I was really looking forward to trying Simply Greek
(11454 Uptown Ave., 216-707-4976), a new fast-casual restaurant in the Uptown development in University Circle. Residents of the far-eastern suburbs of Chagrin Falls and Bainbridge have been enjoying the fresh and flavorful Greek-American dishes in their own neck of the woods (8533 E Washington St., 440-543-4976) for two years now. The Uptown spot, the local outfit’s second location, only recently opened its doors.
Simply Greek, which took over the space occupied by the short-lived Wrapz Pita Bar, has potential. Though cramped, the bright, casual restaurant uses fresh ingredients and makes most of its hot foods to order. The menu seems overly ambitious for a fast-casual eatery, with everything from calamari, fried smelts and Greek salads to gyros, burgers and 20-dollar entrees built around braised lamb shanks.
Of course, most folks are buying gyros and burgers, half-pound patties of fresh, hormone-free ground Angus cooked on a flattop. The gyros slowly cook away on twin vertical spits.
The issue on the day I visited was not one of inexperience, but rather understaffing. One lone employee attempted to do the work of three, which included taking the orders, receiving payment, flipping the burgers, slicing the gyro meat, making the sandwiches, delivering the prepared food and answering the phone. He gave up on the phone answering in pretty short order, but it didn't help shrink the length of the line.
In an attempt to get ahead of the problem the employee would pre-slice as much gyro meat as possible during any brief window of time he had, which was then deposited in the steam table to keep warm (and dry out). He also rushed the cooking process, slicing off the meat well before it had a chance to get all dark and crispy, one the beef-and-lamb mixture’s best qualities.
Still, the gyro ($8) was delicious, jam-packed with flavorful sliced meat, diced tomato, sliced red onion, fresh greens and plenty of refreshing tzatziki sauce. Given some time and better staffing, I can see this gyro becoming a favorite of many Cleveland diners. Other wraps are made with chicken, pork and shrimp.
For dessert, there’s house-made rice pudding or baklava, both of which are also pre-packaged and stowed in a cooler for take-out customers.