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Chacarero v. Zo: drug of choice?

The infamous Chacarero sandwiches (I prefer the meat, but the chicken is also good) are very, very good. No debate there. Outstanding, even, in their quality and simplicity. But I think they have been dethroned by Zo’s original gyro as my downtown sandwich drug of choice. (Sam LaGrassa’s roast beef gets honorable mention). I get in the mood for Chacarero; I physically NEED Zo’s gyro. Weekly. Sometimes twice weekly. (??). When I finish one, I temper my disappointment that the experience is over by carefully plotting when I will get the next one. It is flatbread wrapped crack. When they first opened, they had some over-seasoning issues with the pork, but that has been resolved. There are only five ingredients; each is of the highest quality and each is perfectly proportioned to the other. I had one yesterday and after writing this I might have to get another one today.

I hope others feel the same way. Zo seems to be doing good business, but if they closed for any reason I really don’t know what I would do.

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  1. "prefer the meat, but the chicken is also good"

    Aren't they both meat? :)

    Anyhoo, I feel the need to go to Zo more often, although when I get a hankering for Chacarero nothing else will do. Another plus of the big C is that if it is too crowded I can always take a look at what's going on over at LaGrassa which I also really like.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jgg13

      Chicken is meat?!!?? :-) I meant beef.

      One aspect of Zo that can be hit or miss is if you want to eat in. Limited seating, distracting mirrors, and an opening and closing door in cold weather do not make it the best experience. I have solved that by getting it to go and walking across Center Plaza to One Beacon, where you can take the escalators down and just eat at the cafeteria tables they have.

    2. They're both unique, both enviable options to have Downtown. I'm more inclined to take Chacarero for granted, since it has been around longer (I think I prefer the chicken to the beef as slightly less likely to induce a food coma).

      But I was really excited by pork gyros at Zo this year (and grateful to Chowhounds for clueing me into what had happened with the old Mediterraneo): it's the most popular style of gyros in Greece, and you almost never see it in the States, certainly nowhere else in Greater Boston. I was excited about pulling jury duty across the parking lot from Zo, as I knew what I was getting for lunch.

      So no, I'm not choosing, but they're both among my favorite sandwiches in town.


      1. You guys aren't making this easy. Chacarero, Lagrassa, and Zo's are 3 of my favorite lunch spot. They are in that order of distance from my office. We cater from La Grassa's but if a week or so goes by without, I need a fix.. Same with a bbq beef at Chac's or Zo.

        fyi, Zo was closed for a good period. They were originally in Filene's on Washington St and were displaced when the building was gutted..as was Chac's. Chac's got on their feet quicker.

        You really can't go wrong with any of them.

        2 Replies
        1. re: 9lives

          My only issue with LaGrassa is how big the sandwiches are. That complaint isn't quite what you think, as I'm not one to complain about "disgustingly large portions" or anything, but rather that means that the price points are higher as well. Ya go and get one of their chipotle reubens and a drink and it's 13-14 bucks. Yipes.

          On the flip side, I don't always have to eat dinner when I have lunch there, so I suppose it works out :)

          1. re: jgg13

            I sometimes eat 1/2 and put the other 1/2 in the fridge..not very often :) but it seems like a good idea when I open it.

        2. I Zo it more often because it's closer to work and I like the vegetarian sandwiches and the spinach pies too. But I probably swing by Chacarero at least twice a month (chicken for me) Yum yum.

          1. I think the King deserves a mention in this thread. The Falafel King. Especially if you're not in the mood for meats. The dude rules.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BoDubya

              Due to the cold, I stopped at Falafel King instead of Zo. I'd been before but maybe I caught them on a bad day, The beef was not up to what I'd remembered and not up Zo.

              I'll chalk FK to having a bad day and revisit but they didn't do it for me today.

            2. Addiction is pretty accurate. If I don't have Chacarero at least once a week, it gets pretty ugly. The other two must have's are Umberto, and La Grassa. I do like Zo, and it is nearby, but I'd put them in the "recreational" category, along with Cafe Latino, Al's and Falafel King. They're places I return to, and like, but I'm not going to get the sweats and night terrors if I go for a while between fixes.

              2 Replies
              1. re: nsenada

                Nope, with me Zo ranks with Chacarero and Sam LaGrassa as sandwich addictions. And some of us from the office are doing a bahn mi field trip to Chinatown tomorrow, woohoo! Downtown is truly blessed with sammie options.

                1. re: marais

                  Forgot about banh mi - I'd add 163 Vietnamese Sandwich's barbecue beef to my list of non-addicting but great sandwiches. Though as I type this, I'm craving one rather desperately right now.

              2. Excellent question - I'd have to say that Zo (chicken) gets the nod over the Chac - interesting that you noted the over-seasoning issues with the pork - I definitely found that to be true when I had one when they first opened - I guess I will have to try that type again.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  How does Zo compare to Steve's Greek? I love the homemade chips that Steve's has despite the small portion.

