Featured Item of the Week = Gyros

Looking back on a great vacation!

Last year at this time, I had recently returned from a trip to Germany where I had the opportunity to see and taste my way from Frankfurt down to Munich. Along the way, we ate some wonderful meals... sausages, beef rouladen, cabbage, dumplings... some more sausages, spaetzle, wonderful breads and pastries... and yes, even more sausages!

Surprising Food Finds... more than just sausages

I was surprised to see one food that was extremely popular, not only in the larger cities, it was also making an appearance in many of the smaller towns. We learned that most businesses in Germany are closed on Sundays (even some of the major fast food chains close at 1:00pm)... but one restaurant was actually open Sunday night. They seemed to be the only one open in this major city, and the food they were offering was the same one I had been noticing as being very popular along our route.

GyrosWhat is everyone waiting in line for?

People were packed into this very busy café standing three deep at the counter waiting to order. So what was everyone waiting in line for?? Believe it or not, people were waiting to order Gyros (one of the most mispronounced words in the food world). The word Gyro is Greek and is pronounced (YEE-ros) and comes from the Greek, γύρος ("turn"). Growing up near Chicago, I was familiar with this food, but I was surprised to see it so popular in Germany.


Couldn't resist the smells

As we walked into the restaurant, there was a four foot spit of meat roasting behind the counter. The smell permeated into the street, and you could hardly resist not going in to sample a taste. We were very hungry, and there was no other place open in the whole city, so it was even more tempting. The carver sharpened his long knife across a steel and expertly cut off paper thin slices of the meat as it turned ever-so-slowly on the spit. This meat gets loaded into a freshly grilled piece of flatbread and is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cucumber, cucumber sauce, and feta cheese. I have had many Gyros before in my life, but this one was definatly the best. Walking around the whole city for 2 hours looking for a place that was open probably contributed to the satisfying taste of the hot sandwich.


Gyros are a combination of ground beef, ground lamb, breadcrumbs, water, oregano, and other spices fused together under great pressure. This mixture is frozen and sold to restaurants which cook the pressed ground meat on large vertical roasters. The top producers of Gyro meat in the United States are all located in the Chicago area, where the dish is said to have had its origin here in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

The first person to make Gyros in the US is often debated, but an interesting article from the NY Times (listed below) goes further into the debate and provides some history/origin of the dish here in the US. If you have a chance to read the article, you will see the writer chose Kronos as his main contact for the subject. Here at UNC, we use Kronos Gyro meat and pitas. Although we do not use the vertical spits, the meat is the same recipe used for the traditional gyro cones.

Try our GYROS in the dining rooms this week!

Gyros are wonderful with a pita that is hot off the grill and then topped with your choice of tomatoes, lettuce, black olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, onions, and cucumber sauce. Whether you have tried them before and love them or not, we hope you will join us in the dining rooms and have a taste of this quick and enjoyable food that is becoming a sensation across the globe.

  • Tobey-Kendel: Lunch on Monday, October 3rd
  • Holmes Dining Hall: Lunch on Monday, October 3rd
  • UC Food Court: Dinner on Tuesday, October 4th

Here in Dining Services, "We Feed The Bears!"

Chef EssigThere are many new and exciting things happening in Dining Services this year, and I certainly hope you will take advantage of what we have to offer. Dining Services is here for you because "We Feed The Bears" and we are very proud of it! GO BEARS!

Don’t forget to look at the weekly menus often to find out what other fabulous menu items await you this week! You can also call the FoodLine (970.351.FOOD) for daily menus. Not signed up for the Faculty/Staff Payroll Deduction program yet? Learn more about the program here.

Happy Dining!
Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA
(Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator)


Chef Essig used the following sources for this article:

  • http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/dining/15gyro.html
  • http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-travel-german-kebab-story,0,3140338.story