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Doner, Gyro & Other Spit Roasted Meats


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#21 Caviarczar

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 10:36 AM

I was walking past the food carts on Alder/SW 10th, directly across from Jake's and near Snow White's, and found this new one. Don't recall the name, but it's Turkish and the menu lists several kebabs. As my neighbor is from Istanbul, I became interested. I'll have to walk my dog by there today and get more info. I did not see donor kebab on the list, but I have cataracts!

No donor kebab spit, just Kofte and Chicken kebabs (Turkish Kitchen)


This probably goes in the food cart section, but what the heck...I ate here last weekend and was satisfied by the meal. As stated above, they offer beef kofte or chicken. You can order either three different ways: with rice, on a salad or as a sandwich. I chose the kofte on the sandwich (#2 i think).

The bread was one of the best parts of the meal. It was fresh, had a nice chew and didn't fall apart despite my request for extra sauce. The veggies provided were fine (lettuce tomato n' onion) as was the sauce. The sauce had a yellow tinge, which surprised me because the photos provided made it look like a tzatsiki-ish sauce, but I guess it had some mustard added as well. Anyhow, they grilled up four mini kofte sliders for the sandwich. The meat was fine although I kind of had to battle the patties to keep them from slipping out of the 'wich.

No heartburn following the meal was a bonus as well were the very nice dudes who did the cooking. It was freaking freezing that day and they moved the space-heater near me while I waited without my asking.

#22 Nacho_B

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 04:34 PM

Hola mis compañeros,

I have a question for you, but I have some answers too. First a bit of background...

A trip to Europe that I took this year cemented a food obsession I didn't even know I had...sandwiches made from Vertical spit roasted meats. It was the Durum Kebab that did it. ¡Dios mío!

I had to keep costs down, and I would get hungry outside of the normal meal times. I never got used to eating dinner at 10pm, for instance. A brother gets hungry earlier than that. For the tastiest food for the least amount of money (available at all hours...even at times the locals don't eat) go for the immigrant cuisine. Here in Portland it's Mexican, Southeast Asian, Ethiopian, and others. Tasty, inexpensive, interesting, and available at all hours. There it was Durum Kebab.

My understanding is that the advantage to the vertical spit roasting is that the lower portions are basted in the juices that drip down from the upper portions. They have these hand-held meat saws and they cut the slices downward, ensuring that you get slices from all elevations of the meat cone. When done right, it's incredibly delicious.

So....who in Portland does the vertical spit roast/bobbin? I know of 4, and have tried 3. I don't care if it's gyros, Donners, Schwarma, or al pastor. I'm interested in hearing about all of them.

I'll open the bidding here:

Donner Kebab
505 SW 4th
Oh yeah! This is a gem. Their spicy yogurt sauce is awesome, love it. The pita is fresh and tasty, and it's all excellent. This place is the closest I've found in Portland to the wonderful places that started this madness for me. They only have one meat cone, and it's turkey. So you don't get to chose which meat, but that's OK. This is a great place. One caveat though, it's quite salty. They add feta cheese to it, which takes the saltiness up a level or two. I like salty food, especially with beer, but that is something to be aware of. Their version of spicy actually has some heat to it, so be aware of that too. Order it spicy anyway, it's tastier and better for you (en mi opinión). Everyone I've encountered here is very upbeat, positive, and friendly. Their bathroom is crazy nice, too. That is neither here nor there, but it is decorated like some health-spa retreat. Classy. They get extra points for doing this type of cooking and serving something other than a gyro.

Anoush Deli
1710 NE 122nd
¡Oh Anoush! Best gyro in town. Hefty, tasty, inexpensive, and filling. They cover it with smoked paprika. It's a salty, messy, delicious combination of flavors. You will stink for hours after eating these (in the best possible way...this is bold food). They have the vertical spit roast, although if you go in later in the afternoon they reheat the gyro meat. In fact, I haven't ever seen them shave the meat cone for a gyro order, but it's good tasty stuff anyway. The important thing is that it spent some time on that bobbin, getting all basted and everything. Nice folks too. It's also worth wandering around the market. They have all kinds of cool stuff.

