History of the Gyro Sandwich: From Greece to Portland

Posted by Aybla Grill Greek Mediterranean Food on Monday, September 3, 2018

Aybla Grill_History of the Gyro Sandwich From Greece to Portland

You can’t talk about the Greek gyro sandwich without talking about gyro meat itself. In modern times the meat and the sandwich have become synonymous, but prior to the rise of the popular sandwich of the same name, gyro referred to meat on a stick—a kebab if you will.


The Turks literally turned grilling on its side with the vertical rotisserie. Seasoned meat was stacked in the shape of an inverted cone and rotated on a vertical spit. As the outside cooked, it was sliced and prepared to eat, this would expose a new layer of meat to cook and the process repeated until all the meat was served. This process was known as the doner kebab.


Around World War II, the doner kebab was introduced to Athens and prepared with lamb. It still kept the name as doner kebab until the 1970’s when modern Greeks wanted to give it a name that was more Greek-centric. The word gyro means “circle” or “turn”. The same prefix is used in gyroscope—which is also an object spinning on a vertical axis. The spinning lamb meat now had a name that matched its popularity as an Athens street food. 


Gyros were first introduced to America in Chicago and New York during the 1970’s. The familiar slices of lamb, wrapped in pita, with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce was an instant hit and grew in popularity.  Today, there is no hard data to determine how many gyro sandwiches are consumed, but a single manufacturer can produce enough gyros to make 600,000 sandwiches a day! There are about a half dozen gyro manufacturers in the U.S.

Aybla Grill has recently opened a new Greek Mediterranean restaurant in Portland. Not only do we offer some of the best Greek food in Portland, but we are also one of the few halal restaurants in the city. Please check out our food carts and call 971-328-2041 for catering.


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