Nestled on the block just across the street from Fuel Coffee Shop, Gyro City’s Brighton location recently opened its doors on Sept. 4. Inside, the decor imported from Greece oozes handcrafted luxury, and includes beautiful olive wood tables, rope-hung lighting, a Greek-inspired wallpaper design, and most importantly, an olive tree that holds a special place in restaurateur Penny Christopher’s heart. This magnificent centerpiece sits besides the restaurant’s entrance, and it provides the 100 percent virgin olive oil that is used as an ingredient in the rich and delicious, authentic food—a point of pride for Christopher who aims to bring an “authentic taste of Greece to the heart of Boston.”
Gyro City’s logo is a perfect representation of Penny’s goal, as the words “Gyro City” are surrounded by famous Boston monuments including the bridge, the Citgo sign, the Prudential Center, and the John Hancock building.
Christopher and her husband, Jimmy, are both Greek. Christopher explained that she immigrated from Greece in 1972, and met her husband in America. They got married and started in the restaurant business soon after. The couple has two children, Paul, who runs the Gyro City location near Fenway, and Angela Christopher Guarracino, BC ’08. They opened up the original Fenway location because of the growing Boston demand for Mediterranean cuisine, plus it was a perfect spot central to a number Boston colleges.
Although the Brighton location just opened, Penny and Jimmy Christopher are no strangers to the restaurant world.They started in the restaurant business in 1978, opening Brother’s Deli on the North Shore. In 2006, they opened a restaurant by the name of Brothers Kouzina.
Although both restaurants served Greek fare, the gyro was missing from the menu, but after a trip Greece, the Christophers decided to incorporate the classic Greek dish into their restaurants. Unsurprisingly, it was a success.
The Christophers then opened up the first Gyro City near Fenway, and customers flocked to the shop. Within six months of opening, Phantom Gourmet, a staple of the Boston food media scene, came. As soon as people bit into the gyros, they were amazed.
The Christophers make everything from scratch in the kitchens of their restaurants, with only the best of ingredients. Christopher’s husband is a chef, and he arrives early every morning to prepare the day’s food.
“You cannot get better than that because it is homemade,” Christopher said.
The chefs slice, stack, and marinate the gyro meat, a very authentic process that shines in comparison to the typical American gyro-making process: using meat that has previously been frozen.
“I know that we are doing the right thing when companies attempt to sell us the frozen product, but we continue to produce our gyros authentically,” Christopher said.
But even with a superior product, the process of opening a restaurant is no easy task. When Christopher and her husband set to the task of opening the Brighton location, it was just four bare walls. They had to bring in a decorative flair, which Christopher added she especially likes doing, and they had to obtain a liquor license for the beer and wine that are imported from Greece. Gyro City also sells other Greek beverages including EPSA, a tasty Greek soda, coming in a variety of flavors from lemonade to cherry.
The menu consist of many delicious Greek staples including hearty lentil soup, grape leaves stuffed to the brim, flakey baklava, and a variety of other tasty options. Gyro City also offers many vegetarian options including crispy falafels, spinach pies, and eggplant salads.
Gyro City’s customer base consists of two main groups in the Brighton area. One of these two groups is the student body at Boston College. Christopher said that she gives a 10 percent discount to BC students, and she sometimes caters to events at BC. Recently, that included an event sponsored by BC’s Hellenic Society. The second major group are Greek families in the neighborhood. In the future, Christopher hopes to continue franchising Gyro City, wishing to expose the multitude to authentic Greek food. Within the next few years, she is hoping to pick up a few more locations.
“When Greek families come to eat, they always comment that they feel like they are back in Greece, since the food is so authentic,” Penny said.
The gyros, which Christopher pointed out, are typically not pronounced correctly by adding an anecdote about a Jimmy Fallon skit, are superb. The sandwiches are wrapped in a warm piece of pita bread, garnished with red onion, chopped tomatoes, parsley, a tangy tzatziki sauce, a smoky pork. An unexpected element in the sandwich? Crispy french fries tucked just atop the pile of meat.
As the menu reads: “Many have attempted but we have perfected – the Gyro.”
Featured Image by Max Calleo / Heights Staff