Did you know there's a difference between a gyro (pronounced gyro, as in gyroscope) and gyros (pronounced geee-ros or yeee-ros)? They're similar, but one's Middle Eastern, the other Greek. At the wildly popular Halal Guys from New York City, the famous gyro rocketed this former food cart to superstardom.

The Halal Guys got their start on the streets of NYC back in the 1980s, and they are now branching out across the country, with franchises opening up in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Seattle, and a growing number of cities.

650 x 465 halal guys gyro sandwich photo by Leslie Kelly
The Halal Guys gyro sandwich. Photo by Leslie Kelly

Breaking Down The Gyro

This preparation has its roots firmly planted in the Middle East, where meat -- primarily halal beef -- is cooked on a vertical rotisserie spit. (According to The Halal Guys website, halal refers to a type of processing that "adheres to strict Islamic dietary guidelines that include humane treatment of livestock, high-quality ingredients, and ethical choices.") "Think of pronouncing it as a gyro," said Greg Carson, the general manager of the Seattle location of The Halal Guys. So, it's pronounced gyro, as in the first part of the word gyroscope. Not geee-row or yeeero, like this sandwich's Greek cousin. The toppings also distinguish the gyro, with options including chopped onions, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, pickled jalapenos, hummus, a savory Ranch dressing-style white sauce, a slightly sweet barbecue sauce or a vibrant hot chili sauce. All those elements combine to complement the seasoned meat for one of the most memorable sandwiches in the world.

650 x 465 gyros platter photo by Leslie Kelly
Gyro meat platter from The Halal Guys. Photo by Leslie Kelly

Gyros, Donair Kebabs, and Shawarma, Too

These incredibly flavor-packed sandwiches are all built on pita bread, so they look a lot alike, which adds to the confusion. Let's clear things up: Greek gyros traditionally feature lamb, pork, or beef, often topped with tzatziki sauce while shawarma is similar but often stuffed with French fries. Fans love the creamy garlic sauce that's drizzled over a Donair.

Drooling yet? Check out our collection of gyro recipes, and explore more than 350 Middle Eastern recipes and more than 400 Greek-inspired recipes.