Despite the incredible gastronomical offerings of Greece, gyro is our most famous food. It’s quick, inexpensive, and delicious, what’s not to love! Here is a breakdown of what a gyro is, how to order it, and the best places to get it in Chania.
What is it?
Firstly, it’s pronounced yee-ro. Gyro means spiral, ring, or round. Thin layers of spiced meat are stacked on a large skewer which rotates around a heat source. As it cooks, the meat is shaved off in small slices. Gyro is predominantly pork though most places will also have chicken. Gyro is generally spiced with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic/onion powder, and oregano. Now, gyro is just the meat. Gyro pita is when the meat is wrapped in grilled pita flatbread. Gyro plate, or merida, is a much larger deconstructed gyro pita.
Souvlaki, kalamaki, or ksilaki is cubed meat on a small wooden skewer. To make things even more confusing, sometimes souvlaki (literally small skewer) is interchangeable with gyro. This stick can also go in a pita which makes it pita souvlaki. Stick to calling it a kalamaki to be sure you’re getting the stick meat. In addition to pork and chicken, beef is often available.
That being said, this is regional. A souvlaki in other parts of Greece is only a pita gyro. In others, potatoes are blasphemy, while some would never let “sauce” touch their pita, and who the hell puts lettuce?! Sauce by the way, the best I can tell, is a mix of ketchup and mayonnaise. A classic Chania gyro pita, or souvlaki, is pork, onion, tomato, and yogurt in a grilled flatbread. Chania’s gyros are generally on the smaller side and are traditionally not stuffed with potatoes.
How to Order
The key decisions you’ll need to make when ordering are what kind of meat you want and in which format you want it- pork, chicken, beef, kalamaki, wrapped pita, open pita, Arabic pita etc. The standard fixings inside a pita are tomato and onion. French fried potatoes are mostly served inside but some places don’t put potatoes at all. The topping of yogurt, tzatziki, or “sauce” is up to you. A kalamaki is served alone (temaxio) with a slice of lemon and pita bread or loaf bread.
Where to get it?
Where to get a gyro is a difficult decision. If you ask 10 locals, you’ll get 10 answers which is exactly what happened when I asked. Choosing your gyro place is akin to choosing a political party and can spark debates just as heated. Some claim the quality of meat is their deciding factor, others the promptness of their delivery services, and others say the dirtier (greasier) the better.Without further ado, I present the best places to get gyro/souvlaki in Chania, according to locals.
(in no particular order)
Voloudaki 4, Chania
Oasis has been in the same hole in the wall spot for the last 50 years. They serve the quintessential Chania gyro pita. It’s the only menu item. It is pork gyro on grilled pita bread served with onions, tomatoes, and yogurt. No fries. What makes Oasis so delicious is they spice each ingredient separately, so each bite is perfect. Oasis has 3 chairs to stuff your face quickly, or take it to go. It’s open for lunch only or until the meat runs out. They do not deliver.
There’s a strip on Chatzimihali Giannari Street in the new shopping district of Chania that has one souvlaki place next to another- Kalamakia kai Souvlakia (28210 41333), S’anamena Karvouna (28210 74455), and Thraka’s Epi Podos (28210 51100). At any given time of day or night, locals will duck in to their preferred spot to grab a quick gyro or souvlaki. I asked several customers why they chose that particular spot and not the one next door and the answers varied from, there was an open table here to my cousin is the owner to craving a particular food item. Because they are all next to each other, the competition keeps prices down, meat fresh, and service quick. Kalamakia kai Souvlakia has every variation of gyro and souvlaki you can imagine. S’anamena Karvouna does not have gyro but arguably the best kebap in town. Thraka’s Epi Podos is a classic Chania spot.
Ladi & Rigani (Oil & Oregano)
Nikolaoi Plastira 21, Chania
Phone: 2821 045555
Ladi & Rigani is located in the center of Chania, a one minute walk from the Municipal Market. Plenty of seating, a great selection of food items, and friendly service make this place a safe choice. Be warned, the mix grill is HUGE!
Tsouderon 69, Chania
Phone: 2821 055050
Delish is located behind the Municipal Market on a pedestrian only walkway in Old Town. This is not a place you want to grab and go but sit and enjoy the open-air and people watch. It’s also one of the few places I’ve ever seen put guacamole on a pita!
Pl. Pithagorou 2, Chania
Phone: 2821 040555
Patridogevsia is located in the court district. In addition to great gyro and souvlaki they have a big assortment of home cooked style prepared foods to cater to the working lunch crowd. Delivery is prompt and accurate.
Phone: 2821 066267
When I asked one of my most trusted local foodies what his favorite souvlaki place was he didn’t hesitate and blurted out Mitsos. I asked him why, he said, it’s the best, the best, the best. So there you have it! It is only open in the evening.
Eleftheriou Venizelou, Kounoupidiana
Phone: 2821 069550
This grillhouse restaurant is located in the suburb of Kounoupidiana. In general, this is a great restaurant for local cuisine but the quality of their meat in their gyro and souvlaki really stands out.
To Steki tou Thanasi
Dim. Michelogianni 5, Chania 731 34
Phone: 2821 054333
This place is truly only known by locals. It’s in the Lentariana neighborhood which few tourists would venture to, so get it delivered. Very high quality meat and ingredients.
Check out the Chania Food Guide Map to see which recommendations are near you.
Arabic pita- a thinner, larger flatbread pita
Gyro- thin layers of spiced meat are stacked on a large skewer which rotates around a heat source
Kalamaki- cubed whole pieces of meat on a wooden skewer cooked on a grill (plural kalamakia)
Kebap- spiced ground meat on a skewer
Merida- a large portion of meat served with tomato, onion, pita, and yogurt on the side (plural merides)
Mixed Grill- an assortment of gyro meat, sausage/hot dog, burger patty, and sometimes bacon and salami served with French fries, tomato, onions, yogurt
Skepasti- meat sandwiched between two pitas, sometimes with melted cheese
Souvlaki- either refers to a gyro pita or a kalamaki (plural souvlakia)
Temaxio- unit used per stick of kalamaki (plural temaxia)
Tzatziki- yogurt sauce with garlic and cucumber