There are very few restaurants that have remained a fixture in my life the entire time I’ve been in C-U, which is a little over 20 years, and Niro’s Gyros is one of them. From time to time I’ve wondered why that is. They don’t sell my all-time favorite anything (gyros, fries, salad — those are my go-tos when ordering from them), but they do sell consistently fresh, tasty, good quality, super affordable food, and lots of it. It’s hard to imagine either spending too much at Niro’s or walking away unsatisfied. I recently visited the Champaign Springfield Avenue location.
To start, let’s consider their namesake dish: presentation-wise, there is nothing Niro’s does with their gyros that isn’t pretty standard. If, for example, you order a triple gyro platter, you will be given three warm pita, fresh onion and tomato slices, a small container of tzatziki sauce, and a pile of gyro meat.
Photo by Rachael McMillan.
That pile of gyro meat is, however, enough for probably five sandwiches. This works well for feeding a family, especially considering the triple gyro platter only costs $11.49 and additional pita only cost $.99 each (extra sauce is $.69, per their online menu). The triple gyro platter comes with fries and a drink.
Every place of this sort has gyro meat that is similar, but with noteworthy differences, possibly accounted for by the roasters they use and their slicing techniques. Every gyro I’ve gotten from Niro’s has been consistently roasted to an almost-crisp brown, with more short than long slices of meat, and, as mentioned, plenty of them. For a platter, the slices are rolled in paper and foil and bundled, seam-side down, into the styrofoam container, which helps keep the meat warm and juicy.
Likewise, the pita are consistently soft, warm, slightly salty, and perfectly chewy. They are large enough that no one probably needs more than one, especially with all of that extra gyro meat to pick at.
Photo by Rachael McMillan.
Their fries are of the crunchy-coated variety, which I really enjoy. I have yet to figure out just which serving size I’ll be receiving when ordering any given dish; it seems to me that the triple gyro platter I got a couple of weeks ago came with small fries, while the double gyro platter ($9.49) I ordered just the other day came with a larger bag of fries (again, a drink comes with both). Per their menu, their fries come in one size only; this probably means I just have a really poor memory for bag size.
I do, however, endorse asking good clarifying questions in general when getting Niro’s. Case in point: for this review, I wanted to revisit a sandwich I had gotten from them many years ago and remember fondly, the veggie pita ($3.99). According to my recollection, it came with sauteed mushrooms and onions, banana peppers, tomatoes, possibly raw onions, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. Looking at their menu online, it would seem they do not put the grilled onions and mushrooms on them (everything else, including raw onions, they do).
When I ordered mine at the drive through, I asked if they had sauteed mushrooms and was told they only serve deep-fried ones. (Side note: I've had them before, and they are pretty good). I didn’t clarify that this would be a sandwich topping, and the young lady taking my order probably didn’t realize that was what I was asking for. As I drove away from the menu board, I noticed they sell a mushroom burger. When I picked up my order and asked what that is, sure enough, it’s a ¼ lb. burger with sauteed onions and mushrooms. So, I probably could have gotten those added to my veggie pita, and I think the results would have been fantastic. As they also sell a Philly cheesesteak, I imagine grilled peppers would be an option as well.
Veggie pita at Niro's Gyros. Photo by Rachael McMillan.
As it comes, the veggie pita is still really good. The fresh onions and tomatoes, pickled banana peppers, cheese, and sauce inside a warm pita make for a very satisfying sandwich, even for someone who normally orders a meat/chicken/fish dish. And again, If you know ahead of time how you’d like to customize your order, I’m sure they’d be more than happy to oblige; the service I’ve received from Niro’s has always been courteous.
Niro’s is also a really good option for salad lovers. For $5.99, the Greek salad comes with onions, tomatoes, banana peppers, fresh cucumber slices, pitted kalamata olives, plenty of feta cheese, and a sprinkle of oregano, all atop a bed of fresh romaine.
Greek Salad with chicken at Niro's Gyros. Photo by Rachael McMillan.
If you have a hard time taking down a salad that easily weighs a pound, you will probably want to plan on splitting this one. They will add grilled chicken or gyro meat for $1.25 (all prices are per their online menu), which almost makes it an even more amazing value, considering how generous they are with their toppings. The salad comes with homemade Greek dressing, which my husband prefers, but between the feta and banana peppers, I feel the salad is tangy enough on its own and usually choose ranch or some of their tzatziki sauce to mellow it out a bit.
Their menu has so much else to offer: burgers, beef and chicken Philly cheesesteaks, hot dogs, a Maxwell Street Polish, pizza puffs, and chili, just to name a few things. I think over the years we’ve given some of those a try, and they were probably pretty good, but we’ve definitely settled into our regular order, and I highly recommend everything reviewed here.
For someone like me — frugal, but not willing to compromise on flavor — the bottom line is that Niro’s passes the glass-of-wine test, which is this: Is the meal a good value, but still something I’d potentially have with a nice red on a Friday night? Check and check.
It’s also worth noting that not every Niro’s location around town necessarily offers the same things. For example, according to the Muslim Students Association website's listing of local eateries, Super Niro’s Gyros and the Urbana Niro’s Gyros locations serve halal meat; the Springfield and Kirby Avenue locations did not make that list. Super Niro's Gyros in particular appears to not only serve halal meat, but also to offer a wide variety of traditional Mediterranean dishes. I will most definitely be checking those out soon.
Suffice it to say, whatever your tastes, and with twice as many locations as when I first moved to town over 20 years ago, Niro’s is a great place to turn into one of your to-go go-tos.