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GRK Fresh Greek - A New York Fast-Casual Greek Chain Serving Gyros in South Dupont


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GRK Fresh Greek, described by some as a "Greek Chipotle", opened recently on 19th between M and L in South Dupont.

Looks like an offshoot of a NYC place.

Yes, they have salads, and a nice Greek yogurt bar, but essentially this is a gyro place. The kitchen is dominated by the gyro spits, grilling up chicken, pork, portabellos, and a beef/lamb combo. You pick one, decide if you want it on a pita or on a platter with a side, and pick one of three tzatzikis.

I went with the lamb/beef on pita, with the traditional tzatziki (Grk). They also have a spicy one and a garlicky one. The gyro comes with red onion and tomato.

To put it simply, it was excellent. Real meat, not the spam-like gyro stuff you see at most places. Nice flavor and a little char, juicy and satisfying. I would have preferred more topping choices...some chopped cucumber and feta crumbles would have been nice...but stressing the meat certainly isn't a bad idea. Decent sized sandwich, but not huge...about right for lunch.

A little slow getting the food, but it just opened.

I'll be going back.

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A chain, along the mediterranean.  It makes me think of Roti.  Are they similar? 

 

All I know is that there is a common source of information among restaurant developers. Why has South Dupont all of a sudden become a bastion of mediocrity, with probably a dozen restaurants open in the past three years that are so-so at best (I do not include DGS in this broad brushstroke).

It's like everyone, starting with BLT Casa Nonna, said to each other, "let's all open mediocre restaurants!"

And I'm not saying GRK is mediocre (I trust mtureck), but it's quick-serve, so there are upper bounds.

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When I used to lease space, and I'd bet its treated similarly these days, that location between L and M on 19th would have been marketed as retail within the office market and on one of the best retail/eating/dining/drinking streets in Downtown.  Its certainly close to Dupont, though.   Exactly how one defines its neighborhood is not a big issue for me, at least.      If it were thought of as an office/lunch location, though, fast/quick - serve would be an appropriate application and the location would generally be considered strong/ albeit one with a lot of nearby competition.   But that area has been that way for decades now.

I looked up a little about GRK in NYC, where it was started.  A first location was immediately next door and accessible to the financial district and that enormous working population.   It also has a residential component to the area as its near the Manhattan south shore and some residential.

The 2nd location is midtown around the corner from Grand Central:   Some info about the space, location and asking rent:      The landlord in NYC for the midtown location wanted $250/foot for the rent.  Who knows what he got?    I can tell you one thing....$250/foot.  damn....you have to sell a lot of chicken and gyros and what not everyday to make it work.  You also have to put out a lot of food quickly....hence the fast/ quick-serve element.

If they are putting out good quality on 19th street...(where I'm sure the rent is high....just not near to NYC high) more power to them.  But with the constraints they face I wouldn't expect exceptional.  

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Really? On the same block as Greek Deli?

I've been a big fan of the Greek Deli for years, but I've always thought their gyro was weak. They do much better at their long baked and roasted items like the casseroles, chicken, and lamb (hmm...the lamb is so good).  So despite the similarity, I think GRK with its spits and yogurt might be more complementary and less competitve.

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I've been a big fan of the Greek Deli for years, but I've always thought their gyro was weak. They do much better at their long baked and roasted items like the casseroles, chicken, and lamb (hmm...the lamb is so good).  So despite the similarity, I think GRK with its spits and yogurt might be more complementary and less competitve.

I was just coming back to the thread to write the exact same thing.

As for the concerns about quality and quick serves...well, I'd argue that a gyro is better off coming from a quick serve than it would be from a high end restaurant. Marinate the meat, throw it on a spit. When someone orders, you slice it into a pita, and serve. Simple, and quick. By having just one thing, you can pretty much guarantee the meat wont have time to dry out.

DaveO asked if it was like Roti...kinda, but I'd compare it closer to something like Amsterdam Falafel...pick one thing that works really well fast, and specialize.

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As for the concerns about quality and quick serves...well, I'd argue that a gyro is better off coming from a quick serve than it would be from a high end restaurant. Marinate the meat, throw it on a spit. When someone orders, you slice it into a pita, and serve. Simple, and quick. By having just one thing, you can pretty much guarantee the meat wont have time to dry out.

