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Best Gyro in San Francisco?

I love a good Gyro, but can't seem to find any in San Francisco. A stall at the Emeryville Public Market has a pretty good one, but would love to get one without bridge toll. Any thoughts?

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  1. I'm a greek and I've had a hard time with this too. If you're willing to drive down the peninsula, Rainbow Pizza in San Mateo has a really good gyro!

    1. Not a gyro, but the beef and lamb pita or lavash sandwich at Eden Mediterranean (Jones south of Geary) always hits the spot when I want a Mediterranean style sandwich. The meat is always piping hot, juicy, tender, and generously piled on a soft warm pita with plenty of zingy yogurt sauce and crunchy cucumber and picked beets. For $6, I think it's one of the most delicious sandwiches around, though it's Turkish owned rather than Greek.

      Sorry, I can't help with a proper Greek gyro; haven't stumbled upon one yet.

      1. Myconos on Polk St. has a gyro worth a special trip. On the to go menu and it's $5!

        2 Replies
        1. re: virtualguthrie

          I like Myconos too, but agree with the rest of the posts about seeking something similar rather than Greek: there's better lamb schwerma in this area than gyros. Nearly all the gyros are the same Kronos processed meat.

          I did have a delicious gyro at the Metreon in December when the Island Earth Farmers' Market was still happening.

          Haven't tried Ayola though; thanks for the reminder.

          1. re: Windy

            Ayola used to be good. Now they use dry store-bought pitas.

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            Ayola
            327 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

        2. As an east coaster, it is frustrating to see the lack of good, true Greek Gyros around here. Most often, the bread is just plain wrong. I want the soft, pillowy pita, not lavash! And the right sauce. And no lettuce!

          Wilbur's in Cow Hollow was OK, but they closed. I've heard some good things about Ayola in the Financial District. Anybody been?

          6 Replies
          1. re: mrs bacon

            I should say for the record that I am not from the East Coast, nor am I Greek, but I can tell you that the Gyro @ Ayola is pretty darn good. The meat is fresh, the pita is pillowy and soft, and they have a pretty good medium-hot house sauce in a squeeze bottle on the counter (try it). The fries are VERY good- thin, crisspy and peppery.

            1. re: jmconcierge

              Which one or both?
              Ayola,118 New Montgomery Street
              Ayola, 327 Kearny Street

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              Ayola
              327 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

              1. re: wolfe

                Sorry- I was taking about Ayola #2 (the one on Kearny between Bush & Pine)

                1. re: jmconcierge

                  Ayola gets points for decent Pita and for the lack of non-Greek condiments like tahini (I am getting really tired of finding tahini in gyros!) If you tell them no lettuce, you get yourself a pretty good approximation of an east coast gyro, however it is just the plain old Kronos processed meat. I was in Greece this Summer for the first time in years and it's been hard to deal with Kronos meat since having several late night gyros in the homeland...

                  1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                    Well I tried Ayola, and it's pretty good. The pita was not as soft as I like, but it was on the right track. The meat, plain old Kronos as pointed out above, but that's ok by me. I was offered hot sauce, which was just downright strange, but easily declined, and did have to pick out the shredded lettuce. Pluses were good tzatziki (they cheerfully gave me extra upon request) and good crispy fries. I will return.

                    1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                      Every gyro I have ever had in CT, MA, and NYC had lettuce. Only the souvlaki would come sans lettuce.

            2. I am from Chicago and have been on a mission to find a good gyros, and have eaten many a horrendous travesty that folks in SF try to call a 'gyros' with lettuce or hummus in it., some wrapped like a burrito..oy...enduring these trials/errors in my search. i have to say the best you're going to get, which is pretty good to quench my craving, is at Java House, next to the ballpark. the owner is greek and admits chicago is the home of the gyros. The best gyros used to be this place in the Marina which closed down now, thats now a hotdog joint called Wassup Dawg.

