Nearly two years after announcing its expansion, Mediterranean Gyro Grill is in the final stages of opening in University Place.
If all goes as planned, the restaurant near Whole Foods Market should be serving gyro, falafel and shawarma platters within about the next month at the Village at Chambers Bay
That’s contingent on inspections and permits, of course.
Jay Barbour is eager for his Pierce County expansion to materialize. He’s the owner of a restaurant of the same name just over the King County border in Federal Way. Before that, he operated another restaurant in Des Moines. His brother runs that restaurant now as Midway Gyro.
The restaurant is one of several new or upcoming restaurants in the University Place shopping center. Top Pot Doughnuts opened in July. Anthem Coffee currently is under construction in the old Frog ‘N Kiwi Cafe.
While the Federal Way location of Mediterranean Gyro Grill presents itself as a casual restaurant with a come-as-you-are sensibility, University Place will aim for a more rounded dining experience. A piano will reside in the dining room for live music. Barbour also plans to host belly dancers, as he does at his Federal Way restaurant.
Barbour describes his menu as a full spread of Mediterranean ingredients and techniques encompassing Greek, Lebanese and Syrian cuisine. He’s taken cooking lessons in Mediterranean but considers his mother his best cooking teacher. She taught him how to prepare the many lamb dishes on his menu.
I took a dining field trip to the Federal Way location. Here are a few things to know about Mediterranean Gyro Grill before it opens in University Place.
The menu: Huge menu covering broad territory. Meze-style appetizers, plus beef, lamb, chicken, shawarma and falafel plates, gyro sandwiches, pizza and pasta.
On the appetizer menu, find hummus ($8.99), baba ganoush ($8.99), plus kibbeh ($1.99), dolmades ($3.99) and spanakopita ($3.99).
Sandwiches include beef-and-lamb gyro shaved from a meat cone that spins on a vertical rotisserie next to the grill ($7.99), chicken shawarma ($6.99), plus falafel ($7.99) or hummus/baba ganoush sandwiches ($6.99).
There’s also pizza ($5.99 to $7.99) and spaghetti ($12.99).
On the entree menu, find lamb shanks and lamb chops ($19.99). Platters include lamb or beef shawarma ($14.99), beef-and-lamb shish kebab ($15.99), chicken shawarma ($13.99) and a gyro plate ($14.99). Other entrees include moussaka, the layered eggplant dish ($14.99) and zahrah, the roasted cauliflower dish ($9.99).
Prices: The Federal Way restaurant is a casual restaurant with bargain prices. Expect University Place to carry slightly higher menu prices.
Portions: The theme here is singular: Barbour is generous with portions and sharing his love of Mediterranean food with diners. It’s typical to see him conduct table-side visits.
On a first visit: Order the smoky baba ganoush, a dip made of pureed eggplant, with crisp cucumbers, lightly peppered, for dipping alongside fresh-grilled pita ($8.99).
The lamb shawarma platter was enough for lunch, dinner and lunch again ($14.99) with a tangle of sauteed purple cabbage and heady scented rice at the base and an obscene amount of delicious grilled lamb (was there cinnamon I tasted in there?). The entire platter was drizzled copiously with a creamy tahini dip. It was so big, I didn’t know where to enter, so I stabbed my fork right in the middle. There’s nothing delicate about eating a platter of lamb, so just go for it.
Vegetarians should steer to the outstanding falafel plate with fried discs of ground, spiced garbanzo beans ($11.99). Flanking the falafel was pita, plus a well-dressed salad with feta and tangy hummus.
University Place menu: Barbour said the UP location will have extra seafood items not available at his Federal Way restaurant. While he serves beer and wine in Federal Way, the University Place location will serve those, plus spirits. Diners can look forward to ouzo and other distilled spirits from the Mediterranean, Barbour said.
Mediterranean Gyro Grill
Federal Way: 34024 Hoyt Road SW, Federal Way; 253-874-1144; mediterraneangyrogrill.com.
University Place: 3555 Market Place W, University Place (at the Village at Chambers Bay).