GYRO WRAP (114 College Ave., 706-850-7442): Athens’ abiding affection for a restaurant that is essentially just a Great Wraps franchise with a stripped-down menu can be hard to understand from an outside perspective. Does Gyro Wrap produce the best gyros around? Is it innovative? Is it a gourmet experience? Is it historic? The answer to most of those questions is kind of a “meh,” but much like Taco Stand, which also opened in the late 1970s, the venerable restaurant has been there consistently. Until it wasn’t.
The cramped original location at 175 E. Broad St. shut its doors in May 2020 and was replaced by Munch Hut a bit later. For two and a half years, those of us with a strong nostalgic attachment to the food waited with crossed fingers for our gyros to return, and now they have, around the corner. The new place is shinier, to be sure, with a second floor, a bar, a King of Pops cooler and a fresh-faced college-aged staff that cheerily sings out, “Welcome to Gyro Wrap” when you walk in the door. That all deserves a bit of a side-eye if you were used to the original, which was grimy but cozy—a place that was consistent, speedy, inexpensive and a source of warmth on a cold, wet winter day.
On the other hand, it’s possible that the gyros are objectively better, if not exactly the same as you remember. There are (gasp) fresh tomatoes and lettuce that maintains its texture rolled into each one. The falafel is OK, if not nearly as good as the one served by Mediterranean Grill. The fries remain pretty dead-on, tightly curled and potatoey but with fewer peel remnants than once upon a time. There’s still feta dressing in which to dunk them. If you were a fan of the teriyaki chicken wrap or the veggie and cheese wrap, they’re still on the menu, which, if anything, has been streamlined even further.
The upstairs dining area is nice, with a view of College Square and an awesome wall papered with replicas of vintage band posters, from Pylon to Oh-OK, Kilkenny Cats to Art in the Dark. It’s a charming tribute to the original location and the era in which the restaurant originated. Everything is quite clean for the moment, although perhaps 20 years of hard use will add a bit more character. Prices have gone up, but this is the case everywhere. Will it scratch your itch? Mostly. I’d certainly rather go here than to most franchises downtown, and Athens’ history of reviving departed businesses in a slightly new form and making them succeed is encouraging.
The new place is open 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10:30 a.m.–8 p.m. Sundays. You can order ahead of time online, but the kitchen is quick so you really don’t need to.
MOCHINUT (1860 Barnett Shoals Road, by Barberitos in the Georgetown Square shopping center, 706-850-6554): In contrast to Gyro Wrap, Mochinut, a franchise that makes Japanese-style mochi-based donuts and Korean-style rice-flour-battered hot dogs, already has sticky floors, even when the store first opens for the day.
Some novelties are worth revisiting and some are not, and unless you need to avoid gluten (mochi is made with rice flour), I’d say this one is not. I actually got excited about a Hot Cheetos-crusted battered hot dog, and the first few bites were fine, but eating the whole thing became a chore. It’s probably on me for trying four different ones and consuming them (with a date) in one sitting, but my mouth felt gluey and my tongue coated with grease by the end. The packaging is cute—the hot dogs come in a box with slits cut for each one so they don’t touch; the donuts, each made up of a ring of mochi blobs, come in a pink container with a “Simpsons” vibe—and the product is photogenic, but the taste doesn’t measure up. You can get your hot dog or a mozzarella interior coated in Crunch cereal, broken-up ramen noodles, diced and fried potatoes or just plain batter, and there are lots of condiments, including a decent Sriracha mayo in a squeeze bottle, but despite the newness of the choices the product doesn’t really measure up.
The donuts are fine. I still prefer a yeast-raised donut when it comes down to it, with a lighter, less chewy texture. These are available in a wide variety of flavors, from churro-flavored ube (purple yam) to black sesame to caramel latte, pistachio, cheesecake, Nutella and strawberry. A word to the wise: The donuts come out slowly, as they’re made, so don’t go early if you have your heart set on a particular one, because it might not be done yet. There’s bubble tea to drink, as well as $1 bottles of water, but that’s about it. Some locations have soft-serve ice cream, but this one doesn’t.
Mochinut is open from 12–8 p.m. every day.
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