A $27 Gyro Buys a Ticket to Pork Mountain in Logan Square

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Wildly expensive street food is back in vogue. A textbook execution of this formula played out just last month when the Pendry, a downtown hotel inside the stunning Carbon and Carbide Building, blanketed the city in press releases trumpeting a $187 hot dog combo, read: a boudin blanc sausage doused in black truffle mustard and seared foie gras on a poppy seed bun in honor of Chicago’s 187th birthday. The phenomenon isn’t just a Chicago one, as New York also has a case of pricey wieners.

Pendry’s decadent dog comes with an Old Fashioned made with Makers Mark and Macallan 12-year, which makes a little bit more sense. Things proceeded precisely as they were meant to, sparking vigorous and sometimes crude condemnation – the white-hot fuel that powers Al Gore’s internet. One brave soul copped to giving it a try but didn’t report back on the experience.

Inside Willis Tower, James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer and his team at Kindling are charging $24 for a wagyu Italian beef with “raclette whiz” at lunch. Chef Kelly Ijichi, known for indie Japanese American pop-up Mom’s, has for years dabbled with opulent takes on paczki, doctoring up the traditional Polish treats with shaved winter truffle and edible gold leaves.

A hot dog platted with herbs with an old fashioned.
At $187, this isn’t a value combo.
Pendry/Matt Haas

It was in this context that on Monday, February 26, a random Chicagoan’s comment in the True West Loop Facebook group caught my eye: “Just a Monday rant,” it reads. “In the last week, I’ve had $20 house wine and a $27 gyro that was the worst gyro I ever had.”

I had questions: Where is this gyro that costs nearly 30 American dollars, and what could be so terrible about it? It’s hard to say for sure, but there’s a pretty good chance that the answer lies at Andros Taverna in Logan Square (not in West Loop), an upscale Greek restaurant from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises vet Doug Psaltis (the “P” in RPM restaurants) and his wife, pastry chef Hsing Chen. They just happen to have a $27 gyro on the menu. It’s within walking distance of my home, seems perpetually bustling, and I’ve had excellent service there on more than one occasion, so off I went to spend more than double the price of a “king-size” gyro at Lincoln Park’s Athenian Room.

For $27, this had better be a glorious gyro — and it is, indeed, practically a mountain of slow-roasted pork — just like the ones served where Psaltis grew up in Astoria, New York; it’s not the processed Kronos gyro cone, a staple of Chicago street food culture. It’s both crisp and juicy atop a fresh yogurt-smeared pita and thick-cut fries that soak up the porky flavor to great effect. But its remarkable size is also, for some, a hindrance. There is no way to eat this thing by hand, at least not in the way generations of gyro-eaters have devoured them seemingly since time immemorial.

One could cut the whole thing in half (my preferred approach), though this requires some precise rearrangement of tomato and cucumber toppings, and ideally, a dining companion that doesn’t mind watching someone play with their food. Or, like my husband, one could simply say “fork it,” reach for the utensils, and mow through Pork Mountain until it’s reduced to a manageable elevation.

Such a plentiful portion also wears on the wood-fired pita. Though the pita is delicious and made fresh, its pillowy texture is deflated completely by the meat and thick yogurt. By the end of an hour-long meal, the yogurt is absorbed into any remaining pita and results in a gluey mouthful. Saturated carbs can be a delight (think grilled cheese dunked in tomato soup), but there’s little joy in this gyro’s soggy bottom.

A plate of gyros.
Pork mountain is an amusement.
Eat Well Hospitality

To be clear, Andros’ submission is not even close to the worst gyro I’ve encountered. But it is an expensive and slightly exhausting endeavor, one that reveals the shaky underpinnings of the entire spendy street food exercise. When flaws, however minor, inevitably emerge, it naturally rankles both diners who feel taken for a ride, not to mention the city’s many street food experts who earn a living with top-notch versions of the humble dishes that comfort the wallet-conscious working people of Chicago.

And yet, Andros’ gyros aren’t even the most expensive in Chicago. That title goes to Lyra, a splashy Greek restaurant in Fulton Market run by Dineamic Hospitality. Its slow-roasted lamb gyros go for $52, a price so bonkers that one could imagine an Athenian yia-yia’s head exploding. Pricey meat cones aside, there was another disturbing revelation from that Facebook post in which the diner claims they “got yelled at for eating chips off an abandoned table this weekend.”

When shelling out for soggy pita, I suppose some people have to make their own fun.

Andros Taverna

2542 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 365-1900 Visit Website

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