Marking a small loss for strict spellers, but a huge gain for right-thinking people everywhere, a fast-casual Greek restaurant opening near Dupont today will insist on the correct pronunciation of its main menu item by spelling it phonetically.
"'YEE-RO,'" says Alex Alevras, principle partner of GRK Fresh Greek. "You know it as 'JAI-RO.'"
Americans have been slaughtering the name of the classic Greek dish, which typically consists of meat roasted on a spit and served in a pita, more or less since gyros arrive on U.S. soil in the mid-20th century. Unlike some people (possibly including the writer of this post, who may or may not have gotten into a dozen rageful arguments on the topic despite possessing no knowledge of the Greek language and no connection to Greece whatsoever), Alevras doesn't take the mispronunciation personally.
"I always thought it was funny," says Alevras, who hails from the suburbs of Athens. "Especially when fellow Greeks called it 'jai-ro.' It's not a huge deal, obviously."
Still, accurate pronunciation was important enough for GRK to spell "gyro" as "yeero" on the menu. "It's the correct way to do it," says Alevras.
GRK, a New York import making its first expansion into D.C., will feature traditionally roasted yeeros that have been marinated in spices, Greek yogurt ("Greek Greek, from Greece," Alevras clarifies), and Greek olive oil. Customers can choose from lamb, beer, chicken, pork, or portobello mushroom yeeros, served in a pita, over a salad, or plain on a plate. Frozen Greek yogurt and a variety of Greek sodas will also be on the menu.
GRK Fresh Greek, 1140 19th St. NW; grkfresh.com
Photo by Kelsey Duke