TNT Diner

New restaurant expands area's small offering of Middle Eastern food. Get the kebab

A beef and lamb gyro platter from newly opened Gyro Bites in Tacoma. The restaurant serves a wide range of Mediterranean food.
A beef and lamb gyro platter from newly opened Gyro Bites in Tacoma. The restaurant serves a wide range of Mediterranean food. skidd@thenewstribune.com

Hummus topped with olive oil and sprinkled with sumac and parsley. Smoky baba ganoush dressed the same. Cool, creamy tzatziki. Just add kibbeh, falafel and well-grilled pita for an easy and inexpensive meze spread at Gyro Bites.

The fast-food restaurant big on flavor opened earlier this month at 6409 Sixth Ave. in the same strip mall as El Malecon de Tacoma, the Mexican restaurant.

The Gyro Bites menu is a blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes and lists gyro, shawarma and kebabs.

Specifically, the menu lists a few Jordanian dishes diners won’t easily find on menus here — mansaf ($10.99) and mandi ($9.99).

Those Friday-only specialty items are national favorites from owner Mohammad Alhawamdeh’s native Jordan.

“The mandi is a rice dish with spices,” said Alhawamdeh. “It’s made with really tender meat. The meat is cooked really well, with a taste that is awesome.”

He described the mansaf as a regional favorite in Jordan made with lamb that is long-simmered with a yogurt sauce.

Alhawamdeh, who opened the restaurant with a friend who acts as the restaurant’s chef, also raves about chicken shawarma, a dish he says has so far become popular in the restaurant’s first few weeks.

I’ll also rave about the beef-and-lamb gyros with a whiff of cinnamon and the spiced falafel.

Here’s a first-bite report of Gyro Bites. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.

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Hummus from Gyro Bites in Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Dining room: Tidy and straightforward with comfortable seating for about 32. One long table seats 12 with the rest comprising four-seat tables. Cushioned seating lines one wall.

Style of service: Order at the counter or call ahead for take-out. The restaurant is fast-casual.

Timing: Made-from-scratch food takes more time than a typical fast-food restaurant, but the payoff is in the flavor.

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Kafta kabob with rice, salad, pita and hummus from Gyro Bites in Tacoma. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Menu: Appetizers include hummus ($4.50), baba ganoush ($4.50), fried cauliflower with tahini sauce ($4.99), rice-stuffed grape leaves ($4.99), spanakopita ($2.99), fries ($1.99) and more. Salads include a Greek salad ($2.99), falafel ($7.99), gyro salad ($7.99) and more.

Entree platters include lamb-and-beef gyro ($8.99), chicken shawarma ($8.99), lamb shawarma ($10.99) and kafta, chicken or beef kebab platters ($10.99).

Five vegetarian sandwiches include fried cauliflower, hummus, falafel, baba ganoush and feta ($4.99 each). Meat sandwiches include classic or chicken gyro ($5.99), chicken shawarma ($7.99), gyro-chicken mix ($7.49) or lamba shawarma ($6.99). A cheeseburger also is listed ($4.99 a la carte or $5.59 with fries and a drink).

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A falafel platter with rice, salad, pita and hummus at Gyro Bites in Tacoma. Sue Kidd

On a first visit: Assemble a healthy, vegetarian feast with tahini-heavy hummus ($4.50) and baba ganoush, a flavorful dip made from smoked eggplant and tahini ($4.50). Both served with fresh-from-the-grill-warmed pita wedges.

Platters, listed as main dishes on the menu, provided an excellent overview of the restaurant’s broad menu as well as a glimpse at its exceptional value.

The falafel platter held a half dozen well-spiced ground chickpea discs, flecked with parsley and topped with tahini sauce ($8.99). The platter held fluffy rice pilaf, a creamy pool of hummus, a pile of grill-warmed pita and a tasty romaine salad with a simple vinaigrette, olives, feta, cucumber, tomato and onion.

Other platters also included the same rice, pita, hummus and salad.

Kafta kebab, made of ground, spiced meat, was punctuated with plenty of garlic and the same tahini sauce as the falafel. The ground meat kebabs were grilled until the edges were just crisped ($10.99). A gyro platter held a generous serving of tender beef and lamb with a cool drizzle of tzatziki sauce complementing the flavorful meat ($8.99).

Fridays only: Get a taste of mansaf and mandi.

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Find Gyro Bites in a strip mall on the Narrows end of Sixth Avenue. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Other shawarma finds: Head to University Place for more shawarma, kebab, fried cauliflower and meze.

The fast food restaurant Gyro Zone opened there in 2013 with a menu of shawarma, gyro sandwiches and outstanding meze (7510 40th St. W., University Place, 253-267-1616).

The Gyro Zone fried cauliflower sandwich is in my heavy rotation for lunch.

Mediterranean Gyro Grill opened in University Place in 2017 with table service, live music, a full cocktail menu and a menu that also features shawarma, kebab, kibbeh and meze (3555 Market Place W, University Place; 253-314-5122).

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270, @tntdiner

Gyro Bites

Where: 6409 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

Info: 253-212-2447 or bit.ly/2IIzlTE

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sunday.

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