Gyros and shawarma. Call them shaved meat sandwiches. Or just simply refer to them as delicious slices of meaty yum tucked into griddle warmed pita. Actually, I don’t care what you call them, just get yourself to Gyro Zone, a new gyro and shawarma sandwich shop that has opened in University Place.
Husband and wife Ali Abumathneh and Amal Burini opened their small sandwich cafe July 20 in a location that previously housed Gyros Place. Abumathneh and Burini were not affiliated with that restaurant. Rather, this is the first restaurant for the couple, although Abumathneh has years experience cooking with his cousins at their Seattle restaurant, Aladdin. Burini grew up in Port Orchard and University Place.
Abumathneh’s style of cooking skews more Middle Eastern than Greek. The spicing on the sandwiches tasted warm and earthy. He finishes sandwiches with a shake of sumac, a distinctive Middle Eastern spice with a pleasant tartness.
The menu lists about a half dozen each of vegetarian and meat sandwiches, all priced under $6. Ground beef and lamb gyros are served, of course, but dig deeper into the menu for something not often found here - shawarma. The marinated, grilled meat sandwiches at Gyro Zone are served in three configurations - beef, chicken or lamb. Think of it as a Middle Eastern style gyro with zestier spicing and fuller flavors. Those meats are marinated in house at the restaurant using Abumathneh’s Middle Eastern spice blends.
In addition to a falafel sandwich ($5.02), the menu also lists vegetarian-friendly sandwiches made with hummus, baba ganouj, cauliflower or feta cheese.
Here’s a menu find for anyone who loves Middle Eastern cauliflower preparations. Gyro Zone has zahra mekhla. The fried cauliflower dish ($4.57) is served with tahini, lemon and pita.
For a first-time visit, order the classic gyros sandwich ($5.26). In true gyros shop fashion, Abumathneh sliced ground beef and lamb from a vertically rotating meat cone. But then he tossed the meat onto a grill with onions and griddled both while shaking on a spice mixture tinged with turmeric and cumin. He tucked the fragrant mess into a pita and wrapped it up with lettuce, tomatoes and tzatziki that turned yellow as soon as it mingled with the turmeric. It was a four-napkin sandwich, deliciously spiced, and required two hands to handle. I’m a fan.
The sandwich shop is small and clean, the dining room contains a handful of tables. The restaurant will specialize in take out and call-ahead orders, the owners say. I spotted baklava in the dessert case. See the menus below.
Gyro Zone7510 40th St. W., University Place, 253-267-1616, facebook.com/GyroZone
SANDWICH ALERT IN UNIVERSITY PLACEHey deli sandwich fans - here’s another restaurant opening in University Place. Brooklyn’s Sandwiches is coming to 3318 Bridgeport Way. I spoke briefly with the owners and they said they’d be serving deli sandwiches. Stay tuned for details.