Food Cart Veteran George’s Best Gyros Opens Physical Store in Iowa City

George’s Best Gyros, which now has a brick-and-mortar location on Iowa Avenue in downtown Iowa City, has been using the same recipe since 1986. (Submitted)

A sign recruiting labor for George’s Best Gyros is seen in the restaurant’s new brick-and-mortar location on Iowa Avenue on April 26, 2022. (Elijah Decious/The Gazette)

The new permanent location of George’s Best Gyros at 213 Iowa Ave. in Iowa City is seen April 26, 2022. (Elijah Decious/The Gazette)

George’s Best Gyros, long a staple of the Ped Mall food cart in Iowa City, joins the company of other brick-and-mortar establishments like Elray’s Live and Dive in the shadow of the Pentacrest on Iowa Avenue. (Elijah Decious/The Gazette)

After 36 years on the Ped Mall, George’s is growing alongside its sister restaurants

IOWA CITY — Another Ped Mall favorite joins the ranks of traditional restaurants in downtown Iowa City, after 36 years in business as a food cart.

George’s Best Gyros, owned by Mark Paterno, brought its simple menu indoors for the first time on April 1, following in the footsteps of sister restaurant and food cart Marco’s Grilled Cheese.

Paterno is bringing George’s to a permanent location after renting space on Linn Street in the Northside, from March 2020, to give Marco’s Grilled Cheese a base and open Marco’s Island, which debuted in February. The move from George’s, which will retain its food carts, is the local restaurateur’s third major move in three months.

“As soon as we turned on the open sign, people came in,” Paterno said.

If you are going to

What: George’s Best Gyros

Or: 213 Iowa Ave, Iowa City

Hours: 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Website: facebook.com/georgesbestgyros

Call: (310) 519-6059

Details: Hours of operation will soon be extended as staff are hired. Food cart operations will continue as long as the brick and mortar location remains open.

George’s big move, to space formerly occupied by Dumpling Darling, which closed in December, is part of a growing Corridor trend of restaurants starting with incubators or mobile concepts before moving to permanent locations . George’s Best Gyros, purchased from founder George Mihalopoulos in 2006 when he was 22, now finds a home at 213 Iowa Ave., as Paterno celebrates 22 years since launching his Marco’s Grilled Cheese food cart.

“George has always been the Ford assembly line – gyroscope, gyroscope, gyroscope – as we were custom made, 90 to 120 seconds,” Paterno said, explaining the goal of acquiring George decades ago. “He was always so much faster, kind of the (experienced) cart from the Ped mall all those years.”

After 38 years in business, nothing except the location and size of the food cart has changed. The meat is still cut fresh from the cone before being finished on a flat top and folded into warm pita bread with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and onions. The meat is not too fatty, but the signature of a good gyro includes just the right amount of fat.

Although it has earned its place as a nostalgic late-night staple for University of Iowa alumni, Paterno said it holds its place with its exceptional quality among a small number of competitors who often serve pre-packaged and pre-sliced ​​meat.

“I don’t think there are a lot of gyros in Iowa in general,” Paterno said. “But besides, the places that make gyroscopes, they don’t look anything like these.”

And reaching all demographics, gyroscope enthusiasts come in all shapes and sizes, he said.

The menu of the small restaurant, with a few humble table tops, remains small to continue the effort of efficiency and speed. The only addition is a hot dog.

Paterno said the restaurant, with limited late-night hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, has been unable to take full advantage of the potential of its new spot due to labor shortages. . As it hires staff, it hopes to expand daytime service hours on weekends. The challenge was shared by his other restaurants.

Despite the problems, he said the location and the opportunity were probably the best he would see for several years.

“I think (this transition) is the goal for most cart owners now. The financial investment is just night and day,” he said. hard, but it seems like it’s getting harder and harder We can’t raise prices fast enough to reflect our costs, but we’re also in a tough spot: how much can I really charge you for a gyro or cheese grid ? “

For one business he said it “sounds easier than it is”, the biggest benefit of brick and mortar is surviving winter and its significant drop in sales, even for trolleys that brave the temperatures.

Now that two of his three food carts have permanent attachment points, his eyes turn to the third, Paco’s Tacos. That may have to wait, he said, with a local restaurant scene saturated with taco options.

George’s Best Gyros, which now has a brick-and-mortar location on Iowa Avenue in downtown Iowa City, has been using the same recipe since 1986. (Submitted)

Despite opening a permanent location on Iowa Avenue on April 1, 2022, George’s Best Gyros has kept its menu simple for speed and efficiency. (Elijah Decious/The Gazette)

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