May 20, 2008 12:00

A Taste of Troy and a whole lot more

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I had been putting off a trip to Taste of Troy, the little lunch joint just a short trip from my Greensboro office, for like six months. It had nothing to do with the menu - a cadre of Mediterranean plates, sandwiches, salads, wraps and burgers. And it had nothing to do with convenience, though when I'm working in Greensboro I generally eat lunch hunched over my desk. It had everything to do with location.

In the three-and-a-half years since we opened this Adams Farm office I have seen no less than three different restaurants occupy the strip-mall slot that now belongs to Taste of Troy: a sandwich and ice cream place, a hot dog joint and a Greek restaurant each made their case in the space, and each summarily closed down within months.

I seriously thought the site was jinxed, cursed, a dead tooth in an otherwise healthy mouth.

But Taste of Troy is coming up on a year of business, and I've gotten a peek at some of the lunch trays my coworkers bring back - big, fresh sandwiches and lush salads, a wonderful respite from burgers-and-fries monotony. So last week I decided to take the plunge.

Taste of Troy is what I'd call a regional ethnic restaurant. Like New York-style Chinese food or Tex Mex, the place specializes in Chicago-style Greek food, prepared by a Turk named Ali Kayan.

Kayan began his culinary education in Turkey and has worked in fine dining all over the world. But in his Jamestown shop he keeps thing simple: Fresh, quality ingredients like the angus beef he uses for burgers; authentic tastes like the pita bread and grape leaves he imports; and whenever possible he makes things in his own kitchen, like the hummus I tried, which clearly had been ground that morning.

I quickly ascertained that my best bets would be menu items from Kayan's homeland, hence the hummus, which he served drizzled with oil and plated with grilled pita triangles and a couple of Turkish grape leaves, which he called dolme.

And then I tore into the gyro.

A word or two: I've been eating these things all my life, and mispronouncing them too. Where I grew up on Long Island, everybody - even my Greek friends - called them "jye-rows." My Greek friend from Durham, Big Tiny, told me to call them "gee-rows." When Kayan says it, it almost sounds like he's saying "euros."

Either way, the guy can put one together, the beef and lamb slices layered on a pita beneath lettuce, diced tomato, raw onion, cucumber chunks, smooth and cool tzatziki sauce (made in-house, of course) and a light dusting of dill.

There's these little touches that bring this place a few cuts above your usual Greek gyro shop - that subtle presence of dill, for example, the properly julienned onions in the sandwich, the fact that it was served on a real plate and not a red plastic basket or a damp lunch tray.

I've never had better, and I'll definitely be having another one some time soon.

There's more to the menu than this: a dozen or so wraps and subs, both hot and cold, a Santa Fe quesadilla loaded with grilled vegetables, a nice selection of angus burgers. And before I left, Kayan insisted I have a piece of cheesecake after apologizing for being out of homemade baklava.

The cheesecake, made fluffy and light in the Philadelphia style, or perhaps the Ann Arbor style - cheesecake can be confusing - was cold and sweet, with fresh strawberries and a homemade syrup on top. Kayan sat and beamed as he watched me eat it.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at editor@yesweekly.com.

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