King Gyros maintains hold of the throne with big flavors, small prices
A large menu of affordable, bold-tasting and well-executed Greek dishes has made this eatery a local favorite since it launched in 1991
There are many reasons why King Gyros has been a beloved Whitehall eatery since before Bill Clinton became president. An embrace of subtlety wouldn’t be among those reasons. As visits to the restaurant known for affordable and speedily prepared big portions of Greek comfort food with big flavors reveal, subtlety can be overrated.
The view from King Gyros’ parking lot reveals a structure modeled after an ancient Greek temple, but one with a drive-through and whose approach to decoration might make Pete Davidson and Post Malone blush.
Beneath a pink pediment and above knockoffs of classical sculptures essentially announcing a sizable patio, the building’s exterior is wildly adorned with folk art-style murals depicting Greek cultural icons and hilly seaside villages. Dreamy Aegean blue is a prominent color.
More of the same awaits inside the fast-casual operation. Past the lengthy counter, behind which an uncommonly large kitchen crew is usually beehive-busy, lies a long, narrow dining room emblazoned with eye-popping murals.
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As detailed on the eatery’s big menu, the dining room and patio were added during renovations about a decade ago. The menu also relates that when King Gyros launched in 1991, owner/chef Yianni Chalkias was already a seasoned veteran, having worked in memorable Columbus establishments such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Niki’s Deli and Vaso Greek Restaurant, run by family members.
Apparently, Chalkias learned plenty from his apprenticeship, including how to consistently nail family recipes while operating a popular restaurant that lives up to its name.
King Gyros' namesake gyro ($7.95) — “king” denotes regular size; “minis” ($5.95) and “supremes” ($10.25) are offered, too — was notably generous with that familiar yet irresistible meat and a slathering of a tangy, rich and super-garlicky house sauce with staying power. Add tomatoes, onions, toasted puffy pita and enough shredded lettuce for an entire salad and you have a top-notch gyro.
I liked the Cajun chicken king gyro even more ($8.25). It utilized the same general formula, but starred tender, chile-boosted, dark-meat chicken that was characteristically herb-and-spice-scented and somewhat salty.
But the king of the gyros at King Gyros was the standout “pure lamb” gyro ($11.50), which featured tender, juicy and fragrant seared lamb “tips” (stew-like meat) enhanced with sauteed onions.
Feel like a dip? In descending order, my favorites ($6.50 and $7.50) were the accurately titled, feta-based Greek fire; paprika-tinted, relatively light hummus; rich tzatziki; and Mount Olympus, which tasted largely of sweetened parsley (mine lacked evidence of several menu-listed ingredients). If seeking a bargain and variety, $10.50 buys “3 Greek Dips” accompanied by kalamata olives, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, banana peppers, plus a week’s worth of pita.
Both the Greek cabbage rolls drenched in thick, herb-accented tomato sauce and Yiayia’s dolmades (grape leaves sheathed in a thick but lively lemon sauce) were packed-to-plump with a pleasant blend of rice and seasoned beef and lamb. Both are good choices that can be enjoyed in enormous, value-forward “Oracle” specials (about $12 each), meaning served with house iced tea and crisp, hand-cut fries or soup (such as hearty lentil or far-above-average avgolemono).
Another Oracle bonanza showcased chicken kebabs — herb-flecked, seared, dark meat segments partnered with peppers and onions — atop cinnamon-y “Greek country” rice ($13.25).
The shish kebab meat — tender, juicy beef tips seasoned gyro-style — was at least as delicious, if saltier. It’s likewise available with rice in an Oracle meal-deal ($13.95), and also as a topping for a fairly standard Greek salad ($12.25). You can’t go wrong either way.
About 30 house-made desserts are stored in refrigerated cases. As I’d come to expect from this longtime Whitehall favorite, the galaktoboureko I sampled ($5.25) — milk custard encased in flaky (if quite chilly) pastry adorned with cinnamon-sugar stripes — wasn’t subtle, but it was hefty, good-tasting and nicely priced.
400 S. Hamilton Rd., Whitehall