Location: Baker, CA
Date: Aug. 7, 2011
My duo of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives books (as seen on Food Network) sits at the top of my packing list anytime I trek away from home. With them, I have discovered mouth-watering burgers at a hole-in-the-wall joint in San Diego, and unbelievable soft baked pretzels at a classic German stop in Phoenix. Most recently, the books guided me and my sister to a couple memorable eats during our mini road trip to Vegas.
What initiated as a short visit to our grandpa's place quickly turned into a very tasty culinary escapade. Our first stop occurred in Baker at the Mad Greek Cafe. The outside of the cafe was protected by an array of Athens-inspired statues, and the roof was capped with a lucid sign boasting, "Best Gyros USA." The diner's intriguing facade, bold claim and Guy Fieri's stamp of approval was more than enough to lure me through the doors.
I had one thing in mind on my way to the counter...Gyros! Gyros, a ground mixture of lamb and beef, is one of the easiest dishes to associate with Greek cuisine, but not something I consume very often, so I was excited to order. About ten bucks and ten minutes later, my food was in hand and my sister and I set off to find a table. I sat down, eagerly opened my box of goodies (not originally including the shake or ketchup) and, well, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go...
My sister was responsible for the rich strawberry shake and golden fries. I focused on the tender gyro wrapped in a soft, warm fresh pita complemented by a cool tzatziki sauce (not pictured, sorry). The first bite included every component of the meal. The pita was warm and nicely seasoned with a slightly crisp exterior, balanced perfectly with a soft, chewy center. The vegetables sandwiched between the pita and meat added additional texture. The lettuce was crisp, cool and accompanied by ripe and slightly juicy tomato slices, adding subtle moisture to each bite. Chunks of the meat possessed a slightly charred exterior that added a subtle crunch and texture change to the more tender pieces. The icing on the cake, however, was the tzatziki sauce. Traditionally a cucumber-yogurt sauce predominantly seasoned with garlic and dill, the tzatziki added a much needed creamy contrast to the rich, succulent meat. As a bonus, the small bits of fresh cucumber added another layer of texture, while the bright white yogurt and vibrant green traces of dill brought a nice pop of color to the party.
Ultimately, the meal was very satisfying because I was able to sample flavors from a foreign culture that I am not normally exposed to. As far as the "Best Gyros USA" claim...I am not really in a position to judge. I enjoyed the textures and all of the flavors, but my only other experience with gyros took place in a dining hall during my time at college. With that said, I am qualified to answer the following question: Does the Mad Greek create a better gyro than my college dining hall? Hell yeah!
Check out Guy visit the Mad Greek here!