MM's Gyros and Spuds
24 Temple St., Hartford, (860) 796-5589, mmgyrosspudsinhartford.com
Sometimes a little language barrier can work out to your advantage. Like when I stopped in at MM's Gyro's & Spuds in downtown Hartford last week. I intended to order a lamb gyro plate, and if I had been able to communicate clearly my desires, I might have only ended up with some slow-cooked lamb on a pita with a little lettuce. I must not have conveyed that. The gentleman behind the counter didn't entirely understand my wishes, so he gave me what he thought I wanted, or perhaps what he thought I should want. Either way — it was for the best.
After piling pieces of the flavorful and juicy lamb on top of a bed of rice, he then ladled on different types of salad — beet salad, chick peas, carrots — and topped it all off with generous (perhaps excessive for some tastes) amounts of creamy dill-flavored tatziki sauce and another couple spoonfuls of the house hot sauce. MM's has one of the best fixings selection around. Subway could learn a thing or two from them.
This was a massive helping of food. (I didn't exactly need the side of falafel and stuffed grape leaves I ordered.) But before I could order and eat I had had to make a little trip to an ATM though; MM's doesn't accept credit cards. After getting some cash I got back in line at MM's. When I asked for the lamb — which looked to be cooking nicely in a slow-spinning spit — the woman behind the counter told me it would be another five minutes before the lamb was ready. (MM's has chicken gyros, too, but I wanted to hold out for that delicious-looking lamb.) It was worth the wait. They use a peculiar portable shaver/electric-knife deal to slice off little slivers of the meat.
MM's was very busy, with a steady line of customers picking up take-out, some dining inside, and some eating at the little tables out on Temple Street. MM's appears to be thriving — on cash only — in a location where another once-popular restaurant failed. And that says plenty about the food. (Curiously, I didn't see any spuds on the menu, but maybe one has to ask.)
Hartford already had several restaurants serving very good gyros, like Aladdin on Allyn Street and Tangiers International on Farmington Avenue (just over the line into West Hartford). I think MM's will give any competitor some serious competition. In the falafel department, though, MM may have some work to do. I found my falafel to be a little too dense and fritter-like. More like a Middle Eastern hushpuppy.