My wife doesn’t share my fascination with certain foods. Sandwiches, cured meats, cheeses, anything in tomato sauce, flavored chips, dips, sauces, condiments, spicy stuff — I love all that, and she leaves them to me. That said, she is way more into chicken wings, chocolate, and other sweets than I am, generally. But one thing we can always agree upon is a good gyro. We love gyros, and we’re always on the lookout for good ones, since it’s almost impossible to duplicate that salty, garlicky gyro meat at home, whether it’s beef, lamb, or a processed blend of both. I buy ground lamb and make it into a gyro-flavored meatloaf of sorts, but it still isn’t the same as that salty, garlicky meat sliced off a spit.
(FYI, the father of processed gyro meat was a Jewish guy named John Garlic. I love that so much.)
Well, after hearing about its wondrous gyros on the Orlando Foodie Forum for years, we finally sought out the Mediterranean Deli, west of I-4 at 981 West Fairbanks Avenue, Orlando, FL 32804, but this one was not easy to find. I drove by it twice since it’s a small location in a tiny plaza that was half under construction, and there was no sign easily visible from the road. I always panic a bit when I can’t find what I’m looking for, but we eventually figured it out. I am so glad we didn’t get frustrated and give up on this mission, because it is my new favorite gyro spot in town.
For the purposes of this review, I went twice, a few weeks apart, and ate pretty much the same stuff, because all of my photos came out horribly the first time. (I only had my terrible phone camera on me, and not my halfway-decent camera.) To help get people enthusiastic about trying Mediterranean Deli instead of inadvertently turning them off to it, all of these photos are from my second visit, when I brought everything home to share with my wife.
This was my huge gyro, sliced off a spit and served on soft, warm, lightly grilled pita bread with shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes and red onion, and cool, creamy, garlicky tzatziki sauce. It is stuffed beyond belief, and a smart person might keep it wrapped in its paper and foil wrap, unpeeling just enough for a few bites at a time to avoid it falling to pieces. But to get a proper photo just for you, dear readers, I opened it up. No regrets.
My wife’s equally enormous gyro, hold the tomatoes and onions. She got three meals out of it!
The gyro meals come with a side salad for something like $8, including a free canned drink. My wife said she didn’t want any sides, so I picked two for myself: a vinaigrette-based pasta salad (left) and an absolutely delicious mayo-based seafood pasta salad, with imitation crabmeat and medium-sized, perfectly al dente shell pasta. I always love any kinds of pasta or macaroni salad, but the seafood version will become my new go-to side. They also offer fresh Greek and Mediterranean-style salads, hummus, and tabouleh as options, but I make green salads all the time at home, buy hummus often, and don’t like parsley enough to get into tabouleh.
This is a nice rectangular slice of spinach pie, AKA boreeka, with sheets of flaky dough layered with sauteed, tender, perfectly-seasoned spinach and feta cheese, then baked to a golden brown. It is soft, warm, crispy, flaky perfection. I could easily and happily eat the entire large pan my slice was cut out of.
I love stuffed grape leaves, often called dolmas or dolmades. Sometimes they are stuffed with ground meat and rice and served warm, but I honestly prefer the vegetarian versions that are just stuffed with seasoned rice and served cold, marinated in oil and occasionally vinegar. These are the latter, and I could eat dozens of them, too. The side order comes with a generous helping of extra tzatziki sauce, which is very thick and perfect for dipping them.
Mediterranean Deli is a tiny little restaurant in a tiny little strip that looks like it has seen better days. The restaurant isn’t fancy at all, but it is awesome, and locals know it. I never even drove west of I-4 on Fairbanks before until I heard this place existed, but I’m so glad I went a little out of my way to discover it for myself. I will argue they serve the absolute best gyro in Orlando, and everything else I ate was awesome as well. It’s a real bargain too, for the amount and quality of food you get. With any luck, you will meet the owner, warm and welcoming Walid Ali, who greets everyone as “My friend.”
By the way, Mediterranean Deli doesn’t have a website, but the phone number is listed online as 407-539-2650. There are also photos of the menu on that inexplicably popular review site that rhymes with “help” and occasionally provides some.