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We meat again



'In and out" describes this downtown restaurant's ownership situation as much as the turnaround time of its food. Owner Behnam Gilanpour previously ran the likewise-located Persian Grill, before other commitments required he close that and partner with Shams Forough, who then opened Rumi's Kabab.

"So I had a deal with Mr. Shams that I'll give him the business ... but if he could not make it, I'll take the business back," says Gilanpour. "I told him, 'Keep the food the same,' because I was doing just fine with Persian Grill — I was doing great."

Rumi's, of course, later closed, prompting Gilanpour to step back in and flesh out a concept he asked Forough to introduce late in his run: a walk-up window for gyros, dolma, spanakopita and falafel.

Thus you have the roughly two-month-old In & Out Gyros, complete with Formica tables and blue cloth chairs in a redesigned dining room painted orange and gold.

As with so many other Greek restaurants, Kronos Foods is the source of In & Out's gyro meat, the creation of which "starts with boxes of raw beef and lamb trimmings, and ends with what looks like oversized Popsicles the shade of a Band-Aid," wrote the New York Times in a 2009 company profile. The Times went on, "In between, the meat is run through a four-ton grinder, where bread crumbs, water, oregano and other seasonings are added."

If that strikes you as overly industrial, rest assured that most everything else comes courtesy of the warm hand of Gilanpour. For instance, not only is the tzatziki homemade, but so is its yogurt base. And as long as you stick with the namesake gyro ($4.99) — packed with iceberg lettuce, tomato and tzatziki on a good grilled pita — and a few others, you'll do fine.

Such a conditional recommendation comes due to the holes in the small menu. The salads, both standard Greek ($5.49) and with gyro meat ($6.49), are essentially loads of iceberg with a few weak servings of olives, feta cheese, cucumbers and red onion; the latter brings a hefty serving of meat better served on a sandwich.

The chicken gyro ($4.99) with "Persian spices" is OK, if a little dry, while the similarly seasoned pita steak sandwich ($5.79) is like a dirty-yellow-colored, freezer-burned Philly. Gilanpour's homemade falafel round is steamy with a wonderful crunch, but missing a garlic-cumin-coriander bite, and thus better in the gyro ($4.99) than on the platter ($6.99).

Sides are wonderful, though. The grape-leaf-wrapped dolma is soft and minty, while the spanakopita is more like a fluffy spinach pastry, as opposed to some of the denser versions in town. The veggie platter ($7.99) offers the best chance to sample widely, and includes a mild, almost-too-creamy hummus.

The moist, honey-and-nut-laden baklava ($1.99) is perfect. And though it, like the gyro meat, ships from Kronos in Illinois, it's no less tasty for the trip.

Overall, with late-night hours — open until 3 a.m. on weekends — and a solid, if not always memorable, product, In & Out has found itself a lovely little niche in the dining scene. Of course, we're not the only ones who think so.

"We are very busy — I mean, it's more than I expected when I opened," Gilanpour says. "I got so many of the Persian Grill customer[s] back. ... We're doing just great."

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