Gyromania Authentic Greek Kitchen employee Dafnee Cuervo, left, and owner Kyriakos Champi hold a Greek salad and chicken gyro plate at the restaurant, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. PHOTO BY MICHELLE SATHE

Gyromania: Greek delights driven by the American dream

“Opa!”

With that joyful greeting, a sea of blue walls, and the tantalizing smell of grilled meat in the air, walking into Gyromania Authentic Greek Kitchen is like teleporting to a modern Greek neighborhood restaurant.

Most likely you’ll be met at the counter by owner Kyriakos Champi, who opened Gyromania in Saugus five months ago. He’ll answer any questions you have about the menu of classic Greek dishes with a big smile.

Choices range from the namesake gyro, plus souvlaki and falafel, all available as wraps, plates, salads, or served atop a huge mound of fries with feta. Much of the food you’ll eat comes from recipes in the Champi family for decades or even centuries, whether it’s the scratch-made dressings, marinades, and soups, to the gyros and souvlaki Champi learned to make while working at his uncle’s restaurant in Cyprus.

“Cooking is my passion. Some people like football or acting, but my talent has always been in the kitchen,” Champi said.

If you’re in the mood for something a little unique, ask Champi or his staff and they’ll most likely oblige you, whether it’s substituting lettuce for a pita in a wrap or creating a vegetarian gyro with feta-stuffed portabella mushrooms. “We have to make sure each customer leaves happy,” Champi said.

With food this good and service this gracious, Gyromania does just that.

The Greek salad ($6.99) bursts with freshness from the bright green romaine and crunchy rounds of cucumber and peppers. There’s lots of crumbly, creamy feta cheese and briny kalamata olives, all showered with fresh herbs and served with your choice of vinaigrettes. It’s a large portion that would be great to share as an appetizer with the rest of your table or if you want to eat light, enjoy it all to yourself as a meal.

Gyros are the specialty at Gyromania Authentic Greek Kitchen at 20655 Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita. PHOTO BY MICHELLE SATHE

Heartier options include gyro plates ($11.99) with your choice of chicken, lamb, beef, or pork, marinated in a blend of olive oil, lemon juice, and spices for 24 hours. That means even white meat chicken turns out flavorful, moist and juicy, while the lamb is fork tender. The meat is served atop a bed of fluffy, dill and olive oil infused rice that soaks up all the savory juices. Add some luscious garlic sauce to the mix to really take the whole dish over the top.

Or you could try the doulmas plate ($12.59), a generous helping of delightful little bundles served hot, stuffed full of fragrant ground beef and just a little bit of rice, wrapped in tender grape leaves, bathed in a tangy tomato and olive oil sauce. This is a rustic, comforting, satisfying dish, especially as the weather gets cooler.

The tzatziki served with every plate is something else – a creamy yet refreshing blend of yogurt, dill, and thin slices of cucumber to dip your four triangles of soft, puffy, perfect pita bread into. It’s positively swoon-worthy.

If you have any room left for dessert, the Greek style donuts are fun, freeform spheres of crispy dough slicked with honey and dusted with cinnamon.

Breakfast is served all day at Gyromania and, in the near future, Champi would like to add spanakopita, moussaka, and more soups to the lineup. He’d also like to expand with a second location, eventually leading to many more.

“One day, I’d like to have 200 of these restaurants,” Champi said. “I’m putting it out to the universe.”

It’s a big dream, one that compelled Champi, now a Saugus resident, to leave his home country of Cyprus to come to America 8 years ago with just $500 in his pocket and a desire to bring Greek hospitality to a brand-new audience.

Champi is willing to work hard for that dream, working long hours every day at his restaurant to make sure the level of quality, consistency, and customer service always hits the mark.

“I want to make people feel like they’re on vacation in Greece when they come here,” he said. “When people smile and tell me they love my food, it’s like they’re giving me the whole world.” 

Gyromania, 20655 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Catering available. For more information call 252-4976 or visit www.gyromaniacatering.com

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