Visit Kronos Foods' website and you're greeted with something striking: The Chicago-area distributor claims that more than 300,000 Kronos gyro sandwiches are eaten daily across the U.S.
The company manufactures those ubiquitous meat cones, called GyroKones, that you see turning on countertop rotisseries in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean outfits. For mass-produced Frankenlogs, they're pretty delectable. The most common of several varieties tends to be the beef and lamb blend with Mediterranean spices; it's what Iran native Said Rishsefid has been quietly slicing at the Greek Cafe for the past three years.
There's no good reason we've not visited before; even with a neon sign visible from Powers Boulevard, the outfit just somehow escaped our observation. No faithful clients tipped us off, though Rishsefid, who prior to opening helped his sister-in-law with North Union Boulevard's Greek Grill for four years, says he's developed plenty of regulars.
That's not surprising, considering the menu's main dishes range between $4.59 and $7.99 and generally satisfy in both flavor and size. The bright, eight-table dining area runs alongside a long tile counter that's split by a deli case; past it, the open kitchen allows you to watch Rishsefid assemble plates. He's almost always there, sometimes receiving a little help from his wife, son or one kitchen assistant.
Determining exactly what's made in-house is a bit difficult, because Rishsefid, when pressed, will say that he "sometimes" makes his own items like dolmas and desserts, which he notes are time-consuming. The rest of the time, it appears that specialty companies like Kronos are providing the goods, such as the flaky and rich spinach and feta Spanakopita triangles (three pieces, $2.99; five pieces with salad, $5.99) and pretty damn good baklava, nut roll and Kataifi (shredded phyllo dough) renditions (all $1.79).
Rishsefid does make his own sauces: a yogurt-, cucumber- and garlic-based tzatziki that's great over house-marinated meats, and a simple, mildly spiced Italian dressing that sufficiently enlivens the basic salads. He also handles his own kabobs and falafel, though neither are standouts.
The former (as a platter, $7.19) are made from ground beef seasoned with onions and a hint of turmeric, stretched into sausage-shaped tubes atop saffron rice. The falafel ($4.59 for five as a pita sandwich or $6.59 for eight on a platter) are molded into thick coin shapes and could use a touch more of the parsley, cilantro and garlic for my taste — but drowned in tzatziki, they work.
The gyros and falafel sandwich ($5.69), topped with tzatziki and feta crumbles, makes a great choice for those who like a lot of flavors in fusion: salt, spice, garlic, cream, fat and fiber. Not to be confused with the kabob mentioned above, skewers of lamb and chicken that are also called kabobs on the menu ($7.99 for two in any combination) are juicy and nicely spiced. Again, they're best dipped in the house sauces, then rolled in the saffron rice or wrapped in the accompanying pita bread, which scores average with a slightly store-bought feel.
Greek Cafe is affordable, satisfying and relatively quick, and its owner displays a humble charm. So give him credit, even if he doesn't make it all in-house — because after all, not even Kronos gyros can sell themselves.