In addition to the sparkling writing you read regularly on this blog, we have started a little podcast where Wes and I take you on a dinner trip to a local Pittsburgh eatery. It’s sort of about the place – certainly, the setting plays a huge part. But it’s also more about our dinner conversation. Wes made the suggestion that it might be nice for lonely people eating by themselves to listen to us and feel like they were among friends. I think that sounds really sad, and besides, if you’ve got a TV or a computer, eating alone is never really an issue. Anyway, the first podcast has been posted: Forked on the Road, on Podbean.com, also available on ITunes.
Take a listen as me and Wes make a visit to his favorite gyro place, It’s Greek to Me in Brookline. If you’re short on time, I’ve prepared a little review.
I discuss this a bit with Wes in the podcast, but I’m not a huge gyro fan. Of course nowadays, it’s mostly because the gyro is a such meat-oriented dish. Slop a bunch of gyro meat in a pita, add some sad shredded lettuce and tomato and a bit of sauce, etc. Most places you go, that’s what you get – a greasy pile of meat with leftover scraps of sandwich veggies.
My other problem with many of the gyro-serving places around Pittsburgh is despite the fact that they differ only slightly in quality from local pizza places, they are more expensive. For example, I’ve recommended Knossos in Dormont, but after taking another look at their prices, it’s hard to steer potential customers in their direction. It’s not a complete slight against the place, but it’s hard to properly assess the quality-price gap of Knossos (and other gyro restaurants) after making a visit to It’s Greek to Me.
Describing it as a “hole in the wall” doesn’t really do it justice – yes, it’s tucked away in a small storefront on Brookline Blvd. It has an unassuming takeout entrance with a little side archway that enters into the very modest dining room. The family that owns and runs the restaurant are also its built-in wait staff, a role they somehow perform amicably amidst their numerous other duties. It helps that they seem to do a brisker take-out business than customers dining in, but if you’re in the neighborhood, I definitely recommend eating in the restaurant at least once. What it lacks in formal decor it makes up in ramshackle charm and low-key friendliness. Plus, it’s BYOB, at least as far as a bottle of wine is concerned.
The menu is extensive without being far-reaching. Despite hearing great things about the spanikopita, the mezza platter, and their signature souvlaki, Wes and I continued are contented rut with our typical menu choice: the gyro special and a plate of hummos with extra pita to share.
First up, the hummos and pita. We have learned to order extra pita as a rule for two very good reasons: 1) We’re almost always out of pita before the hummos is finished, and 2) the pita is ridiculously good – crispy on its edges, but still soft in the middle, it’s an ideal method of scooping up the garlic-touched, mild hummos it accompanies. Adorning the dish are strands of lettuce, chives and stalks of pickled celery. When we commented to our hostess that we loved the pickled celery, she was quick to bring us a side plate of the stuff, which we immediately gobbled down.
There are many places to obtain good hummos in this city, but put It’s Greek to Me at the top of the list. The portion is perfect for sharing, although you might have trouble deciding who gets the last bite. It’s mild, but not flavorless, creamy but substantial. If you do chance to run out of the pita (and, again, ask for extra, because you will both need it and want it), the hummos also works really well as an additional sauce with the gyros, or mixed into any of the salads or other appetizer items. One of these days I’m going to have some falafel and hummos on one of their pitas and leave the restaurant a very, very happy girl.
The gyro special is about $14 for four gyros, all stacked with meat, lettuce, tomato, and, of course, the sauce. Like I said at top, I’ve never been won over by the gyro. Aside from my general nitpicking regarding gyro shops, the actual dish seemed to have the subtlety of a hamburger with none of the freshness or taste possibilities of equally simple food, like the taco.
Well, I may never be a total convert to the gyro, but IGTM’s offering is enough to temporarily change my mind. The meat retains a tenderness without being sloppily soft and it offers flavor in abundance. The veggies are your typical gyro type – shredded lettuce, tomato – but they didn’t have the look of scrap fixings that you’ll so often see. Wrap it all up in the warm wonderful pita and you have a dish that is worthy of all the hype.
As you’ll probably be able to tell from the photos, their gyros aren’t without a significant grease factor, which is just a fact of the food. If you’re looking for a healthy option, backpedal out of there and get thee to a farmer’s market. This is Mediterranean soul food – rib-sticking, gut-filling, and appetite satisfying.
Throw in two Greek Iced Teas (which are inessential but delicious and highly recommended nonetheless) the meal total was something around $30, and let it be emphasized, we waddled out of there. (Well, actually, as recorded on the podcast, we ran – a very demanding little girl wanted her family members to call it a night, so we were quick to leave once it was requested that we finish up… ah, the joys and unexpected happenings of a small family run business.) While we still have much to explore on the IGTM menu, it says something that a non-gyro lover such as myself would be inclined to stick with a gyro-heavy combination. But if anything can make me see the gyro light, it’s going to be It’s Greek to Me.
It’s Greek to Me
1011 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
(412) 531 – 0400