The 8 Best Gyros In Chicago

By Staff in Food on Feb 26, 2014 8:10PM

Chicago has strong and deep connections to Greek culture. The earliest Greek immigrants arrived in the 1840s and today Halsted Street's Greektown is a noted attraction for both tourists and locals. Chicago has the third-largest Greek population of any city in the world and Hellenic culture can be felt in the city's churches, schools, nightlife and dining.

Few things of Greek influence have stronger ties to Chicago than the gyros. All of the major companies specializing in making gyros meat for restaurants are located in Chicago and business is booming! But it takes more than some compressed beef and lamb to make a great gyros. We selected eight places to get your spindle meat fix that we're sure are subject to debate.

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The gyros platter at Central Gyros. (Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

Central Gyros
This Belmont-Cragin restaurant is a Chicago classic and still draws a loyal clientele after 35 years in business. The gyros here are tender, juicy and seasoned to perfection, served with liberal amounts of tzatziki sauce and thick-cut fries. They have a daily special for $9.99 but the platter is my preferred order. For those of you who want to eat light and gain weight at the thought of all that beef and lamb, Central Gyros also serves chicken gyros. —Chuck Sudo

Central Gyros is located at 3127 N. Central Ave., 773-545-1276

Niko’s Gyros
Admittedly, part of the appeal of Niko’s Gyros is the fact that you don’t have get out of your car to get yourself a gyro here. Whoever came up with the concept of a drive-thru gyro deserves a standing ovation. Go ahead and break your arm patting yourself on the back, because you are real American hero. Nonetheless, this gyro doesn’t disappoint. It isn’t anything fancy or unusual, but it is a delicious salt-bomb on a warm, flat pita drizzled in tzatziki with a pile of onions and two tomato slices. Niko’s also offers a chicken gyro, if that’s your gag. Plus, if you go on the weekend, you can get one for $2.75! - Casey Moffitt

Niko’s Gyros is located at 2775 N. Elston Ave., 773-772-8100

Athenian Room
A Lincoln Park standby for decades, Athenian Room might be better known for their roasted chicken thanks to a Tina Fey shoutout. But like many Greek restaurants, they built their reputation on gyros. Large spits of spinning meat greet diners as they enter the front door & pass by the kitchen on the way to the dining room. The traditional lamb/beef combination is flavorful, served with perfect crispy edges. Athenian Room serves their gyros two ways: as a traditional wrap, in a pita with tzatziki, tomatoes and onion; or as a dinner, which includes a pile of meat, wedges of pita, the same toppings and a side of their excellent Greek fries (steak fries doused in lemon, white wine and herbs). But we think gyros lose something when eaten with a knife and fork, so we prefer the traditional wrap sandwich and go with a hunch similar to the one we use for Italian Beef. And we always add a side of the Greek fries. — Benjy Lipsman

Athenian Room is located at 807 W. Webster Ave., 773-348-5155

The Chicago Diner
Chicago is for meat-lovers, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a gyro for the vegetarians of the Windy City. The Chicago Diner has been a haven for the meatless since 1983, and while not every menu item is convincing or successful, their gyro is satisfying, fresh and delicious. It’s not lamb, but the thin slices of juicy seitan are impressively flavorful especially when smothered with the creamiest vegan tzatziki sauce you can imagine. The whole deal is wrapped in a warm and perfectly fluffy pita. It’s a simple sandwich with no frills, but it’s absolutely perfect when discovered under the beating summer sun at an outdoor music festival. It’s also surprisingly substantial for a meatless gyro. Each sandwich is $9.50. — Erika Kubick

The Chicago Diner is located at 2333 N. Milwaukee Ave and 3411 N Halsted St

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Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

Return of the Gyro at Publican Quality Meats
As an undergrad living in the dorms at UIC, I was stumbling distance to the restaurants in Greektown. It would not be unusual, after a late night out, to find myself at one of the all night gyro places having an ill-advised “snack.” Even though I would need a power-washer to get the taste of tzatziki sauce and lamb out of my mouth the next day, I continued to go back. Many years later, when I saw that Publican Quality Meats offered a gyro on their menu (which they are now calling “Return of the Gyro”), I was skeptical. Where was the rotating meat roasting away in the back? Why was it made with pork and not lamb? Why was a raita served and not tzatziki? Any skepticism was immediately erased after that first bite. The braised pork belly, with its succulent, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, made me forget the lamb completely. The sandwich also contains “escalavida” (or grilled vegetables) that provides a nice smokiness to the sandwich. The raita brings everything together with a slightly tart, but extremely flavorful, yogurt sauce. The best thing about the gyro, however, is that no power-washer is needed the next day.— Paul Leddy

Publican Quality Meats is located at 825 W. Fulton Market

Big Mike’s Gyros II
Living in a secluded bunker on the near south side can have drawbacks, particularly if you're a person who doesn't enjoy breaking the solitude of a Saturday night Skyrim marathon. Thankfully, Big Mike's #2 on State Street at Cermak has a loner like me covered, as they deliver heaping mounds of gyro meat piled high on pita bread straight to the bushes in front of my safehouse. Just a mere two step stumble southward from one of the only places I'm approved to wander in—Reggie's Rock Club—Big Mike's not only serves up a hearty standard gyro sandwich swimming in tzatziki, but has plenty of options for the experimenter. More adventurous eaters can drown their lamb slices in a sea of cheddar cheese or a handful of hunks of feta, replace the lamb with chunks of chicken, or trade the pita bread for a bun. Essentially, Big Mike's is the kind of place that does a damn fine job of making inebriated late night food concoctions a reality. Finally, this south side gem is home to the food equivalent of Malort - a gyros puff. Much like our city's most... eclectic liquor, it's a dish that draws strong opinions, but one that every visitor simply has to try. —Aaron Cynic

Big Mike’s Gyros II is located at 2113 S State St.

Hamburger Heaven Express
This Bridgeport shop isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. Their gyros and gyros plate contains simple Kronos Gyros spindle meat, tomatoes, onions, cucumber sauce and some of the crispiest, tastiest fries in Chicago. Their Tuesday special here is three gyros for $10 which should keep you in lunch leftovers for a few days, although I once ate all three in a single sitting. I'm not proud of that. —Chuck Sudo

Hamburger Heaven Express is located at 3001 S. Archer Ave., 773-801-0012.

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Taxim's Duck Gyros
Rick Bayless once compared what David Schneider is doing at this Wicker Park restaurant to what his Frontera empire has done to Mexican food—elevate the perceptions of what can be otherwise be a dismissible cuisine. And Schneider has succeeded in a very competitive dining and tavern area like Milwaukee Avenue. Taxim's duck gyros is made from spit-roasted Gunthorp Farms duck breast and leg, rubbed liberally with bastourma spices and served with fresh mint yogurt sauce (the yogurt is made from a culture that's been in Schneider's family for generations), Pontian satz bread and a rotating cast of seasonal vegetables. I'm a sucker for spindle meat but Taxim may have the best gyro in Chicago. —Chuck Sudo

Taxim is located at 1558 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-252-1588.