Best Gyro in Athens?
Oh, don't get me wrong. The yogurt in Greece is the best you'll find anywhere, and I order tzatziki pathologically. If I sit down at Thanassis, I'll order a plateful to eat with pita. It's great. I just don't put it on the souvlaki because that style isn't meant to have tzatziki. I find it overwhelms the flavor. But by all means, you shouldn't worry about being a 'purist', whatever the hell that is anyway; you should eat any food the way you enjoy it most.
I was just talking about getting a souvlaki in the hand, and recommending it the way Thanassis 'intends' it. Then after trying it that way, you can load up whatever you want. I think it's telling though that if you ask for it with everything, they don't include fries or tzatziki like other places do. They just put the onion and paprika, and the simplicity of flavors to me is amazing.
Why not get tzatziki? I was in Greece last month and stopped at O Thanassis -- heard it was the best -- and ordered the half-plate of souvlaki with an extra pita and tzatziki, and while the meat was amazing, for me, the tzatziki was the best part. I thought hard about licking the plate.
OT, Obviously Greek food is better in Greece, but the yogurt was such an eye-opener for me. We must have gone pretty far wrong somewhere.
After living two years in Athens, I had quite a few. Monastiraki is definitely ground zero. First off, most Greeks stay away from the compressed meat that are in the gyros here, and with good reason. Decades back, they became illegal to sell because the government couldn't ensure what kind of meat was actually going into them (here, kitty, kitty, kitty). That kind of meat is what's actually called gyro, for being a round cylinder of meat on the skewer.
While that questionable meat's not the case today as far as I know, their taste is nothing compared to the doner style souvlaki that most Greeks eat (though the meat is, in fact, pork or you can get chicken as well). Sabbas at Monastiraki is a hell of a great example of this kind of gyro. Get the pork one with tzatziki or the chicken with their whipped egg-lemon based sauce.
My favorite souvlaki, however, is across the street from Sabbas at O Thanassis. It actually is kebabs they make themselves, a bit of red onion and some paprika in the best pita bread the world has ever seen. Don't get tzatziki. Just don't. They're small and you can eat a couple along with their amazing fries.
Also, full agreement with RJ. Stay away from places that look like modern chain places with bright, phot'd ads and menu boards. They're likely to use all frozen ingredients.
Don't forget when ordering, if you just want 'the works', say 'ap ola'.
I spent a couple months in glyfada, and we would go into Athens often to go to Sabbas. I never found anything I loved quite like that, but I was poor and not will to spend much for food, so I didn't get into real restaurants. However, Sabbas was by far my favorite of all the "take-out" gyros I had.
There are great places all around Athens for Gyros or Souvlaki, and in Greece it is like your local "pizza" guy. Everyone has an opinion on what is the best. Typically the best ones are small, no-named places that only the locals know. I would try several and see what you like. The above post is true, look for meat that is cooked well but not overcooked. I would say it is better to go to a crowded place so you know the meat hasn't been sitting too long. There are several variations, some have tzatziki, some have a spicy tomatoe sauce, and some have middle-eastern spices, it is all what you prefer. They also come in Pork or Chicken, and in fancier places, beef. Go for what you like, but pork is the most 'traditional'. The fries are typical but you can ask for none, If you ask for "apolla" it is with everything, otherwise you can ask for what you want, no onions, no potatoes, or more.
Souvlaki and Gyros are the fast food of Greece, but I would avoid the large chains that can be found around. You will understand which are chains by the "look" of a fast food restaurant, instead of a small kitchen that has an "elephant" leg roasting over the stove. (slang for that round meat rotiseree)
Best of luck and enjoy!
I'm just back from Greece and all I can tell you about gyros is that they're everywhere and you'll have to try all of them. One place I thought was excellent was a little nameless place on a side street where they actually layered slices of tomato between the bits of meat on the big rotating thingy. They stabbed a few tomatoes on top to make their point. What I look for is meat that appears well cooked but not dried out, no obvious veins of fat and if I watch them putting it together it should have plenty of tzatziki. Not sure how I feel about the french fries, though - seems an odd touch.
There are a whole clutch of gyro places around Monastiraki square. They seem quite popular and some people swear by them. I can't report, however, because I didn't actually eat at any of those spots.
Have fun. I'm going to post a Greece report as soon as I can gather my thoughts.