Gyros

A gyros pita at Taverna Sigalas in Athens, Greece
••• A gyros pita at Taverna Sigalas in Athens, Greece. Picture of the gyros pita by deTraci Regula; licensed to About.com

Definition: Gyros means "wound" - and that's where this common snack sandwich originated, in an uncommon way. Originally, the term gyros referred to intestines wound around a spit and broiled - but now it refers to two very different dishes in Greece.

1. The "Gyros sandwich" or "Gyros Pita" is how many travelers will encounter the Gyros in Greece. It comes in one of two different forms - it may be sliced off the familiar "cone of meat" made of ground meat mixed with spices and formed into a cylindrical shape which slowly rotates on a vertical spit, one side of which is a strong heating element which gradually crisps the outer layer of meat.

In Greece, that meat will probably be a mixture of lamb and beef.

The other form is precooked slices of pork which have been assembled into the cylinder shape and then finished in the same way, on a rotating vertical spit. This is generally delicious and very filling.

Both versions are usually served on pita bread, just about the only time you will encounter this Middle Eastern bread in Greece. With it will be a dab of garlicky white tzatziki sauce, a slice or two of tomato, and almost always some sliced raw onions. (Traveling as a couple? Each of you should have one.) Some places serve it with fries - which will often be popped right into the pita. The sandwiches are usually wrapped in a waxy paper which will be completely inadequate to keep the juices and tzatziki sauces from dribbling all over your hands and chin. Grab plenty of napkins. Pita sandwiches are served at small shops which specialize in them and are also found on the menu at some restaurants and tavernas.

Occasionally, mass-market pita shops like Quick Pita will charge an extra table fee if you don't take it to go.

2. Almost any kind of meat on a spit, cooked until it is crispy on the outside, then either sliced off or delivered in chunks onto a plate. Sometimes vegetables are strung with the meat, making it similar to a "shish kabob".

Pronunciation: year-ohs. It may look like "gyro" as in "gyroscope" but in Greece, especially, you want to say "year-ohs".

Also Known As: pita, greek sandwich

Common Misspellings: yiros, gyres