Messini Authentic Gyros (445 Danforth, at Logan, 416-778-4861) Complete meals for $13 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Average main $5. Open Monday to Thursday 11 am to 1 am, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 4 am, Sunday 11 am to midnight. Licensed. Delivery. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Until the other day, like most of you I thought the name of the popular Mediterranean pita stuffed with mystery meat rhymed with "pyros."
"It's pronounced 'yee-roze,' you goof," laughs my NOW colleague Mary Zondanos when I mention I'm writing about gyros in honour of this weekend's Taste Of The Danforth street fest. Come to think of it, that would explain the strange looks I've received every time I've ordered one over the last few weeks.
Up till then, I'd never had the pleasure of eating them, finding gyros (or their Middle Eastern cousins, shawarmas and doner kebabs, for that matter) similar to heroin or line dancing: a lot of fun if you like that sort of thing, but not for me. But after a sampling of the boulevard's three most highly regarded models, even I can see their appeal.
It's at Messini Authentic Gyros, no less, where I encounter the most revolutionary idea to hit the Toronto culinary scene since Susur Lee started serving dinner backwards and three-for-one-pizza. There, in this long and narrow generic modern taverna, Messini's Marinos Dafnas started putting french fries inside his grilled 9-inch gyros (the way they do in parts of Greece), alongside moist rotisserie chicken ($4.61) or pork ($4.05), thick, buttery tzatziki, chopped summer tomato and mild raw Spanish onion.
Too bad they're the frozen kind. But for five bucks at 3 in the morning, who's complaining?
Better yet, the vegetarian version with grilled green pepper and onion ($3.50) finds his pita smeared with delish kalamata tapenade as well as tzatziki and a veritable garden of lettuce, tomato, onion and English cuke. And if the fries inside your gyro aren't enough, you can always order a side of Greek fries ($3.95), round slices of deep-fried spuds topped with crumbly milky feta, oregano and olive oil. Only the gigantes ($3.75) - sorry, yeegantes - disappoint, a small side of favas in burnt tomato sauce that pale next to the terrific dill-laced take sold Tuesdays for $2.95 at Kathy's Corner (139 Dundas East, at Mutual, 416-367-0645).
Although we could have concluded our nosh at Messini with baklava ($2.95), we head over to Athens Pastries (509 Danforth, at Logan, 416-463-5144) for dessert instead. Highly regarded for its savouries, Athens really excels with its sweets, especially the galaktobouriko ($3.05), a spanakopita-esque stack of phyllo layered with creamy vanilla custard. But don't miss Athens's loukoumades ($1.50/half- dozen), dizzyingly delicious deep-fried mini-donuts saturated in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.