Steve’s Gyros, Cleveland
The public market is much more associated with Europe than with North America, but in huge cities, it’s not uncommon for one place to showcase many of the city’s vendors in one spot. There are places such as the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Eastern Market in Washington, Pike Place Market in Seattle and the West Side Market in Cleveland.
Most of the vendors sell things you’d find in your local grocery store, and it’s actually possible to get all of your shopping done at these places. Some spots have fruit vendors side-by-side, competing for your dollar, while in others, you can purchase fresh fish or cheeses you’ve never considered using in a recipe. Along with that, you can find restaurants in these markets, and one of the best at West Side Market is Steve’s Gyros.
Cleveland doesn’t have a large Greek population (although a large chunk of my mom’s side of our family is Greek and live in other parts of eastern Ohio), but the Greeks do have a fair presence in the area, and Steve’s is a great example. This is one of the most popular food places in the West Side Market because of the quality ingredients and the quality tastes that come after using them.
The first thing one notices about Steve’s are its rules. These aren’t to the extent of Al Yeganeh’s rules at Soup Kitchen International (for those unfamiliar, it was a New York place famous for its homemade soup and was parodied by Seinfeld in the form of the Soup Nazi, which Yeganeh still refuses to discuss over 15 years later), but they are short and to the point. The main rule is simply, “Because we said so.” Other rules are that they don’t cut gyros and they don’t wrap any items separately, and they don’t want you asking them to do it. Why? Because they said so.
Rules aside, where Steve’s stands out are in two areas: its tzatziki sauce and its meat on the sandwich. The sauce is made with sour cream rather than Greek yogurt, which adds a nice bite to the Greek cucumber sauce that is a standard on the gyro. I’m not sure what really makes it as creamy and smooth as it is, because I’ve had gyros that use sour cream, and the sauce is simply too thick. Not the case with Steve’s, which has a sauce that flows perfectly.
The other thing that makes Steve’s stand out is its meat. The traditional lamb that makes a proper gyro is cooked on a rotating spit in plain view of Steve’s customers, and large pieces of it are shaved off and placed on the sandwich. Steve’s uses so much meat that the sandwich is literally too big for the pita bread it’s served on. I had to work to get any pictures of it at all, as any move to let go of the sandwich for even a second meant meat would start falling off the pita.
Lettuce, tomato and onion finish off this wonderful creation, and the pita is cooked perfectly to add another element of taste to the sandwich that results in very long lines. The West Side Market usually allows anyone to go up to any stand and buy whatever interests them with almost no waiting. The one exception in the entire market? You guessed it, it’s Steve’s.
The lines get ridiculously long here, and all you can do is make sure you’re there early. The market might have lots of options available to give you a taste of what Cleveland has to offer, but it’s hard to match the quality of what Steve’s is selling. It’s the perfect place to enjoy Greek cuisine the way it’s supposed to be.
Time to go: Pick your day carefully. The market is only open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and it closes at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends. The close doesn’t matter, because the time to go is noon or earlier. After noon, the lines get exponentially longer.
Wait during my visit: Minimal, because I hit the noon cutoff. When I started in line, I was the third person in line. When I received my gyro, 20 people were in line. I’m not even close to kidding.
Location: The West Side Market is at 25th and Lorain in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood on its west side. Steve’s is in the market.
Cost: Not bad. You can get a gyro with drink for $10. You can also go for a jumbo gyro for a few dollars more. I do not recommend this.
Parking: There’s a fair amount for the market.
Seating arrangement: None. It’s an open market, and there are no seats. There are some benches outside the market.
Website: None. It does operate a Facebook page, but as it’s part of the market, it does not have its own website.
Signature items: Gyro