Joyfully nontraditional

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Greek Fieri: Don’t even try to call the authenticity police on the new fast-casual Greek restaurant at 1901 J Street, Jyros Twisted Gyros—the fact that it is unorthodox, fusion-frenzied Greek food is the whole point, according to its owner.

Pronounced “Jai-Rohs” Twisted “Hee-Rohs,” the name hints at the common mispronunciation of the Greek pita sandwich, says owner Jared Katzenbarger.

“Of course the way you say it is hee-rohs, and I know that,” Katzenbarger says, “but it’s also a part of that fun debate. I make no claim to being authentic Greek—I’m not Greek—so I wanted to do a fun twist with that, and that’s our thing … It’s taking things that everyone likes from different areas and putting them all together in one food and just making it a fun experience.”

In keeping with the twisted theme, the menu—created by Katzenbarger as well as his friends and employees—includes funky options like Medusa Nachos ($7.99) with pita chips and Twisted Fries ($7.99) loaded with your choice of protein, Greek salad ingredients and uncommon sauces like Sriracha tzatziki. Vegans can add the falafel to any gyro or bowl.

“We’ve got your traditional options: You can do your gyro sandos with beef and lamb and get your traditional toppings and in original toppings, but you can do a sando with naan and do an al pastor pork and Sriracha tzatziki—and I don’t know anyone else doing flavored tzatzikis like that.”

Katzenbarger is trying to differentiate his business from other Greek restaurants with the build-your-own meal approach. There’s also the Guy Fieri-esque, brazen design that includes devil-horn hand symbols on the menu and sexy Medusas, including a sensual interior mural painted by local artist Franceska Gamez.

The grand opening on March 15 cashed in almost 400 receipts and, Katzenbarger estimates, around 800 visitors. He says it’s the right time to open a Greek restaurant, a cuisine he particularly loves.

“It’s the freshness, the wholesomeness, it’s filling but it doesn’t feel like it sits solid in you,” he says. “You get full, but it’s fresh, it’s healthy.”

If this location is successful, the future might bode well for a second location of Jyros Twisted Gyros or a new, gleefully inauthentic concept.

“I have an Asian idea and a Mexican idea,” he says.