window. Their simple, yet delicious gyro – grilled beef and lamb with lettuce, tomato, onion and tzatziki in warm pita bread – will only set you back $9.99. And get this, in true fast-food fashion, you can add fries and a coke to your order for only $3.99! One can only hope that those who happen to live in Marrero are taking full advantage of this Lebanese gem.

*Article originally published in the May 2024 issue of Where Y’at Magazine

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