Vast menu of comfort classics serves the Whitehall eatery well.
Cliches are the crutch of the unimaginative, yet they endure because they occasionally ring true. This was certainly the case with the blase-sounding King Gyros and that tired saying about a book and its cover.
Because based on exterior trappings, King Gyros doesn't look like the kind of place I'd ever think to review. But based on its high-quality, old-country Grandma-style of Greek cooking, King Gyros is the kind of restaurant I'm happy to alert you to.
So never mind the uninspired little drive-thru equipped fast-food building with its multi-hued, gaudy come-ons blaring in windows ("family meal deals!" "Gyro bowls!"). And don't hold its loud interior lighting, styrofoam plates and plastic "cutlery" against it, either.
No, just order from its huge Hellenic comfort food menu and wait five to 10 minutes for your soul to be soothed by generous portions of genuine family recipe type stuff.
Speaking of family, the regally named King Gyros is related to the royal lineage that gave us Fisherman's Wharf, the original Niki's on Morse Road and My Big Fat Greek Kuzina. In other words, you can dine on that dynasty's recipes even at King Gyros less than imperial location.
OK, appetizer wise, the Three Greek Dips ($8.50) made for a potent palate opener. I ordered mine with enticingly salty and spicy Greek Fire Feta; cuminy, rich if unsmoky Roasted Eggplant; and a garlicky, thick and tangy tzatziki. The nifty trio was variously garnished with decent ripe olives, banana peppers, tomato and thinly sliced cucumber.
For a heartier starter, target the terrific Cabbage Rolls (two hard-to-miss biggies for $6). Thin, mildly flavored cabbage leaves encased a dense, homey filling of rice and ground lamb. Gilding the luscious lilies were a deep and dark, long-cooked tomato sauce and flakes of feta and Parmesan cheeses.
A similarly scrumptious tomato sauce made thick with fistfuls of ground lamb and scented with cinnamon formed the basis of a mouth-walloping Moussaka ($9), one of the better versions in town. The mammoth and meaty slab also featured placating slices of roasted potatoes and eggplant plus a creamy bechamel cap that countered the tomatoey tartness.
The spirit of Fred Flintstone lives on in the yabba-dabba-do-shout-inducing Papa's Lamb Shanks ($13). Two brontosaurus-sized bones were packed with falling-off, succulent and unctuous meat slathered in (more) tangy tomato sauce sided with yellow rice, green beans and roasty large carrot shards.
King Gyros is also skilled on the grill. So a simple block of salmon ($9.25) and chunks of chicken kebobs ($8.25, with grilled sweet onions and peppers) became considerably more interesting given crusty, smoky, cross-hatched marks. Like most entrees, it came with the nice house rice and veggies, plus either skin-on, hand-cut fries (sometimes golden brown and crispy, sometimes not so much) or soup (a solid chicken lemon or an unusual and unusually good chili-like lentil).
I'm a sucker for custard, but since King Gyros' Greek Custard was more flaky pastry than filling, I'd give the dessert edge to its nutty baklava.
Either way, at King Gyros (cliche alert!) it's all Greek to me.
To read G.A. Benton's blog, visit columbusdiningguide.com
To read G.A. Benton's blog visit ColumbusDiningGuide.com