Montrose has always been a favorite neighborhood of mine for many reasons, one of which has been my ritual stop at Niko Niko’s for lunch or a snack for my long trek home to suburbia. For years, this little Greek shack stood out—to me—as the neighborhood’s best fare. Today of course, it faces stiff competition as so many of Houston’s new chefs set up shop in this now-trendy part of town.
Then Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine moved in only a few blocks away. Suddenly, Niko Niko’s had real competition. While both serve a venerable menu covering a wide range of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, if you’re like me, you stop in for one thing, and one thing only: a gyro, that Mediterranean sandwich that wraps meat, tomatoes, onions, and sauce up inside a warm pita.
So, whose is better? Niko Niko’s hosts an annual gyro eating contest, and this year’s winner ate 24; those gyros must be good, right? Niko Niko’s gyro is an onion-heavy affair with a sweet, tangy tzatziki sauce. The chopped lamb and beef mixture is packed with spices, and it is all wrapped up in a piece of fluffy pita bread. From there, you get to choose between potatoes or fries. Get the fries. Always get the fries.
Aladdin’s take on the gyro isn’t too far off from Niko Niko’s. Aladdin, however, uses all lamb meat, seasoned with all the classic spices—oregano, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more—Aladdin packs its gyros into a thinner Lebanese style bread. As for the veggies, the only difference is the pickles Aladdin adds. Both gyros are delicious and both are more similar than they are different.
My opinion is a deeply biased one. My first gyro was at Niko Niko's. My prom date and I ate there. And every time I came back into town while I was an undergrad at the University of Texas, I took a very long detour just to pick up a gyro. I’ve loved Niko Niko’s too long to leave them now—I’ll probably take my kids there one day, just like I will force them to attend UT and shun A&M. Plus, I still think Niko Niko's make a better gyro. But, for what it’s worth—and so I can at least pretend to be unbiased here—I will say nearly every one of my friends now prefer Aladdin’s gyros. Whichever one you pick, you’re in for a delicious treat.