House of Gyros Opens in Seaside With Fresh Falafel and Halal Schwarma Happiness
January 22, 2013
On the wall of Seaside's three-day-old House of Gyros (394-4420) there's a huge three-foot-high poster of a chicken schwarma tower in all its juicy, glistening and dripping glory.
On the other side of the service bar is the real thing, which owner operator Khalid Moukaouim makes daily, with roasted onion and tomato on top releasing juices over layers of chicken breast and proprietary spices stacked on a vertical spit.
"I build it like a house," he says. "It's just a little one now, enough to last one day, but hopefully someday will be a big one, like that [in the picture]."
Even in a historically snakebitten spot, it very well could—if Moukaouim can square his handmade principles with the time tables of hurried lunchers.
He currently thin-slices the schwarma to order for wraps ($5.99-$7.99) and plates ($6.99-$9.50).
More impressively, he forms and fries the falafel to order too—with his own mild mix of garbanzo beans, parsley and Moukaouim's own "secret" spices—and plans to continue to do so, even after business gets going at greater speeds.
The falafel balls ($4.99 appetizer) come 10 to an order and served nestled atop tabbouleh inside lightly-fried flatbread "flowers," five balls to a flower. (Falafel wraps are $5.99.) With cool tzatziki and hot harissa North African spicy spread—a nod to his Moroccan roots—they are crispy, tender, vegetarian yum pucks.
The flagship gyros are made with a atypically thin pita, more like a flour tortilla or a crepe, which makes sense given that Moukauim also has a hand in the Monterey Crepe Company's Alvarado and Cannery Row locations.
The resulting combo beef and chicken wrap ($9.50), rich with spice and slow-roasted flavor and balanced with tahini, lettuce and tomatoes, proves Mediterranean comfort food, complemented by the ample Greek salad ($5.99) that's plenty for two to share. He sends the wrap through the oven right after he makes it, giving the pita warmth and a light crunch.
He's had little problem connecting with people who notice the spot and poke in, and seems to enjoy being away from the more tourist-driven downtown and New Monterey crepe spots.
"We're here for the locals," he says, "Not too complicated: something that tastes good that's reasonable on price, with quality. And friendly service."
His Laguna Plaza Shopping Center space on Fremont Boulevard—open 10am-8pm daily in the same strip as Breakfast Club and the new Outdoor World—retains much of the feel of the former Quizno's and Jersey's Subs. Plates are hard plastic, the utensils and salad clamshells single use, the drinks a range of mint teas, Italian sodas in the can and fountain drinks ($1.50-$3.50). Double bites of walnut or pistachio baklava are $3.
Sysco supplies the classic and halal schwarma meats. For now, Moukaouim supplies all the hustle. If his welcoming and made-to-order vibe finds a following, he'll need more help soon.
*Gwendolyn Michel contributed to this report.*