There is also an Anoush on 6808 NE 4th Plain, Vancouver. The locations used to be associated (I have an old 10 gyro punch-card with both addresses), but they have since split ownership or affiliation. The gyros I have had at the Vancouver location were every bit as good as the Portland ones. I haven't been back up there since my new found vertical spit roast obsession to verify that they do their gyros on the bobbin. I assume they must, but time will tell...

Petra Cuisine
520 SW 4th
This is across the street from Donner Kebab, and easy to miss. The most prominent thing displayed in the window is ice cream. However, behind the ice cream they have two meat cones on the bobbin, continually rotating. One is beef/lamb, and the other is chicken. You can have either in a gyro, or both. It was tasty, although there was less tomato and lettuce than I would have liked (but more than enough meat). It was a bit light on the sauce too. It's hot and smokey inside the restaurant, although that was the case with the Donner Kebab places in Europe. I've been in twice though, and they were slow, slow, slow. ¡Muy lento! I waited at the counter for about 5 minutes before someone came out of the kitchen to acknowledge me. I didn't make any noise so the wait is partially my fault, but it's happened both times I've been in. I was also overcharged once (she rang up $7.50 for the $6.50 mixed gyro). I assume that was an accident, but I will always have some degree of doubt and suspicion when I eat there (and I will always check my bill carefully). So out of the three, Petra cuisine comes in third for me, but they do have some tasty gyros, and they run a two meat bobbin setup.

The gyro place in the food court of the basement of Pioneer Place mall actually has a vertical roaster. It was small, but I was surprised to see it. I tend to assume all mall food-court food is universally awful/lowest common denominator stuff, but maybe I should rethink that. I don't know the name of the place, and didn't have time to try it out, but they do have a bobbin.

So those are the places in town that I know of that do a proper vertical spit roast.

¿Anybody know of any others?

Muchas gracias,
Nacho B.

#23 HappyHourHero

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 05:56 PM

I recall driving by Cha Cha Cha on Hawthorne and seeing an al pastor spit over the summer, but have eaten there numerous times and have never actually seen it while eating there.

#24 ExtraMSG

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 09:03 PM

Merged.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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#25 m5570

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 09:31 AM

Aybla has a food cart in the pod on Belmont, and they have gyros and the schwarma is on the vertical spit. & it was a pretty freakin good gyro. $5 for the regular and $7 for the big one that comes with feta & more meat(or something like that). or you can get a chicken one.

http://media1.px.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/sXfeq9sqD0Y9kO0GsF4xTA/l

My linkhttp://www.ayblagrill.com/menugrill.htm

#26 nate

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 02:01 PM

Aybla is my favorite gyro in town though I must admit I haven't made it out to NE 122nd to try Anoush (and am unlikely to any time soon). I've seen dozens of places in town that use vertical spits, including Big Bertha and Foti's, plus countless strip mall joints, carts, and food courts. However, what I haven't seen is something I grew rather attached to in London, which is something on those vertical spits other than a preformed mass of ground and seasoned meat. There was a kebab place (I believe it was Turkish) down the street from my flat that served all manner of delicious kebabs on burrito-sized rolled flat-bread. It's been over ten years and I don't even remember the name of the place, but here's what I do recall...

Kebabs of chunked meat on long skewers cooked by sticking the skewer into a pile of hot coals sitting under a hood in the middle of the restaurant. Also, vertical spits with lamb, beef, and chicken made not with ground, seasoned meat packed onto the spit, but with distinct slabs of meat seasoned and piled in layers one atop the other. The chicken spit must've had over a hundred chicken breasts all rubbed in spices and piled high on the central skewer. The meat spits were similarly made with layer upon layer of steaks all seasoned and cooking slowly from the outside inward as they rotated on the vertical spit.

My point in relaying this story is to ask if anyone has encountered kebabs of this fashion in Portland. Anyone?

#27 SarahWS

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 03:24 PM

I've had it in Astoria, believe it or not. Drina Daisy does their lamb in this method with herbs and marinade between each layer. After it's slowly cooks on the vertical spit, they take off the individual portion, and they then flip it on a hot grill with additional marinade added. The lamb is on the bone while on the spit. :drool:

No gyro, just a huge platter of meat with salad, ajvar, and fruit. Mmmmm!

