Finding a Fishing Hamlet Gyro

By Patricia B. Mitchell, 2002.


A gyro at Tony's Pizza, Calabash, North Carolina.

My food partner / spouse and I ate our first gyros at the Pizza Shack in Myrtle Beach in the late 1970's. We loved the lamb-beef meat on pita bread and the tangy sour cream/cucumber/herb sauce. We returned to the South Carolina site for more of the same, and followed that particular eatery through name and location changes. We also sought out gyros in Greensboro, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Washington, D.C.; and other cities. (Our little, very Southern-fried hometown of Chatham, Virginia certainly had no Greek restaurants, or Greek culture.) We found some good gyros in our travels, and, in 1984 in Athens, Greece we ate souvlaki, a close cousin of the gyro.

The history of this fine sandwich is a bit hazy, but suffice it to say, it goes back a long way. (Who can state definitely when someone first put meat on pita bread and added some “salad materials”?) — A “historically” proper gyro is made with meat cut off a big cylinder of well-seasoned lamb or lamb and beef. This meat is on a slowly rotating vertical spit (Hence, the name “gyro,” implying the circular spinning motion of a gyroscope). The sandwich maker slices off strips of the warm meat when the sandwich is ordered; heats pita bread on a griddle or grill, and then serves the meat on the bread, topped with the sauce, and usually garnished with lettuce and tomato. It is delicious.

However, the inevitable modern “innovations” appeared. First came a pre-formed cone of meat; then evolved pre-cut slices, which, at their worst, are bacon-like pieces of an unidentifiable, greasy, hard, meat-like product. Alas, my spouse, Henry, and I ran into this depressing, thin, hardtack last year at that same Myrtle Beach gyro place which had been, up until then, our favorite gyro source. They have not seen us since.

Thankfully, however, we discovered an excellent gyro in, of all places, Calabash, North Carolina, “Seafood Capitol of the World.” At Tony's Pizza (see separate article), the owner Gus Stathos fixes gyros made (sigh!) from pre-sliced, but not bad, Kronos-brand gyro meat. Tony's (established in 1980) serves pleasing pizza, sandwiches, and Greek salad, too, according to our kids. (None of us have tried the pasta or desserts yet, since we just discovered the restaurant on a Myrtle Beach trip last week.)

Despite the “fast-food” meat, the gyros are quite satsifying, and finding them was, for me, actually a high point of our vacation because we had “lost” our old Myrtle Beach gyro place. (Calabash is only about 20 miles north of Myrtle Beach and boasts a charmingly picturesque fishing boat dock on the Calabash River.)

Our gyros search will still go on, so, kind reader, please let me know of great gyros (and other “good eats”) you have discovered.