Monday, November 13, 2017

Max’s Gyros

Max’s Gyros

First let me describe the gyros 

- as you walk

in (to the sound of an
electronic doorbell)
the first thing that 
hits you is the smell

Cumin, garlic, lamb,
beef, a faint scent 
of cinnamon or allspice

It’s a warm smell
like a stew simmering
all day in a crock pot

Or steaming hot soup
when you have a cold
and your bones ache
from a long work day

It’s a welcoming smell

A comforting smell

Like Family

Like Home

There are only 3 foods
I crave and that
immediately make 
me feel better
no matter what

Vietnamese Pho at Pho Cali
Fried Chicken from Yoder’s
and Max’s Gyros

When I began to 
heal from my spinal
surgery and could
swallow again the
first thing I asked
for was Max’s Gyros

Max was a slight 
man - physically - but
a giant in spirit

- to move his family
from Iran and start
a business in Sarasota, FL
speaks volumes to me
about what it means to
be a man

He spoke English with
a Persian accent

To me he was a magician

A true character

I had been talking 
about gyros at 
work when the 
Frito Lay vendor
spoke up and said,
“If you want a
good gyro try

I asked around
“Oh, yes, Max,.”
he owns that service 
station on Stickney 

I went to the
BP station on 
Bee Ridge with
my wife

It was the wrong one

The clerk said, “Max,”.
yeah, he’s up a 
couple more

“That’s odd,” I replied. “2 BP.”
stations that
close together

“No”, she corrected.
“Max got mad at
BP and tore down 
the sign. He’s an
independent now."

I admired him
before I ever met

Max sold independent
gas at reasonable 
prices and everyone 
knew it… For, Dear 
Reader, every interaction 
I describe here with Max
took place between
infinitesimal spaces
from one fuel customer
to the next. Almost all
seemed to know him
and greeted him by

Cars moved in and out
from his fuel pumps
in a cacophony of
controlled chaos.

But that was Max
- uncompromising
quality and value
and a human touch

- That is something 
the big box corporate
places will never
understand - for 
without that crucial
third ingredient
(The Human Touch)
- They can never tap
into the formula
that Max had.

-Anyway, back to
the Gyros
You saw the hunk
of gyro meat

(A mixture of 
lamb and beef)
Roasting slowly 
on the vertical spit

rotating steadily


as the brown juices
popped out of tiny
geysers and fell, like
golden tears of joy,
to the base of the
spit where they
sizzled and smoked

I’ve had gyro meat
at a lot of places,
mostly it was over-salted, 
full of gristle,
but not Max’s.

He used just enough
spice to season his
meat - and just enough
fat to impart flavor

It’s the perfect balance

Max had a long bread
knife - the kind 
with teeth on the 
bottom and a blunt
rounded tip

When you ordered
a gyro
Max would grab his
knife - survey the 
spinning meat for the
best parts - and 
begin slicing

He would cut the
meat into vertical
strips with the
slightly crunchy
exterior and the 
warm, succulent

After the meat was
sliced Max would
begin constructing
the gyro itself

Now, this wasn’t a 
fast process. 

Max was aware that 
a steady stream 
of customers was
crowding and shuffling
into the cramped
confines of his

(The customers fidgeted
but never seemed to
lose patience - they
were willing to 
wait for quality.)

However, he was not
running around like
a madman either

Max moved like a man
who loved what he did
and was unwilling to
compromise his standards
in the interest of

But, I digress 
- the Gyros -
Max constructed
the gyros
on warm, thick pita
bread that he
and his wife 

On a bed of fresh,
crisp lettuce
with plump, juicy
(All of which he bought

With a slathering 
of the tangy
yogurt sauce
called tzatziki

and that’s it

Simple, Fresh,

Max also had a
cooler filled with
salads - the star 
of which was the feta his wife
made that was
out of this world

They also had
buttery, flaky
And luscious sweets, too

Like Baklava, dripping 
with sensual, golden 

And my personal favorite
Kataifi - with filo 
dough cut into strips
so thin it was
like shredded wheat

with honey and 
pistachios filling
the center

We talked with Max
while we waited. He
was ebullient with
eyes that sparkled
and danced

This was at the height
of the Axis of Evil
Iranian Nuclear
scare - and here 
we were talking
to Max about 
Iran and food
and Chicago and
his children with
whom he was 
smitten. Their 
drawings papered 
the door to his
office - and he 
was so proud of them

and his wife and of 
her yogurt and feta
that she made by

He was proud of his
family and his heritage
and loved to share

All these things

His Love

His Pride

went into his gyros
and that’s what made…
what makes them
so good.

They are more than
the sum of their parts.

They’re a story…

Max was a storyteller
and food was how 
he told his story.

It’s the story of an
Iranian family who came
to America -
built a business 
-became part of 
the community
- and created a 

That’s what Max’s Gyros
taste like

They taste like

An Iranian family
in Sarasota
making great 
Greek food.

“Great” is not a big
enough word
Max’s Gyros are

A legacy

His story reflects
the larger American

The melting pot

The American Dream

The other day, my wife
Gina stopped at Max’s
when she got off work
to pick up some gyros
When she got home
her eyes were red
as if she’d been crying
And she told me that
Max had passed away
His wife was there
minding the store

She said that Max
had suffered heart

I was stunned

We sat in silence,
looking at the 
gyros for a time
- and then I took
a bite

And I began to feel better

And I thought about Max
and the role food plays
in our lives

It can bridge cultural

It can bring families

And like Max’s Gyros,
it can even tell stories

I think Max would
be happy to know
his story lives on
- Carried by his wife
and children, by 
the people whose 
lives he touched,

And it lives on
with his Gyros which
are still being made 
with love - by the people 
he loved - and shared
with the community
that loved him

I ask you
Is there any
greater legacy
than that?

January 14, 2010

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