GREEKTOWN — It’s true Chicago has been known for its pizzas, hot dogs and Italian beef — but there’s another meat, sauce and bread combo city dwellers drool for: gyros.
What’s that you say? A guy-ro? Yur-ro? Jeer-ro? He-ro? Depends on who you ask.
According to a sign hanging near the ordering counter at Gyro-Mena, a Lakeview gyro shop, the correct pronunciation is “yee-ros.”
Kronos, a Chicago-based food manufacturer of gyros, also pronounced the word as “yee-ro” in a 2009 New York Times profile of the food item in America. At the time, the article claimed Kronos was the world’s largest producer of gyros (and that all other gyro “titans” were Chicago-based as well).
The word comes from the Greek word for “spin,” a fact confirmed by staff at Greektown restaurant Athena. “Yee-ro” would apply to a single sandwich, as in, “I want a gyro,” while “yee-ros” would be the correct pronunciation if you were to say, “I love gyros,” Greek experts said.
Indeed, gyro meat, which can consist of beef, veal, lamb, pork or otherwise, is roasted vertically in a cone shape that spins as it cooks. It’s served in a pita, usually with onions and cucumber sauce.
Gyros are thought to have originated in Greece as a food descendent of Turkey’s doner kebab and the Middle East’s shawarma.
According to reports, the first person to serve gyros in America was George Apostolou, in 1965, before opening Central Gyro Wholesale nearly a decade later and beginning his eventual reign over the U.S. gyro market. Devanco Foods, another Chicago area gyro producer, also credits Apostolou and his brothers with creating the gyro empire.
But conflicting stories among other cooks and manufacturers of who actually introduced the sandwich to Americans first is still hotly debated.
Just like the word’s pronunciation in the U.S.
This story first ran in DNAinfo Chicago. It still makes us hungry.