I’ve been planning to eat at NY Gyro for a few years now. I heard about them about the same time that I heard of Original Mediterranean Grill in New Brighton: two restaurants whose names indicate Mediterranean menus but which in fact are also Pakistani restaurants. Original Mediterranean Grill’s Pakistani fare—especially their halwa-puri—did not disappoint in the second year of the pandemic; and I cannot explain why it took me another year to finally eat at NY Gyro. Well, actually, I can: with the opening of desi and Korean groceries south of the river (TBS Mart, Mantra Bazar, Hana Market), we have had very little motivation for a long time now to make the trek up to Columbia Heights as we once used to do regularly to shop at Pooja Grocers and Dong Yang. But now NY Gyro might become a reason in its own right. I first ate there by myself a couple of weeks ago. I liked what I got so much that I dragged the family and some friends there with me this past Sunday for a meal that became a very good celebration of Argentina’s World Cup win. Herewith the details.
First things first: there are three locations of NY Gyro. The original is in St. Cloud. This was followed by the Columbia Heights location on Central Ave. (the one I am reporting on). The third is located on Lake St. in Minneapolis. Do not go by the Yelp ratings/reviews of these places. They are replete with people who utilize the restaurant for its gyro and related offerings. I have no opinion on these as I have not had them. I also cannot tell you what the experience of ordering takeout from any of their locations is, since I ate in on both occasions. I can tell you that the Columbia Heights location is a nice enough if basic space—you shouldn’t be expecting much by way of interior design to have gone into it. The bright, larger dining room has five booths that can comfortably seat four people each, and a longer array of tables in the center that can take larger groups. On my first visit I sat by myself at a booth. On the second visit we were a party of seven and so parked ourselves in the center. At both meals there seemed to be more people picking up takeout orders than eating there. There is also an outdoor seating area that seems like it must be nice when it isn’t objectionably cold.
Even if you are dining in you will order at the counter. You can look at the paper menu to do so or you can consult the picture menus on the walls. Or you can ask the genial older gent who often mans the cashier’s desk to guide you. You will be given an order number which you will take back to your table. When your number is called, you will pick up your order (served in takeout boxes with flimsy paper plates) and take it back to your table and eat it. I will now abandon this brief excursus into second person narration and tell you what I ate on my first visit and then what we ate on the second.
On my solo outing I had a chat with the previously mentioned genial gent and he recommended that as my introduction to their menu I get their goat karahi. I was happy to go along. He asked how spicy I would like it and I left it to him (it came out pretty spicy). It is served with a naan and a few slices of red onion and lemon as god intended. He predicted I would want more than one naan and he was correct. I liked the goat karahi so much I was not leaving any of it behind. But it’s also the case that the naans themselves were fabulous. Freshly prepared, they were soft and fluffy and crisp at the same time. Unlike the goat karahi, the naans cannot be their best selves in takeout form.
On our second visit the order was significantly larger. This is what we got:
- Two orders of tandoori chicken for the boys. Each order is a leg-thigh quarter. The boys enjoyed it very much.
- Two orders of seekh kababs. These were enjoyed by the young and middle-aged alike. Very nicely seasoned and grilled.
- An order of lamb tikka. Served on a bed of yellow rice with your choice of sides. The lamb could have been a bit more tender maybe but the seasoning was great.
- An order of chicken tikka. Served identically as the lamb tikka, these had been overcooked a bit.
- An order of chana. This may be the one vegetarian option in the main “Desi Food” section of the menu. Very nice.
- An order of haleem. If your reference point for haleem is the Hyderabadi version you may be a bit disappointed in this one which is not quite as much of a glutinous meat-lentil-wheat paste as that variety. There’s more lentils in this one and it’s a little looser. I liked it very much.
- An order of paya. This is a classic stew made with beef trotters. As served, there is a big slick of oil on the top (as is normally the case). Below it is a wonderfully gelatinous curry and cartilage heavy pieces of tender beef.
- An order of nihari. Another classic that is made in a number of ways up and down the byways of Muslim South Asia. The meat—beef here—is slow-cooked and is unbelievably tender. The sauce is rich. Not the best nihari I’ve had by a long margin but acceptable.
- An order of chicken biryani. Also acceptable. Served with raita.
- An order of halwa-puri. This is a weekend special and I highly recommend you get it. It’s a meal for one in itself. You will get two large, perfectly fried puris and a three-part plate that houses chana masala, a very nice alu-sabzi (potato curry) and very good sweet halwa (made with semolina).
The chana, haleem, paya and nihari came with a naan each. We added on four more. That plus a couple of mango lassis and some sodas rounded out our order. You are thinking this is a lot of food for seven people. What’s your point?
For a look at the restaurant and what we ate, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next.
Price? The goat karahi is the most expensive thing on the menu and on that outing I paid a little over $25. At the second outing the main food order came to $145 with tax and tip (and factoring in a 10% discount that is given to orders over $50). The lassis and the sodas were purchased separately by someone else and I’m not sure how much those added to the price. But sticking just with the food, despite our over-eating and based on the leftovers we took home, this was easily enough food for 10 hungry adults. So call it $15/head and call it a screaming deal.
70% of the clientele on my visits was desi—mostly Pakistani as far as I could tell. They’ve recently put up a sign by Central Ave. that identifies the presence of Indian and Pakistani food on the menu. Perhaps this will result in greater visibility and more people actually ordering those dishes. If you haven’t been yet, I advise not putting it off for too long and indeed ordering from the “Desi Food” section of the menu. And if you go on the weekend, make sure to order the halwa-puri. And then make time for a long nap after.
Alright, one more Twin Cities metro restaurant report to come before the end of the year. That will be my annual Grand Szechuan roundup. And over the weekend I will probably post the 2022 update to my Twin Cities South Asian Restaurant Rankings. Contain your excitement.