Morsels of succulent meat encased in a warm and pillowy pita -- could you ask for more in a sandwich?
Well, maybe — if you tuck in a few salty little french fries for good measure.
That's the kind of mouthwatering decadence you can find at Nick the Greek, a newcomer to the downtown San Jose dining scene.
The menu is not extensive. But the eatery near San Pedro Square has a knack for whipping a few signature staples into a variety of dishes that could please anyone in the crowd.
Most items feature pita bread, vegetables and either pork, chicken or a flavorful mix of beef and lamb. Choose either a gyro pita stuffed with thinly sliced meat or one filled with souvlaki -- meat that is cubed, skewered and cooked over an open flame.
The Beef-Lamb Gyro Pita ($6.95) is an excellent and traditional place to start. It's loaded with tender, lean strips that are perfectly seasoned, as well as tomato slices, red onion and fries. A drizzle of cool tzatziki sauce and a dusting of paprika finish it off.
For $3 you can make your pita a combo, which includes a drink plus a salad or french fries. (Yes, there are fries in the pita but not enough to guilt you out of the side.)
Also terrific is the Beefteki Pita ($6.95), which holds two perfectly charred and well-seasoned beef-lamb patties. There was something quite satisfying about the saltiness of fries and meat melding with the creamy tzatziki and juicy tomato.
Vegetarians, do not despair: The Veggie Pita ($6.95) is no afterthought. Hunks of grilled zucchini and portobello mushroom spill out of the pita, making for a messy but yummy delight. I cranked it up a bit by adding feta sauce. This free side can be easily overlooked on the menu, so don't miss it. It's a fabulous mix of feta cheese and spicy yogurt sauce, good for pitas, fries or -- let's face it -- your fingers.
If you're not in a pita sort of mood, the Gyro Salad ($8.95) is fantastic, featuring a bright green heap of spinach and organic arugula tossed with honey-balsamic vinaigrette. The salad is topped with your choice of meat, whose heat leaves the greens pleasantly warmed and wilted. It comes with triangles of grilled pita that get tastier as they soak up the zippy dressing.
One of my favorite Greek dishes is avgolemono ($4.50), and Nick the Greek's version of this lemony soup was thinner than others I've had but still quite flavorful. Instead of the usual rice, it contained orzo pasta as well as plentiful mini-chunks of chicken. It's a pretty dish, finished with a sprinkle of oregano and droplets of olive oil.
Speaking of looks, this is a gorgeous place to eat fast food. Cobalt blue paneling and splashes of gray marble and stainless steel give the interior a modern vibe. It's complemented by dark polished wood, and colored glass stones decorate the counters like bright, beautiful bubbles. Not a bad way to enjoy a feast that won't break the bank while putting a smile on your face.
Contact Amy Pizarro via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick the Greek
143 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose; 408-294-6425, www.nickthegreeksj.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday
Types of food: Gyro and souvlaki pitas and platters
Average meal price: $6.95
Good choices: Beefteki Pita ($6.95), Gyro Salad ($8.95)
Vegetarian options: Several salads as well as a grilled veggie pita
Drinks: Soda, juice, tea and beer
Credit cards: Visa and MasterCard
Parking: Metered street parking is available, as is the San Pedro Square garage.
Restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously. The Mercury News pays for all meals.