The Debated History Of The Gyro

Before we talk about gyro, it is our duty to tell you how to pronounce the word correctly. There are plenty of ways to butcher the pronunciation of the word "gyro" and you've probably heard all of them, from using a hard "g" sound to someone saying "He-ro", but we and Book Club Chicago are here to tell you that the proper pronunciation of this Greek classic is "yee-ro", and there should be no "g" sound in there, in spite of the English spelling of the word. Now that we have that out of the way, what exactly is a gyro?

The essential components of this sandwich are the warm pita bread slathered with tzatziki sauce (a tangy, spiced cucumber and yogurt-based sauce) and gyro meat. Wait, gyro meat? What exactly is that? Lamb? Pork? Chicken? Well, it is a lot more than just one kind of protein.

The Modern Proper says that gyro meat is traditionally made from either lamb or a combination of lamb and beef (though sometimes chicken finds its way in there) and is blended with a ton of spices, salt, and herbs to make it a smoky flavor bomb with every bite! It's typically cooked on a vertical rotisserie, and pieces are sliced off and tossed into the pita bread for the best-tasting gyro. Some of the best gyro places in the world are located in the United States, specifically Chicago where the gyro is said to have first exploded onto the culinary scene in America.

There are a few contenders

According to the New York Times, there are a handful of Greek-Americans that insist that they invented the gyro. Chris Tomaras, who is the founder of Kronos Foods, the largest gyro manufacturer in the world as of 2009, claims to have been the first to bring the gyro from Greece to Chicago, but other gyro producers disagree.

For example, Peter Parthenis says that he began producing gyros with his company Gyros Inc. in 1973, beating out the competition by a year, but yet another man named Andre Papantoniou — who is the founder of Olympia Food Industries — asserts that the American gyro was actually first developed in Chicago by a Jewish man called John Garlic, who Parthenis worked with.

There are already a lot of contradictory stories surrounding the mysterious origins of the gyro, but there is still one more hat to be flung into the ring, and that is one belonging to George Apostolou. In fact, Mr. Apostolou may be the most common answer when you ask those from Chicago who the father of the gyro is.

Opa Chicago claims that Apostolou was serving gyros at Chicago's "The Parkview Restaurant" all the way back in 1965. The man eventually established Devanco Foods and dedicated himself to producing and selling quality Italian and Greek food (via Devanco Foods).