My Gyro in Stratford reminds us why we love Middle Eastern food
The thing I love the most about being a restaurant critic is to find a wonderful unsung place and tell people about it. I had been tipped off about My Gyro, a storefront in Stratford that specializes in Turkish cuisine. I found the place, and from the outside, it looked so totally uninteresting I almost drove away. I could not be happier that I stayed.
Like many non-Middle Easterners (although I am a great fan of the food ), I am never sure of the culinary boundaries between Turkish, Lebanese and Greek food. All the above proudly flaunt their hummus, their baklava, their eggplant baba ghanoush and handfuls of feta cheese. I recall red lentil soup as an important Turkish staple and I adore this simple dish. I could happily live on it with a few miniature cups of midnight-black Turkish coffee.
There is nothing on the menu of My Gyro that jumps out as unique and special. You might think, oh just another ho hum place with the usual gyros, shish kebabs, falafel and baklava. But what makes My Gyro so special is that while its food may be familiar, it is utterly delicious. “Wow wow wow” kept running through I mind as I ate my way through the menu.
My Gyro, which is in a little strip mall, is run by a Turkish family (mother, father and grown son). The pride this family takes centers on the fact that everything served is made from scratch in a small, efficient kitchen.
The family is wonderfully happy to see their customers well fed. I have always been struck by the pride Middle Eastern restaurants take in pleasing the customer. Going the extra yard seems a cultural given. As an example, when one of the take-out dinners I ordered was slightly delayed, the man behind the counter insisted on giving me a container of homemade rice pudding as an apology for the “insult” of having me wait an extra five minutes for my lunch. I was very touched by the gesture, and no, he did not know I was reviewing the place.
If I could order one thing only here it would be the lamb shish kebab. It is a skewer of tender chunks of marinated baby lamb grilled over charcoal when ordered. One skewer is very generous, and along with charred grilled vegetables, perfectly seasoned rice pilaf and mound of seasoned bulgar wheat, this is a hefty and a serious plate of food, a dish to be to be savored thoughtfully. Nothing needs to be added to this dish, but if like me you adore tzatziki (the cucumber garlic and yogurt sauce), I encourage you to slather it on.
If you not a lamb lover, you will be very happy with the chicken gyro and gyro meat, which is a conglomeration of lamb and beef cooked slowly on a tiered vertical charcoal grill. The meat is sliced off when ordered.
The person who clued me into this place said My Gyro had the best falafel around. I don’t hate falafel, but frankly I never understood its lure. Falafel are golf-ball sized fritters of chickpeas, garlic and parsley fried to a golden brown. Eating them at My Gyro, for the first time I could see the appeal. I could taste every separate ingredient and spice.
I am always up for a good menu mystery, so I want to point you to a section called Menu Rebels. I have no idea what a Menu Rebel is, but I kind of like the bad-ass concept. It sounds like a militia I would join.
Menu Rebels seem to consist of salads and sandwiches named for local heroes. One of the popular Menu Rebels is a “Sikorsky Jason.” This is a wrap stuffed with sliced gyro chicken and falafel balls. The “Kevin Dunn” is a Turkish Shepherd’s Salad comprised of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers and parsley. The whole salad is lightly tossed in a lively lemony dressing. On top are charcoal-charred chunks of marinated lamb. The succulence of the lamb and the crispness of the salad are perfection.
There are still some mysteries to explore on further visits. The Hot Paste Salad I assumed was a misspelling of pasta salad, but it appears to be a mix of peppers, onions, spices, tomatoes and parsley all bound together in a Turkish hot sauce.
The Sigara Boregi were small rolled pastries (like little cigars) whose dough has been filled with feta cheese and deep fried. Next visit I want a plateful of Sekerpare (homemade pastries soaked in a special recipe sweet sauce) and, folks, if you go here for only one thing, you can’t leave without some Baklava. Baklava is a multilayered square of paper-thin translucent dough layered with honey and chopped pistachios.
Since my favorite Greek bakery on Ninth Avenue near the Port Authority in New York City closed years ago, I have found none finer than at My Gyro. At home that evening I ate eight of them (even for me a record). They were celestially good and worth every bite.
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series with Michael Stern.
1030 Stratford Ave, Stratford
203 873 0831