#28 joburn

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 03:32 PM

Hush Hush on 4th & Washington downtown also does it; I prefer the chicken over the lamb, it's excellent. Quite cheap prices for a lot of food. They also have wonderful fool m'damas (their spelling) and excellent soft pitas. And pretty much the fastest food delivery in town, bar none.

#29 Nacho_B

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 07:59 PM

Kebabs of chunked meat on long skewers cooked by sticking the skewer into a pile of hot coals sitting under a hood in the middle of the restaurant. Also, vertical spits with lamb, beef, and chicken made not with ground, seasoned meat packed onto the spit, but with distinct slabs of meat seasoned and piled in layers one atop the other. The chicken spit must've had over a hundred chicken breasts all rubbed in spices and piled high on the central skewer. The meat spits were similarly made with layer upon layer of steaks all seasoned and cooking slowly from the outside inward as they rotated on the vertical spit.


Hola Nate,

We are on the same page here, because this is what I'm talking about. I haven't found this exact food here, and I don't think it exists in this town at this time. ¡Qué lástima! The closest local equivalent (that I know of) to those wonderful Kebab places on the other side of the Atlantic ocean is Donner Kebab on SW 4th. Their spit roasted meat isn't the same, but the spicy yogurt sauce is spot on. Their sesame seed pita bread is pretty good too. It isn't the same, but it's close. It is delicious though, and I'm happy to have it.

Thanks to others for the Aybla, Hush Hush and Drina Daisy recommendations. I'll check each of those as time allows. This madness of mine isn't going to go away. If any of you know any other places, I'm interested. I'll eventually check them all out, and (for what it's worth) report back what I think of each.

Hasta luego,
Nacho B.

#30 Nettie

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 09:27 PM

Aybla is my favorite gyro in town though I must admit I haven't made it out to NE 122nd to try Anoush (and am unlikely to any time soon). I've seen dozens of places in town that use vertical spits, including Big Bertha and Foti's, plus countless strip mall joints, carts, and food courts. However, what I haven't seen is something I grew rather attached to in London, which is something on those vertical spits other than a preformed mass of ground and seasoned meat. ...


There was a NY Times story last summer about how they make those preformed cones of meat: http://www.nytimes.c...ing/15gyro.html. What you describe sounds infinitely better!

#31 nate

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 10:45 PM

I don't know if Aybla uses the same cones as everyone else in town, but their method of preparation—finishing in a pan to get a nice crispy caramelization on the meat—yields better gyros than anywhere else I've had them in Portland. They also use local produce and authentic ingredients, and have the seasoning and sauces down. I'll check out Doner too. I've been meaning to work on my pool game a bit anyway...

#32 HappyHourHero

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:06 PM

I went up to my friendly neighborhood taco cart, Los Gorditos today. To my surprise, I came upon this on the counter of taco cart:
Posted Image

It was some al pastor, if you hadn't noticed. It was pretty damn good too, much better than the previous incarnations I tasted from them. I didn't ask if it would be a daily occurrence.

#33 polloelastico

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 07:12 PM

Is this the 50th or the 12th location?
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#34 ExtraMSG

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 08:02 PM

Says "cart", so I assumed the 50th location.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#35 HappyHourHero

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 01:28 AM

Yes, the cart.

#36 Nacho_B

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 04:23 PM

I went up to my friendly neighborhood taco cart, Los Gorditos today. To my surprise, I came upon this on the counter of taco cart:
Posted Image

It was some al pastor, if you hadn't noticed. It was pretty damn good too, much better than the previous incarnations I tasted from them. I didn't ask if it would be a daily occurrence.


Hola mis amigos,

I just stopped by Los Gorditos, picked up a spit roasted al pastor burrito, and couldn't be more satisfied (en este momento). ¡Dios mío! It is excellent. That's a regular feature now at this cart, and a welcome one in my book.

