For the record, I’m not usually into gyros or falafels but it’s not for lack of trying. I’m always up for anything and I’ve eaten different gyros at more places than I can count on both hands but nothing could compare to Truly Mediterranean. This place never fails to make me smile ear to ear. I didn’t know whether this was the real deal but it sure blew out all the other gyros out of the Golden Gate bridge as far as I know. Lesser places would use pre-flavored meat or processed meat that didn’t require any preparation and had a funky texture in your mouth. Lesser places would have too many spices going on to mask the taste of bland dry meat or, even worse, their leavened wraps wouldn’t hold and would crack under the pressure, thin watery juices dripping sadly onto the floor. I’ve never had this disappointment happen at Truly Mediterranean. I make the trek to Truly Mediterranean at ungodly hours because I knew, without a doubt, that every gyro they wrap will meet an exacting standard of excellence. They’re proud of their work and it shows. There was just something incredibly intense and complex in the flavors they layer in their gyros. The meat has been prepared in the back, layering sauces and freshly minced herbs over and over between each fold of lamb and beef that they sliced themselves in thick generous chunks. Then they prop their mound of meaty slabs up in a semi-round grill where the meat is rotated while being cooked. Their meat is always moist and yet smoky. Simple yet incredible.
The baklava is a dessert like no other. The baklava is simple but high-octane in its deliverance of sweet melodies on the tongue. We’re talking melodies of amber honey and green pistachios layered over and over with crisp phyllo dough. You can find their baklava under the counter where the cash register is. I missed their baklava the first few times I went to Truly Mediterranean because it is at the bottom of the counter out of most people’s line of sight (except for children which might have been their grand strategy now that I think about it). Anyway, don’t make the same oversight I did and get yourself one baklava to go. You’ll be in for a treat!
I brought a friend who traveled through the Mediterranean extensively and I asked him to compare it against the authentic cuisine he tried on the other side of the world. He claimed that this is it. He could tell just by the scent of spices and herbs that hits you when you walk in. When he bit his mouth into his gyro, he silently muttered oh my god and I could see the fresh green herb on his teeth when he did so. The food is so fresh that you need sunglasses to watch people eat here. No, I’m kidding, but the vegetables are seriously vibrant, almost off the vine. My worldly friend didn’t even have to chew on it several times to know what had just happened. This little nook around 16th Street and Mission transported him back to the Mediterranean.
Truly Mediterranean gives me warm fuzzy feelings too. No, it’s not because I have a crush on some of the guys behind the counter. It’s because they are sweet and down-to-earth people. They’re always patient, unlike a lot of behind-the-counter places where it’s either a furious rush or a lazy what-do-you-do-want-so-you-can-get-out-of-here vibe. They’re earnest about you getting the gyro of your dream. They always collaborated with me by gesturing at their basins of cucumbers, tomatoes, spices, sauces, and more to confirm whether I wanted this or that. I feel comfortable telling them I want more of this or less of that and they quickly figure out what I want with a twinkle in their eyes. They don’t mind using an alternate form of non-verbal communication and they’re more than happy to oblige. For them, it’s all about making sure their customers get a gyro they’ll love and they adjust the process of gyro-making accordingly.
In the evenings, when things can get a little rough in the neighborhood, they stick together and they do so for their customers as well. One night, there was a random person who was harassing me outside their door. The guys behind Truly Mediterranean filed a line and walked out quietly but firmly in single file, just like how it’s done in the military, to, more or less, make the harasser skedaddle. My sense of safety was restored and I felt an outpouring of gratitude to them for watching out for their customers. How many places would do that? Not many. But Truly Mediterranean would. That gives them top-notch marks in my book. So thank you, Truly Mediterranean, for making my experience one-of-a-kind and for giving me faith in humanity and delicious gyros!
3109 Sixteenth Street
San Francisco, CA 94110