Gyro Sandwich History


Gyro Sandwich



Gyro – An American-Greek sandwich.  Most food historians generally agree the name “gyro” and the current sandwich are both recent inventions originating in New York during the early 1970s.  Gyros, as we know them today, are thought to have evolved from the traditional “Doner Kebab” of Turkey.

Gyro is probably the most often mispronounced food name.  Even its fans usually do not get the pronounced correctly – whether it is mispronounced as “jee-rohs,” “jai-rohs,” “gee-rohs,”  The correct Greek pronunciation is “yee-rohs.”   The varied names have geographical origins from different peoples’ languages.



History of Gyros:

Gyros are believed to have originated in Greece. They are very similar to the döner kebabs of Turkey and shawarma of the Middle East, which are slices of meat, rather than a minced loaf.


1971 – Food historians generally agree the name “gyro” and the current sandwich are both recent inventions that originated in New York.  According to the New York Times newsaper, modern gyros were very popular in the city during the early 1970s:

“A sandwich that is said to have originated 2,000 years ago is capturing the attention of Manhattan’s quick eaters.  The sandwich, a Greek gyro, pronounce “year-oh” is a lamb, tomato and onion concoction nestled in a fold of a soft bread called pita.  More than 30 Greek snack stores selling the gyro have opened in Manhattan in the last year, according to the proprieter’s estimates.  In a heavily trafficked areas such as Times Square, three stores have opened in the last two months.  

Why has the Greek Gryo gained a prominent place in the fast food race?  Store owners, patrons and native Greeks agree that the two major reasons are that the gyro is “different” and “delicious . . . The increase in the snack’s popularity may be related to the large number of Americans who visit Greece and sample the local cuisine . . . The term gyro denotes a ring or circle and refers to the rotation of the meat as it is cooked.  Greek historians attribute the origin of the dish to soldiers from the army of Alexander the great, who skewered their meat on long knives and cooked it by repeated turning over an open fire.  Modern gyros are cooked on an electric rotisserie and are sold for prices ranging from 85 cents to $1. . . A Young Greek couple enjoying a gyro or “doner kebab” at the new Plaza de Athena on Broadway at 45th Street said they thought the food was “close to what it’s like in Athens.”
– The Gyro, a Greek Sandwich, Selling Like Hot Dogs, New York Times, September 4, 1971.


The ingredients of a American-Greek Gyro are:  A proper gyro is made with meat cut off a big cylinder of well-seasoned lamb or beef.  This meat is cooked on a slowly rotating vertical spit or gyro, implying the circular spinning motion of a gyroscope.  The sandwich maker slices off strips of the warm meat when the sandwich is ordered, heats pita bread on a griddle or grill, and then serves the meat on the bread, topped with the sauce which is usually garnished with lettuce and tomato.  Unfortunately, most Most American gyro are made with ground meat and not sliced.


The ingredients of a Turkish Doner Kebab are:  Slices of marinated lamb, mutton, beef, veal, or chicken which are stacked on a vertical spit and roasted at a vertical grill.  It is served as a type of sandwich stuffed into Turkish bread, rolled into flat bread, or laid atop diced flat bread and topped with sauces.

This type of sandwich has been known, and sold on the streets, by the people of Greece, the Middle East, and Turkey for hundreds of years.  Greek historians believe that the dish originated during Alexander The Great’s time, when his soldiers used their long knives to skewer meat and kept turning the meat over fires.



Beef Sandwiches    Food History    Greek Recipes    Lamb    Lunch    Mid-Atlantic    Sandwiches History   

Comments and Reviews

4 Responses to “Gyro Sandwich History”

  1. zoey workman

    I really like the information given. It really helped me for the essay I had to to do over the gyr. I really like this site.

  2. Dimitrios Tasiou

    The true gyros is pork,French fries,tomato,onion and condiments such as tzatziki, tomato sauce,mustard etc. Not so popular is with chicken but never with beef or lamb.

  3. Sami

    can i get a shout im a big fan of your recipe and website you inspired me i really like to get shout from idol.

  4. David Bailey

    Having lived in Europe for 12 years, I had the opportunity to eat both Greek and Turkish food. All of the gyros vendors served lamb and/or beef.
    But I never visited Greece.
    I won’t eat gyros unless they are cut from a spit.
    Who has the best gyros in Nashville area? Maybe Chicago Style Gyros?


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