September 8, 2023 | OPINION | By Sam Treat
Located in one of Colorado Springs’ most mediocre strip malls, I knew before I walked in that Golden Gyros would provide, at minimum, an experience.
I’m not sure what led me to that conclusion; it may have been the box truck that seemingly housed four or five occupants, all of whom congregated in the parking lot with possessions spewing out of the raised door. Or, it may have been the elderly Greek couple smoking and yelling at each other behind the building, making the whole experience more authentic. Or, perhaps even more likely, it was the sign on the exterior of the building advertising “over a million served,” which I was immediately more than skeptical of.
Whatever it was, my premonition proved true from the moment I set foot inside.
A pleasant ambiance greeted me, radiating from dorm room-esque string lights and the hum of a display case working overtime to present as edible the single tray of likely day-old baklava. What did not greet me, however, was another person – I was alone in the restaurant. As it turns out, the Greek couple in the parking lot were the owners and sole employees. The woman entered first, demanding an order from me in a thick Greek accent. At the same time, her husband rounded the corner, apologizing profusely for missing my entrance.
The menu was simple and easy to understand, with prices reflecting very reasonable deals on gyros, combos, and sides. During my short period of solitude within the business, my eyes couldn’t help but drift to the wheels of glistening meat in the back: a traditional gyro component. The location and service no longer mattered – the meat appeared delectable regardless of any extenuating factors.
I ordered a sampling of the most popular menu items: a chicken gyro, a regular gyro (lamb/beef), a combo plate and a side of falafel.
Let’s start with the highlights. While my expectations for the regular were high, it was the chicken gyro that took the cake. The chicken was flavorful, with hints of lemon and saffron seasoning. But more than that, it was juicy. The epidemic of dry chicken has yet to reach the strip malls of Union Street, evidenced by the fact that Golden Gyros’ chicken is moist but firm.
The rest of the gyro was filled with lettuce that didn’t exactly seem fresh, as well as tomato, cucumber and tzatziki sauce. While I wish there was more sauce within the confines of the warm pita, the meal came with another cup of tzatziki to dip the gyro in, which I did liberally.
The lamb/beef gyro was the exact same in construction and thus still tasty, but noticeably drier and less flavorful. The culprit was the meat itself. While the cover of the gyro allowed the meat to fly under the radar, when that same meat was exposed and naked on the combo platter (essentially a deconstructed gyro with rice), it was clear that it was lacking. The dryness was the most egregious sin of all.
Gyro meat is meant to spin on a rotating cone, heated on all sides by a heater. This should cause the fat to slowly render, leaving the meat juicy. As this was not the case, I suspect that the meat I was given was cut off the cone too early, or that the cone was simply turned off.
The rest of the platter, which consisted of chicken, rice, veggies and pita slices, was still a feast to behold. The sheer amount of food I was able to purchase for around $10 made the trip well worth it. Seldom can one find a substantive and filling meal from a family-owned restaurant for under $15. Let Golden Gyro be the exception.
Finally, the falafel side was very impressive. As a pro-falafel man myself, the words “falafel is awful” have reverberated around my skull since I first heard them from my siblings in my youth. I have dealt with years of hate towards the fried chickpea dish which so many around the world enjoy. If you are among those skeptical of falafel, this dish would be the perfect starter. Small, circular pucks of falafel for just $3.99 were accompanied by another batch of tzatziki, much to my delight. A great substitute for fries, the falafel was crispy without being too dry.
All in all, Golden Gyros ended up satisfying my Mediterranean cravings. The affordable prices and generous portions are hard to beat. If I could order again, I would have stuck with the chicken, doubled down on the gyros, and foregone the platter. However, the act of eating authentic Greek food in an empty restaurant at a run-down strip mall, wedged between an engine repair shop and a Papa Murphy’s, is one that I think is quintessential to the Colorado Springs experience.