The time has come for me to face one of life's most troubling facts: People — lots of people — eat at fast-food restaurants. Chain eateries hit us with a constant barrage of hyper-palatable foods (those combinations of salt, fat and sugar that our brains find irresistible) and tempt us with new creations based on the findings of market studies and focus groups. Some are outlandish, like KFC's Double Down, while others come in on the tame end of the spectrum. Most new food roll-outs are accompanied by promotional deals, like the new Quiznos gyro flatbread sandwiches that launched today, October 25.
Quiznos is a Denver original, starting out as Quizno's Subs way back in 1981 under founding chef Jimmy Lambatos. Somewhere in the intervening years, the company lost the apostrophe, saving countless dollars in sign-making and menu-printing costs. Inspired by that stroke of efficiency and economy, Quiznos left the "s" off its new Greek-inspired offering, going with the more Americanized (and irritating, to spelling sticklers) "gyro" over the traditional "gyros" — which typically indicates both the singular and plural form. So the first thing you'll want to do when you're standing in line to get your flatbread (or toasted sub or salad, since you can order the meat in all three presentations) is cover your ears so that you don't hear anyone order a "jai-roh" sandwich (we're not in Texas, after all). When it's your turn, step up to the counter and confidently order your "yee-ros," knowing that the clerk may not understand what you're trying to say.
If you're going today, you can get an almost-free gyro flatbread, although it's only free if you purchase another menu item; otherwise, it costs $5.20. To get in the Quiznos spirit, I went to the original shop at Grant Street and East 13th Avenue for mine. (Actually, the original was torn down and a new Quiznos built on the same lot years ago.)
Since the vast majority of gyros meat sold in the U.S. comes into restaurants pre-molded and pre-cooked in giant cones, there's no expectation of fresh-seasoned lamb and beef stacked onto a skewer and slow-roasted until juicy and delicious, whether you order your gyros at Quiznos or elsewhere. The sub shop dispenses with the cumbersome cone and warms the meat in little steamer baskets, pre-portioned for each order. The result is tender and a little tangy, with a standard seasoning blend familiar from Greek diners, lunch counters and even school cafeterias across the country. Feta cheese, banana peppers and a dollop of tzatziki sauce (with no dumbed-down spelling!) adds to the overall experience.
In doing something new, Quiznos is really doing nothing new. But the gyro sub is a fine addition for anyone who's already ponying up a few bucks for something else at the chain.
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Far more cringe-worthy than the missing "s" is the accompanying Quiznos gyro advertising campaign, which uses Monty Python-style animation to tell the story of the mythical Gyrocles, inventor of the gyro. Talking statues claim to love "artisanal sandwiches" and battle tomato-headed monsters — but it could be worse.
Gyrocles and the half-horse, half-cucumber creature that gallops across the screen midway through the ad aren't even half as disturbing at the spongmonkey campaign created by Quiznos in 2004. The singing fetal hamsters with bulging eyes and human teeth were possibly the worst thing to happen to food sales since Mrs. Lovett fired up her meat-pie ovens in Sweeney Todd.