Walk up to the counter at Yeeros, the cozy Greek restaurant in Federal Hill, and you immediately see one of the main selling points of the place: the vertical roasting spits that give the restaurant its name.
Yeeros is not an alternate spelling for “gyros,” the traditional pita-wrapped sandwiches as well as the spits themselves, but rather a phonetic one. Owner Michael Taramas picked the name as part of his ongoing campaign to get people to pronounce the dish correctly.
“In Greece, you ask for ‘JY-ros,’” he says, purposely mispronouncing the word, “and they ask what that is.”
Taramas, who is from Thessaloniki, opened Yeeros in November, with a menu that is much the same as his family’s other restaurants, both called Souvlaki, one in Hampden and another in D.C. But while neither of the Souvlaki locations serve gyros, they feature prominently—unsurprisingly—at the spot that bears their name.
Taramas—who previously owned restaurants in his native Greece—is also a civil engineer. So, when he took over the Federal Hill location, he renovated the space himself, exposing the original bricks on one of the walls, adding blonde wood flooring, and hanging Edison-bulb fixtures. There are the requisite pictures of Greek landscapes on the walls.
The menu is traditional, featuring skewers and wraps, spanakopita and hummus, falafel, and Greek salads. What does distinguish Yeeros from many other casual Greek restaurants is the lengthy vegan menu, with vegan versions of the spinach pie and “befteki,” a meatless version of the savory hamburger dish, as well as crisp fried zucchini balls. The dishes are served on newsprint paper, with triangles of herb-dusted pita, and come with thick tzatziki—made in-house. In fact, everything is made in-house, with the exception of the desserts, baklava and kadaifi, which come from a Greek supplier in New Jersey.
Gyro-philes may be surprised to find their French fries inside the wraps rather than alongside them. “That’s how they serve it in Greece,” says Taramas, who lives in the Greektown neighborhood of Baltimore. The recipes come from family and friends, most notably his brother, a longtime chef. And the gyros are marvelous: a soothing combination of well-seasoned meats, creamy tzatziki, chopped red onion and tomatoes, and—of course—those French fries, with thick, good bread folded around everything like a bouquet.
While the vegan and vegetarian options are creditable—the zucchini balls are excellent, though the falafel is a bit dry—it’s the meat that excels here, notably the bifteki. These surprisingly flavorful savory beef patties come two to an order and are served alongside pita and a choice of sides. Pair them with a green salad, jazzed with feta, and tzatziki, then opt for an order of kadaifi, a syrup-drenched nut pastry built with fine strands of dough that make the dessert oddly reminiscent of a bird’s nest.
And if you need a coffee—Yeeros offers soda, lemonade, kombucha, and tea—there’s a Ceremony outlet across the street.
YEEROS 17 E. Cross St., 667-260-4998. HOURS: Sun.-Sat.: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. PRICES: Appetizers: $3.95-8.25; entrees: $6.75-17.50; desserts: $5.50-6.75.