OMAHA, Neb. (Restaurant Hoppen) — For a city located smack dab in the middle of America, Omaha has a surprising amount of restaurants dedicated to serving Greek cuisine.
I, for one, am not complaining about this blessing.
And every Greek restaurant has its version of the classic street sandwich, the gyro. While the staple ingredients — pita bread, a combination of beef and lamb meat, tzatziki sauce — are present, each restaurant’s take on the gyro has subtle but important differences. For all of Omaha’s great gyro options, here are five you have to try.
Jim & Jennie’s Greek Village
Every time you visit Jim & Jennie’s Greek Village, you can expect two things. First, the food will be authentic to the traditions of Pyrgos-Olympia, Greece, where owners Jim and Jennie Anastasiou emigrated from in 1974. And two, the figures in the restaurant’s name will be at the grill.
Jim and Jennie’s perpetual presence ensures both consistency and spectacular flavor, and the restaurant’s gyro is the shining example. A combination of beef and lamb, the gyro meat is cut to order from a rotating spit, which gives it tenderness and a distinct roasted flavor. With hints of rosemary, oregano, and thyme: the meat is absolutely delicious on its own.
But Jim & Jennie’s pairs a heaping portion of meat, I'd estimate about three-quarters of a pound, with a bright, dill-forward tzatziki sauce, crisp onions, and large chunks of fresh tomato. It’s all crammed into a buttery, soft, pita that has just the right amount of chew, and a quick stop on the flattop gives it a welcome crisp texture.
Another longtime Omaha staple, Greek Islands has been dishing out Greek classics for nearly four decades. All the Greek favorites — from souvlaki to the spanakopita, dolmathes and roasted lamb — have been perfected by owner and Greek native George Sgourakis. But it's the restaurant’s gyro that is one of the best sellers for a reason.
While the meat and vegetables on Greek Islands’ gyro are perfectly acceptable, it’s the tzatziki sauce that takes the lead role. This creamy condiment punches the taste buds with a powerful — but not overwhelming — hit of dill. Each bite carries the fresh tang and bright herbaceousness that a great tzatziki provides, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better version of this condiment in Omaha.
Feta’s Greek Restaurant
There is one thing I can guarantee about any encounter with a gyro at Feta’s: you’re not going to leave the restaurant hungry.
Feta’s loads so much meat on each plate that, when the dish arrives at your table, you can barely make out the pita underneath the heaping portion of protein. If you want any hope of picking up the gyro, you have to remove and set aside about a quarter of a pound of meat, which will give you a side of beef or lamb to go with your sandwich. There’s enough meat on this gyro to give it its own gravitational pull.
But Feta’s gyro isn’t known just for its magnitude; it packs some serious flavor. The lamb and beef meat is tender and well-seasoned with garlic, pepper, and dill while the creamy, cucumber-based tzatziki adds a cooling effect and welcome relief from the mountain of meat.
El Basha Mediterranean Grill
The gyro is far from the only reason to visit El Basha, as its menu is littered with Mediterranean delicacies. The shawarma is excellent, the falafel is crispy and vibrant, and the creamy hummus is an umami bomb.
Amidst this vast menu, though, the gyro stands out. The meat is sliced a bit thicker than on most versions of the sandwich and it’s heavily seasoned, giving each bite a heavy dose of roasted garlic flavor. The pita is hearty and buttery with a slightly smoky flavor from a quick kiss on the grill, and the tzatziki adds a welcome cooling element.
Oasis Falafel of Omaha
As its name suggests, Oasis Falafel is best known for its deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas. But Oasis allows you to pair these irresistible, herby orbs with a grilled item, and the gyro meat is an excellent option.
Oasis’ lamb gyro meat is consistently shaved and seasoned perfectly, and its tenderness plays perfectly with the crispy texture of the falafel. The restaurant’s vegetables are all crisp and fresh, and its pita pockets are spacious as they are delicious.
But the real kicker at Oasis is the hummus, which is addicting enough to be borderline illegal. Unlike the standard grocery store offering, this creamy dip contains no preservatives, which gives it a freshness not found in most variations. It's nutty and garlicky, popping with rich umami, and its presence, along with the falafel, makes Oasis’ gyro uniquely delicious.
Don’t see your favorite gyro joint on this list? Let me know what restaurant I need to visit by sending a message to @dan_hoppen on Instagramor @danhoppenon Twitter. I’m a gyro junkie, and I want to experience all the great gyros our city has to offer.