I'm actually not concerned about the quality at GRK; I was trying to make a general comment about the area.

In fact your "real meat" comment has me enticed - any chance of having fresh-baked pita with this? If so, it sounds like a winning formula.

A very basic question I've never known the answer to: How do they form "real meat" so it adheres to the cylindrical shape that a spit requires? Is there any binder used at all?

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This part of town (Midtown, to locals "of a certain age") is the epicenter of the workday lunch in DC.  It would be hard for someone looking to open a quick serve "concept" to overlook, with Greek Deli, Chipotle, Chopt, and Sweetgreen all commanding long, out-the-door lines from 11:45 to 1:15.

As for GRK, the sandwiches are good, though they practically cry out for more vegetables and none are available. I had a pork "yeero" with the traditional tzatziki and really missed the ubiquitous cucumber/tomato/onion mix. It could have used a bit more sauce, too. As for the pita, I can't say whether it's house made, but it's certainly not in the puffy Zaytinya football vein. It's flat and wrapped around the meat, rather than the meat being stuffed inside.

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Hadn't noticed GRK before, in NY or here, until last week. Had a meeting nearby and, in search of a quick lunch and the Greek Deli line too long, the folks with whom I was meeting opted for this.

Started to quote a few of my fellow posters upthread but then decided free forming it would be better without too many quote boxes.

Agree with Don, who first lamented general south DuPont "mediocrity" (not GRK specifically but maybe with one eyebrow raised) before he posted that the gyros, which these guys have dumbed down to "yeeros" to better "serve" their "target market," might be good, after all.

Agree with DaveO on the real estate and business thoughts.

And, agree with mtureck on there being some things to like. Beyond whatever one might think of the food, it's obviously an inviting space with modern decor, lots of seating on three levels, (slow) wifi and modern hip muzak blaring.

All that said, this place bums me out big time. Why?

Everything I feel about this place can be exemplified by the fountain soda. Ever hear of "Puck's"? A new company with logo, branding and positioning near identical to the century-old company Boylan's, I wouldn't be surprised if there have been legal battles between the companies. It is known that Puck's was "founded" by two former Boylan's employees. Soda is sweetened water. So, copy some branding, promote the "bagged sugar from cane" (which may well be something different, and less expensive, from simple 'cane sugar'), undercut the incumbent (Boylan's) on price and then go collect the cash and market share by "partnering" with similarly-minded, profit-maximizing operators like Taylor Gourmet (of Sarcones bread misrepresentation fame) and GRK.

The yeeros to me (we had pork and lamb) are generic. Maybe better/healthier than some but good luck ever getting a truthful answer about what's really in those rotating cylindrical masses of protein (Don's unanswered "binder" question from upthread). Avgolomeno was weak, watery, and served at temps so scalding hot as to make it impossible to determine if the chicken was stringy and overcooked before or after being dropped in the soup.

This place just totally lacks the soul that Greek Deli exudes. At similar and higher prices, they are no doubt selling much higher volumes of product clearly inferior to what you can get a few storefronts to the south, on the same side of the street. But, not much seating, and definitely no Puck's or wifi at the Greek Deli.  I get the GRK "formula" and fully get why it's probably quite successful. And that all saddens me greatly.

Just an opinion. YMMV.

P.S.,  I'm very far from anti-chain on principle and, if you check my posts on businesses like Starbucks and Cava here, that'll be clear.  I just crave honesty in business with food no exception.  GRK, to me, feels like too many chains and restaurants that just throw authenticity and transparency over the side of the boat in the grab for cash.

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The yeeros to me (we had pork and lamb) are generic. Maybe better/healthier than some but good luck ever getting a truthful answer about what's really in those rotating cylindrical masses of protein (Don's unanswered "binder" question from upthread). 

It was actually answered in so much depth that it warranted its own thread. :)

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It was actually answered in so much depth that it warranted its own thread. :)

Thanks. Hadn't ever seen that thread. Very interesting and, sadly, it does indeed confirm what I perceived but wasn't 100% sure about.  Given everything else, it would be shockingly inconsistent for an operator like GRK to be buying real gyro meat.  So, at least we can say GRK is consistent in what it does and, I guess, that's something.

#Won'tBeBack

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