Review: Gyro Sandwich at Dino’s, The Greek Place
Lately, the fast food world has been all atwitter with big headline items like Dorito’s Locos Tacos, Burger King’s new fries or Wendy’s new burgers and as much as I like… scratch that… love a taco inside a Nacho Cheese Dorito, I’ve kind of grown tired of all these flashy new ways to repackage the same old crap. It seems like the quick serve industry is starving for something new. One such trend is the expansion into pricier and slightly classier foods, such as the offerings at Panera Bread or Noodles and Company. Meals are often in the $7 to $10 range rather than the big boys’ value meals which usually hover around the $5 mark.
This installment of Murray’s musings seeks to introduce you to a restaurant which should fit right into this growing segment of the market. Dino’s offers a simple menu of variations on the classic Gyro along with other traditional Mediterranean dishes like pita chips with humus or olive laden salads. The Genesis of Dino’s is the classic American success story of an immigrant family who built a business by working hard and selling what they know best; their native food. As the second generation of the family begins to take the reins, they have positioned themselves to break into the saturated fast food market with something different to offer from their menu, while modeling the rest of their business off of the successful chains. Clean, bright surroundings with a hip, stylized logo make up a complete franchise package, ready to expand beyond their 6 Minnesota locations.
So, this place has a nice story, a menu of unique items and a well designed brand identity; but is their food any good. Any time I review a new restaurant, I like to start by trying their signature item. For Dino’s, that would, of course, be the Gyro (one of Ryan’s least favorite words to pronounce in the food industry), described on their website as:
Gyro Sandwich – With raw onions, tomatoes and tzatziki sauce.
Of course the main ingredient needed for an authentic Gyro is lamb which is why I found it odd that they did not put that in their description. Dino’s nutrition info page calls their meat “Athenian Gyro Meat” and lists the ingredients as “Beef, Lamb, Cereal (Corn, Wheat and Rye Flours), Water, Seasoning”. Now, I guess I knew that the weird hunk of meat that rotates around on a vertical spit wasn’t just like a leg of lamb or something, but I didn’t realize it might be a mix of different meats and I certainly didn’t think I was eating cereal. I suppose this is fairly standard, but I really haven’t done the research to tell you if it is. I’m sure one of our astute readers will let me know what should go into authentic gyro meat.
At any rate, the meat was very tasty and plentiful. The rest of the gyro sandwich was also in good proportion with the raw onions not overwhelming everything as I’ve experienced at some gyro purveyors. Again, I don’t know enough about Greek food to tell you if their Tzatziki sauce (a cucumber sauce, for those not familiar) is particularly authentic or not, but it certainly tasted good to me and was in line with other versions I’ve had before. The pita bread was warm, soft and well constructed to keep the ingredients from migrating too far.
With the “combo”, I had a choice of fries, pita chips and humus, or a salad for a 50-cent upcharge. I immediately saw the Caesar salad and thought, well, when in Rome. About 5 seconds after I ordered I realized that Rome is not in Greece. It gets confusing, what with all the columns and what not. I sure thought I was clever though, for those 5 seconds. At first I thought I should skip the salad as part of my review, just to avoid the embarrassment, but it looked pretty good and after a few bites I thought it worthy of my time and probably unfair to the readers to be so vain.
The salad, of course, contained Romaine lettuce, and the other standard Caesar salad ingredients (minus the anchovies). There were two surprises here: One is that the black olives in the salad were not just cheap, run of the mill, olives, but rather were high quality and clearly selected specially for this salad. They did not have that overly firm, rubbery consistency like store-bought black olives typically have. They were soft, moist and quite good. Secondly, the dressing could have easily been the same old crap you get at any of the Applebee’s, Chili’s, TGIFridays, Olive Garden, etc. when you order a Caesar salad. Instead, the dressing was noticeably different. It had much richer flavor without being sweet, like the suburbanized versions at these other places. It reminded me much more of the dressings I’ve had at places fancy enough to actually have the anchovies in the salad.
All in all I think Dino’s has formulated a great plan for a start-up franchise. A little something different, done right; mixed with the familiarities of other successful chains.
Pros: Nails the classic Gyro, high quality salad ingredients, clean comfortable environment, use of actual dishware (you get a real bowl and metal fork for your salad).
Cons: A bit pricy. Really should have the Greek Salad listed first, to avoid embarrassment for Geography-impaired Americans
Grubbing on-the-go: 6.50/10
Price: for a "combo" including Gyro, fries and soft drink. $0.50 upcharge for the Caesar Salad
Overall GrubGrade: 8.50/10
More Info: DinosGyros.com
Nutrition info is available on their website, but is a bit confusing since they only give you the info for each ingredient and you are expected to piece it together for your sandwich or salad.