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              Java House
              Pier 40, San Francisco, CA 94102

              11 Replies
              1. re: universe

                For some reason the map above puts the Java House near the War Memorial. The Java House on Pier 40 should be differentiated from Red's Java House on Pier 30.

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                Red's Java House
                Pier 30, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Java House
                Pier 40, San Francisco, CA 94102

                1. re: wolfe

                  thanks. i meant the one on Pier 40 near ATT. not Red's.

                2. re: universe

                  This is good to know. about Red's. I haven't been there in years, and have only had their breakfasts. The place in the Marina was called Wilbur's, and, yes, it probably was the best in SF. Do you know if Red's makes their own gyro meat melange, or do they just use Kronos?

                  1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                    Not Red's but the Java House Coffee Shop.a 1/2 mile south on Pier 40 at Townsend St. It is not Red's which is across from Bryant St.

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                    Java House
                    Pier 40, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Got it. I always get those two places confused. The Gyro is not showing up on the menu on their web-site though.

                      http://www.javahousesf.com/menu.htm

                      1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                        I noticed that... but I swear if you go into JavaHouse, they have a gyros!! just had the ayolas gyros. agree with mystique on the pita. guess its okay, for a healthy gyros..

                        1. re: universe

                          i know...what it is..the ayola gyros reminds me moreso of a doner kebab you get in england.

                          1. re: universe

                            Oooh...how so? Are we talking yoghurt sauce and red cabbage?

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              although no red cabbage, but i think its the combination of the acidic/vinegary crunchy chopped salad , hot sauce, less greasy meat, and the style of pita.

                          2. re: universe

                            I sent my lackey -- errr, administrative assistant -- yesterday, and he came back with a somewhat sloppy thing made with the pre-sliced strips that they fry up. And it had lettuce. It was OK, but Ayola is probably still a bit better (which isn't saying much)...

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                            Ayola
                            327 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                            1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                              I was initially confused that the meat didnt look carved too (but I think its understandable not to have a spit, cuz the turnover of gyros out here may not warrant), but the flavor is the most similar I could find to Chicago's (which would have about 5xs more meat in it), where the meat is at least some version of dark brown, kinda crispy/almost fried edges versus the lukewarm grey stuff that may looked carved...but lacks a bit of greasiness about it... I didnt have lettuce, and usually request extra tzatiki sauce. Most likely it's better eaten on the spot, in the same vein as getting french fries delivered is not quite the same..in the end, i think its a matter of preference of style here. i think ayolas needs more grease.

                  2. Does a good Gyro have to real meat instead of processed meat. I think it does, but real skewed lamb seems hard to find.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: boris_qd

                      A product made from whole muscle meat is usually called "Schwarma". The processed meat is real meat mixed with spices and breadcrumbs. Some perfer one over the other. I like 'em both.

                      1. re: GyroJoe

                        I'm with you, two different animals with their own points to recommend each.

                        What I don't like are the gyro meat strips cooked on the flattop.

                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                          I totally agree, and I say this unironically: I also prefer my gyro strips to be cut from the processed meat cylinder as opposed to being pre-sliced, frozen, and reheated.

                          I read on wikipedia that for regulatory reasons, "gyro" now contains whole muscle meat in Greece, but the original concoction is gyro-loaf.

                          1. re: brhau

                            The mystery-meat gyro cone is a relatively modern industrial variation on the handmade layered-slices version, and the vertical spit was probably introduced in the 19th century. The claim that gyro was introduced to Greece in 1970 is nonsense, since Greek immigrants were serving it in the US at least as far back as 1965.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Cool, interesting to know. Were they called gyros back then, too?

                              1. re: brhau

                                IIRC, when we were in Athens in 1971 they were called souvlaki, carved off the vertical spit. We didn't hear the term "gyros" until we returned stateside and discovered souvlaki was something totally different.