                  1. re: robertlf

                    Up until the day I tried Zo, Steve's was my hands down favorite Gyro in Boston (I have not tried the Farm Grill yet, but everyone raves about it), their bread was the freshest in my opinion, which makes a big difference. But one trip to Zo's and Steve's was knocked out of the box (and I told the people working their just that), Zo is the new king of Gyros (in my opinion of course)

                2. I love that four of my favorite sandwiche (a food type I am passionate about) joints are represented in this thread. Just discovered Zo 2 weeks ago, and cannot stop thinking about the pork gyro! Love Chaceraro, but really prefer the more flavorful offerings of the Falafal king....and Lagrasses is simply legendary. 3 weeks ago, I was saying the King had the best sandwich in town with the King Special w/ hot sauce, but he was toppled by Zo.......the tjajici is about the best I have had, and the fact that they DICE the onions is HUGE

                  1. I worked across the street from the original Chac and Mediterreneo for a couple years and did each at least once a week regularly. I'd be hard pressed to choose a favorite. As someone else said, once you get a hankering for Chac, nothing else will do. I'm glad they both relocated successfully. I went to Zo's a few months ago and it seemed even better than before. I'm not downtown as often anymore, but I make a point to go to one or the other when I can. Falafel King and eggplant parm on focaccia from Viga rounded out most of the lunch rotation many weeks. I like Sam's LaGrassa's, but never went there regularly, finding the prices and huge portions off-putting.

                    1. For those of us that don't partake in the meat eating, Zo wins. Hands down. The veggie pita is really freakin' good. The soup and spanikopita are also both excellent.

                      But I always have to give Lagrassa credit for not looking at me funny when I ask for a vegetarian reuben.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kirs

                        LaGrass makes a grilled portobello/cheese that a few veggie officemates love.

                      2. I am so equally in love with both Chacarero and Zo! I love that Chacarero doesn't hold back on their hot sauce but the chicken gyros at Zo are so moist and succulent! These are definitely two of my favorite lunchtime places near work!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                          Until they started giving out little cups of their hot sauce, I was never able to get Chac to *stop* holding back on the hot sauce. Of course, once I was able to slather my sandwich in the stuff I realized that it ruined the balance of the sandwich itself and just went back to asking for "extra, extra hot" (or sometimes just "extra hot" as the former just sounds goofy)

                        2. As a downtown worker, this is one of the most valuable threads ever on chowhound! I only wish these places were a little closer to 1 Int'l Place on a cold day like today. I had a chac yesterday -- small beef, extra, extra hot -- and plan to brave the cold for Zo today.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Blumie

                            I made it to Zo, the cold notwithstanding, and was rewarded with a delicious lunch. So please don't allow these comments to detract from the fact that a Zo gyro is an excellent sandwich. Also, please recognize that I am reaching these conclusions based on a single sampling, and my views could evolve with more experience.

                            First, as good as the Zo gyro was, I still prefer Chacarero. I find the Chacarero to be a more delicately balanced sandwich. Both will be in my rotation, but the Chac will still be my go-to place.

                            Second, the Farm Grille beef and lamb gyro is still my favorite Boston-area gyro. I prefer its beefier flavor to Zo's pork. (Note that the Farm Grille gyro can be inconsistent. Sometimes I get beautifully moist meat, other times disappointingly dry meat.) The nice thing, though, is that I don't have to choose between the two: when I'm in town, I'll choose Zo, and when I'm in MetroWest, I'll choose Farm Grille.

                            1. re: Blumie

                              Totally agree on Farm Grille vs. Zo. The reason I prefer Farm Grille to Zo is that Farm Grille's gyro is way worse for you, and you can taste it. I love the crispy, juicy bits of fat in a Farm Grille gyro. I also suspect that Zo uses reduced fat yoghurt. That typed, I do really like Zo's gyro's, and they are the best in the financial district.

                              I also really like the Kebab House's chicken kofte sandwich. I was addicted to that for a while, and may go back to it.

                              1. re: nsenada

                                Yes they do use low fat yoghurt (I have a menu in my cube), which surprised me because it tastes so damn good. I think because I am used to pizza shop, pre-made tjajici that is more mayo than yogurt, and really, really awful.

                          2. they are all good choices but i'm partial to zo. the tender rotisserie pork, juicy tomato, sharp red onion, fresh parsley, and creamy tzatziki in the original gyro is a winning combination. the flatbread is nice and fresh and holds up well without becoming limp and soggy. my only complaint is that the meat can be a little too salty at times

                            1. How does Zo compare with Esperia in Brighton center?

                              I have jury duty on the 6th and am looking for a lunch spot. Right now i am torn between Zo and Cafe Latino. I have wanted to try both for the longest time but have never had the chance to make it downtown.

                              Cafe Latino
                              2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: hynespb

                                Cafe Latino was another place I'd overlooked till it was discussed here (walked right by it several times on my way to Zo), and it too is very fine (I reviewed both for The Phoenix), notably for the pernil asado. But given that Zo is the only place I've found locally that does pork gyros, I'd give that sandwich the nod. That pernil plate will put you to sleep!


                                Cafe Latino
                                2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

                                1. re: hynespb

                                  why not have both? you could get a gyro at zo and then pick up a rice plate at cafe latino for later

                                  1. re: galangatron

                                    I like the way you think..:)

                                    I used to have a coworker and we'd go halvies on lunch sandwiches,

                                    Chac and a gyro....chac and an SLG pastrami

                                  2. re: hynespb

                                    Of course if you get picked for the jury, you'll have plenty of time to sample both. ;)

                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                      Love Zo but have been dying to give Cafe Latino a try and planning to go this week or next. I miss the food in PR and hope they won't disappoint.

                                      My fave gyros at Zo is the mix meat (half pork-half chicken) the pork can be salty at times and the chicken gives it a nice balance. Since I have to drive up from the south shore, I buy some for later-soggy or not it's all good.

                                      Cafe Latino
                                      2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108