In the never-ending fast food game, Arby’s has been a perpetual ‘also-ran.’ McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, KFC, and Chick-fil-A all have unique brand identities that most people who live in North America can identify.
Meanwhile, Arby’s has been steadily slipping down the stream of the collective omnomnom conscious for years. So at this point, the roast beef masters are looking to re-establish brand relevancy to consumers in today’s world. And that’s exactly why Arby’s just launched a $10 Meat Mountain off-menu “secret” sandwich.
Now, the chain is re-introducing two limited-time “gyros” sandwiches: the Roast Beef Gyro and the Turkey Gyro. Both feature the signature Arby’s Roast Beef and Turkey flavors and special recipes you’ve known and loved if you’re an Arby’s fan.
Here’s the thing: you can slap some thinly-sliced meat on a pita and slather it with tzatziki sauce, but that doesn’t make it a legit gyros. It may look like a legit gyros to the untrained eye, sure, and it may taste delicious. But it’s really just a mountain of Arby’s meats presented on a pita, with tzatziki sauce.
So, what is a legit gyros?
Legit gyros involves minced beef, lamb, onion, garlic, and Greek spices including marjoram and rosemary, all of which is mixed and then ground into a fine paste before being mounded onto a rotisserie and cooked. (Note to celiac disease sufferers: commercially-produced gyros meat often contains bread crumbs as filler, so it’s a no-go even if you order a mountain of meat without the pita.)
Gyros is traditionally served with tzatziki sauce, which is essentially a delicious and refreshing cucumber yogurt sauce with a touch of dill. If you like Indian food, it’s like a simpler cousin of raita.
Where did gyros originate?
That’s a complicated question. According to this fascinating New York Times piece, it’s been prepared in Greece since time immemorial.
Gyros first gained commercial legitimacy in Chicago’s huge Greek community in the 1970s, where it rose to prominence via mom and pop-type gyros shops that made it according to closely-guarded old family recipes.
The argument about who actually started mass-producing gyros is ongoing, but Chicago Greek community members Chris Tomaras, George Apostolou, and Peter Parthenis all claim credit—and each claims the other guys are lying.
To add another layer of intrigue, the wife of the late John Garlic—a Jewish entrepreneur from Milwaukee—claims that he’s the grandaddy of gyros mass production.
In any case, this delicious rotisserie of sliced, spiced meat was an idea whose time had come, and pretty soon, it was everywhere. Today, unless you make it yourself, chances are good that no matter where you’re eating that gyros in this country, the meat probably came from one of a couple large gyros meat companies that are based in Chicago.
Now that you know about gyros, here’s the video Arby’s uses to describe the meat for its Roast Beef Gyro sandwich:
And here’s the video Arby’s uses to describe the meat for its Turkey Gyro sandwich:
We love a good gyros as much as anybody, and we’re definitely not saying that these new Arby’s sandwiches are not super tasty. We’re just saying that slicing any old roasted meat thinly and slathering it in tzatziki sauce doesn’t necessarily qualify it as a “gyro.”
Hell, we wouldn’t mind a turkey gyros, or even an all-beef gyros (if you don’t like lamb for some reason)—but at least use the right spices and act like you’re trying.