Not to get too metaphysical, but this almost seems like the "cosmic lattice"/"plate of shrimp" (for you Repo Man fans...and I hope there are at least a few here). I post a question about vertical spit roasted meats, and then a week or two later that very thing appears in my neighborhood (and a tasty one at that). ¡Hot damn!
I hope just writing this post will cause another to appear, but I doubt it will. This was a welcome coincidence, and nothing more than that.

My favorite part about Los Gorditos is the family that runs it. They aren't around the cart much after opening the restaurant, but they are great folks (la familia de los gorditos es buena gente). My second favorite part about that cart is they just keep making it better. I remember when it was parked in the middle of that lot with a green garden hose running to the building. They moved the cart, built the deck (with roof), added the table/chairs, put in propane heaters, and built up the menu. They later added the "reception" area, which is certainly more efficient but I sometimes miss the good old days of ordering directly into the truck.

While maintaining the same green and red salsas over the years, they have also added and expanded on them. What a lucky day it is when their avacado salsa is available (a rare treat). They also have a serious habanero sauce from time to time (dark brown and full of heat and flavor). Just tonight they had a watery looking red salsa that brought some thunder. For such an innocuous looking salsa, that thin watery red had some fire.

Now they have a full-on, insanely delicious spit-roasted al pastor.

¡What fun!

#37 Jill-O

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 05:13 PM

[waving]I'm a Repo Man fan!![/waving]

I'm just not a Mexican food fan. Lo siento, amigo, pero no me gustan cilantro o cumin...blech. And I am getting a bit better, but I am still wary of the chile heat...
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#38 ExtraMSG

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 05:44 PM

Although, al pastor has neither. (And really, cumin is used more in Tex-Mex than Mex-Mex and cilantro is usually optional on tacos.)

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#39 Jill-O

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 05:53 PM

True, and it is my usual choice when forced to eat at a taco truck/joint. I was speaking in generalities, darlin'. ;o)
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#40 Nacho_B

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 08:59 PM

Hola,

I ran across another place in town that does Donner Kebab (or Durum Kebab, although they called it Donner).

It's one of the carts at SW 10th and Alder, se llama "Ali Baba". They have the vertical spit, which is what I'm looking for (and what we're talking about).

They run a single spit. They have a chicken option, but they do that on the grill. I was offered a sample of the chicken on a toothpick, and it was plenty tasty, but I wanted to try their spit roasted Donner Kebab. It was $6 and they asked if I wanted that spicy. I assured them that I did, indeed, want that spicy. The pita bread was grilled, the tomato and onion were tasty, the meat was delicious, and the sauce was very good. It wasn't as spicy hot as I'd hoped for, but it had a good flavor and brought everything together nicely. They also included some pickle slices, which was a pleasant surprise. The Donners/Durums I had in Europe typically included olives, giving them a nice salty boost as well as a neat textural variation. The pickle slices did a nice job in this case.

They have the added bonus of a roofed deck area with seating on the west side of their cart. There were posters and travel guides for Turkey in the seating area, which further demonstrates that this isn't just another gyro place. There are certainly similarities between Donner and gyros (as well as subtle differences), but any place that's proudly waving the Turkish flag has certainly taken their side on that debate.

Overall, it was quite good. I would have liked a bit more spicy heat (and will ask for that next time I go). I think I like the version from the "Donner Kebab" restaurant on SW 4th a bit more, but this was a solid version that I will be back to eat again.

I was really, really hungry when I ate there, so this may not be the most objective review ("hunger is the best sauce", or so I've heard). I have also been eating green chili (which consists mostly of roasted hatch chilies) for breakfast all week, so any opinion of "spicy" should be considered in light of this.

Oh, and Jill-O...you clearly have good taste in movies. Repo Man is a classic. Your dislike of cumin and cilantro is suspect (en mi opinión), but your efforts and desire to increase the chili spicy is commendable. Take it slow (but push yourself at times) and hopefully you can come to truly appreciate how awesome hot spicy food can be. Or not. Either way, you're entitled to your likes, opinions, and dislikes. What a boring world this would be if we all ate the same food and we all spoke the same language.

¡Disfrute!
Nacho B.