Niko's Bar & Gyro
by Ken McEntee
“The flavor has no place to hide.”
That comedic line was delivered on a Seinfeld episode by Kramer, who was bragging about the micron-thin slices of lunchmeat delivered by his new slicer.
Until a recent chat with Niko Moulagianis, owner of the new Niko’s Bar & Gyros, the line was just funny. But it turns out to be true.
“The biggest mistake people make with gyros is cutting them too thick,” insists the gyro expert who has been satisfying connoisseurs around Northeast Ohio for more than 20 years. “Gyros aren’t supposed to be thick. They are supposed to be thin. That’s how you get the most flavor out of the meat.”
Niko’s famous lamb and beef gyro headlines the new North Royalton sports bar that he says amalgamates his three passions: gyros, microbrew beer and sports. Niko’s, he says, is a casual, family-friendly place to kick back, enjoy a gyro and a beer and watch the Browns, Indians or any other sporting event on one of the many large screens. They’re so family friendly, in fact, that Niko’s daughter, Ariana, is one of the servers.
“One of the things that separates my gyros from the others is my grandmother’s special sauce,” Niko explains from the airy outdoor patio of the establishment that opened in May. “I’ve been serving it since I opened my first place in Parma in 1992. Freshness is another important key. We cut it right off the spit with a special knife that I adjusted to achieve the perfect slice. Anybody can buy lamb and beef and make a gyro, but the difference is how you make it. The pita bread we use here is specially made for us. Nobody else has it. It is bigger than normal pita bread and you have to cook it on the grill.”
Along with his previous sports bars in Parma and Brunswick, Niko most recently owned a full-fledged Greek restaurant in Lakewood. But the main ingredient on the Niko’s Bar & Gyros menu is simplicity.
“Simple equals better, so we do not have a menu the size of a book,” Niko says. “I wanted to get back to basics, so we simply serve nine different gyros, a few appetizers, like chicken wings, some dips and a Greek salad. We also offer a monthly burger special. And about 90% of what’s on our menu is made from scratch.”
Along with Niko’s signature lamb and beef gyro—served with tomato, onion and sauce, and french fries, for $8, Niko also has developed some specialty gyros you’ll probably not find anywhere else. The selection includes three different chicken gyros, plus a BLT gyro and a blackened salmon gyro. Folks who don’t eat meat may want to try Niko’s veggie gyro. Before you protest that real gyros aren’t made of fish or zucchini, you may be surprised to learn that original Greek gyros also were not made of lamb.
“Original Greek gyros were made of pork,” Niko says. “But in this country, they’ve always been beef and lamb.”
Along with gyros, garlic hummus is Niko’s most requested selection. You also can order roasted red pepper and cilantro jalapeno hummus.
Whatever you order, you may want to wash it down with a cold local microbrew. Niko’s 20 taps are dedicated to local breweries like Brew Kettle, Fatheads, Thirsty Dog and, of course Great Lakes Brewery.
“We get some real microbrew junkies in here who really know their beers,” Niko says.
That’s why the beer list gives a full account of the International Bitterness Unit rating and alcohol content. Niko’s also offers better a quality wine list than you’d expect in a sports bar, along with a full-service bar and a full-service outdoor patio.
Niko’s Bar & Gyros, located at 12766 Royalton Road, in North Royalton, just east of W. 130th Street, opens daily at 11:30 a.m. and the kitchen stays open late: until 11:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday; midnight, Friday and Saturday; and 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. Happy Hour specials are available from open until 7:00 p.m. seven days a week. You can call Niko’s at 440-237-6456, or find more information on the Facebook page.