Perros Brothers Gyros
3770 Lincoln Hwy, Olympia Fields, IL 60461 (map); 708-748-5666
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Big Babies from this south suburban diner are not remotely gourmet, but they are remarkably satisfying
Want Fries With That? Not really. The frozen potatoes are cooked properly but suffer from poor quality. They are useful as vessels for fake cheese
Price: Burgers, $1.55; cheeseburgers, $1.65; Big Babies, 2 for $4; Super Gyros, $4.95
As AHT readers are well aware, we are in the midst of a glorious burger renaissance. But even as that occurs, the pig seems to get a whole lot more play these days than the cow. I suspect that's for two reasons: pork is cheaper and its relatively mild flavor allows chefs to show off quite a bit more. I'm a fan of both meats, but when we're talking about eating them in their simplest state, there is no question at all that the cow is the vastly superior edible animal. And proof can be found at Perros Brothers Gyros in the south suburbs of Chicago.
There is nothing gourmet about Perros Brothers. These are pre-frozen, factory-formed patties that were likely made from a mixture of cows raised on factory farms from a number of different countries with questionable enforcement of food safety laws. In other words, this is precisely the kind of ground beef that most Americans eat. Burgers at Perros have neither the charm or ubersoftness of classic sliders, nor the beefy onslaught that comes from half-pound patties. But they are chock full of deliciousness, and sometimes that's all that matters.
To understand the allure of Perros Brothers, you have to understand the allure of gyros and the allure of the Big Baby. The Big Baby, researched and described very well on this LTH Forum thread, appears to be nothing more than a common double cheeseburger. And in a sense, that is all it is, but it's a double cheeseburger that's made the same way by dozens of small shops, often Greek-owned, across Chicago's southwest side and suburbs.
The Big Baby consists of two small patties, 1/6-pound each, with a slice of American cheese in between. They're placed on a toasted bun with mustard, ketchup, pickles slices, and a heap of grilled onion. According to the aforementioned history, the onions usually go on top, but at Perros Brothers, the onions and one of the slices of cheese goes in between the patties. If that stuff were put on factory-farmed pig, all you would taste is the toppings, but on the Big Baby, blessed as it is with some of the cheapest cow money can buy, the beef flavor shines through.
Basically, places like Perros Brothers are something like what fast food restaurants were two or three decades ago, back when things were not completely automated. But in sharp contrast to the chains of the world, this place is somewhat of a beloved neighborhood institution. For years, it's been a go-to place for students at nearby Rich Central High School. I'm not sure if kids there still get to leave campus to lunch, but a friend who is an alum reports that 15 years ago hundreds of kids regularly risked their lives to drive to Perros on their lunch break, eat, and get back to class within 22 minutes. And the same guys who were working there then are still there today.
While low grade beef is easily turned into a delicious meal, factory-made fries are a different matter. These potatoes are fried well and have a crisp exterior, but the interior is best described the same way as the taste: blah. That said, when topped with a healthy dose of processed cheese food product, they are pretty endearing.
In a world where so many restaurants serve gyros from the same few Chicago-based companies, it's hard for a non-housemade gyro to really distinguish itself. But the sandwich I had at Perros Brothers really was well above average. Maybe it's because I wasn't there in the lunch rush, but the guys behind the counter somehow made sure that every piece of meat had a nice bit of crispness on it. Your best bet for eating at Perros Brothers: Go with a friend and get the Big Baby special along with a gyros I'm not sure which is better, but I do know that both are delicious.