                                1. re: PolarBear

                                  Here's another version. Maybe the Greeks didn't have a word for it until it reached New York.
                                  "A sandwich that is said to have originated 2,000 years ago is capturing the attention of Manhattan's quick eaters. The sandwich, a Greek gyro, pronounce "year-oh" is a lamb, tomato and onion concoction nestled in a fold of a soft bread called pita. More than 30 Greek snack stores selling the gyro have opened in Manhattan in the last year, according to the proprieter's estimates. In a heavily trafficked areas such as Times Square, three stores have opened in the last two months. Why has the Greek Gryo gained a prominent place in the fast food race? Store owners, patrons and native Greeks agree that the two major reasons are that the gyro is "different" and "delicious...The increase in the snack's popularity may be related to the large number of Americans who visit Greece and sample the local cuisine...The term gyro denotes a ring or circle and refers to the rotation of the meat as it is cooked. Greek historians attribute the origin of the dish to soldiers from the army of Alexander the great, who skewered their meat on long knives and cooked it by repeated turning over an open firet. Modern gyros are cooked on an electric rotisserie and are sold for prices ranging from 85 cents to $1...A Young Greek couple enjoying a gyro or "doner kebab" at the new Plaza de Athena on Broadway at 45th Street said they thought the food was "close to what it's like in Athens."
                                  ---"The Gyro, a Greek Sandwich, Selling Like Hot Dogs," New York Times, September 4, 1971 (p. 23)
                                  Sigh, 85 cents.

                                  1. re: wolfe

                                    Right--I'm distinctly interested in the phenomenon of the gyro product as described in that article. I'm aware that it's based on food that preexisted for quite some time. But in my mind, "gyro" means that loaf stuff. I could be wrong of course, but that's my understanding. Interestingly, in New York, the vendors always seem to pronounce it "JEYE-roh," and not "year-oh." One guy told me it was to avoid confusion with "hero" sandwiches that he also sold.

                                  2. re: PolarBear

                                    You know, it's odd, but now I can't remember what they called them in Athens in the early '70s! There was a great hole-in-the-wall grill/rotisserie/gyro joint down the street from our apartment and that is where I had my first Gyro, but I don't really remember if we actually called them that. They also served the kabob/souvlaki in the same way, so that you had chunks of meat in the pita rather than slices. I still remember those flavors and have been searching for them in the U.S. ever since! There was something just fundamentally more greasy and salty about these concoctions than what you get here.

                                    1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                                      I have been dissatisfied with our Gyros around here since visiting Australia where they have a "Kuh-Bab" shop on every corner. The pitas are always thick warm and fresh and the what the aussies seem to eat is the Kuh-bab" which might be a shwerma over here. The fill a very thin bread with a lot of great doner kebab meat, hot sauce, cucumber, tomato, onion, and lots of tzatki sauce, then they grill it on both sides. Everything is fresh hot and toasty. Over here I always get cold, rubbery, or dry bread and nothing grilled. Sigh.

                                      1. re: myst

                                        Go to Oasis Market in Berkeley or Truly Mediterranean in SF.

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                                        Oasis Market
                                        3045 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                      2. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                                        Best "fundamentally more greasy and salty" version of this kind of sandwich I've ever had in the US is the doner kebab @ Bereket, in the LES, NY.

                        2. I haven't had any great gyros, but the lamb schwaerma at Truly Mediterranean is great.

                          The stuff at Oasis Market in Oakland might be even better.

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                          Truly Mediterranean
                          3109 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                          Oasis Market
                          3045 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I'm leaning towards Oasis also, need to do more research though....

                          2. I really like the #22 at Gyro King on Grove, right across from the main entrance to the SF Public Library there. #22 is the lamb and beef gyro and it's almost as big as any burrito from the Mission! Very filling and delicious. I have a friend I like to go there with and all I have to do is call him up and say "Wanna get a #22?" - LOL.

                            They also have really good tabbouleh too.

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                            Gyro King
                            25 Grove St, San Francisco, CA 94102