Standing Room Only: Go with the Gyro at Beef & Burger

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Beef & Burger

4148 West Montrose Avenue, Chicago, IL 60641 (map); 773-685-4960
The Short Order:Well executed stand classics, including a great gyro sandwich.
Want Fries with That? Absolutely. Thick cut and really flavorful.
Seats? A few chairs face out the windows, but most people get it to go.

I have failed the gyro. Though the mysterious cylinder of preformed meat was first mass marketed right here in Chicago and is still immensely popular, I've intentionally tried to avoid it. You would too if you sampled as many underwhelming gyro sandwiches as I have. Whether it's the stale pita or limp looking meat, I've never had one I was too excited about. So, why do I keep giving it a chance? Well, there are only so many times I can pass the alluring eyes of the Kronos gyro model before I give in, thinking that it must all be my fault.

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Only one of many amazing posters of women eating gyros. [Photograph courtesy of ChrisWaits/Flickr]

I mean, look at her! How can that not be a great sandwich?

Her gaze probably explains how I ended up in Mayfair at Beef & Burger, a tiny stand located across the street from the neon glow of Susie's Drive Thru (reviewed here). I had heard that along with some truly stellar fries (which I'll get to in a minute), the stand put out a solid gyro. Perhaps it could break the streak.

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At Beef & Burgers, it takes time to make a gyro. After my order is placed, the vertical spit is flipped on and left to rotate until the exterior of the meat is brown and caramelized. The pita is warmed on the griddle until soft, and though the tomato is as bad as a winter tomato should be, the onion is crisp and the tzatziki-style sauce actually adds to the whole.

Which isn't to say that it is an especially balanced sandwich, but it's one that actually makes sense now. The crisp slices of meat play off the pliant pita, while the sauce oozes down into the cracks, adding some much needed moisture. It's a gyro I could (gasp!) actually imagine craving again.

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But I'll be totally honest and admit that the real reason to visit Beef & Burger is for the aforementioned fries, which come with each sandwich. These thickly cut monsters are twice fried, and though they come out a little inconsistent—some are crispy, while others are a little soft—each is creamy on the inside and absolutely packed with potato flavor. I'd say to ask for them extra crispy, but I actually kind of like the mix of textures. Plus, as I've learned, some people actually prefer fries that way.

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The stand also puts out a surprisingly good chicken sandwich. The marinated breast is split open, so it grills quickly, allowing it to stay remarkably juicy and tender.

Of course, it seems a little strange to ignore both the burger and the beef at Beef & Burger, but this just gives me a chance to check it out again. This is one of those stands that screams Chicago in the best possible way. From the Greek owner who automatically calls you "boss," to the to the menu of solid stand classics, I can't wait to get back.