Greek islands beckon, hidden on busy corner
By Greg Sabin
Jayna Gyro is easy to miss. The corner of Alhambra and Folsom boulevards sports several chain eateries, and, without a closer look, Jayna Gyro blends in and disappears.
But take that extra look. You’ll learn this new Mediterranean restaurant paints outside the lines of “fast-casual” and brings an unexpected level of sophistication.
Jayna, the third California restaurant of Yusuf Topal and his ownership partners, improves the relationship between casual and fine dining. It’s no wonder. Topal’s other restaurants, Tarla Mediterranean Grill in Napa and the first Jayna Gyro in Emeryville, sit proudly in the upmarket and quick-eats categories.
Sacramento’s version of Jayna blends the best of these worlds. It’s an order-at-the-counter place with a narrowly focused menu and small drink menu. But lurking in the peripheral vision is an interior bright with touches of the Greek isles.
Hazy blue murals touch the walls skirted by blazing white and azure tiles. Delicate chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Marble shows itself in the tables and bars.
Once you’ve found a table, casual trappings are replaced by cloth napkins, heavy flatware and attentive service. You’ve got an open view to the kitchen where scratch food is made to order. Everything speaks to an environment of easy sophistication and good service.
“We’re trying to really marry casual and fine dining,” says General Manager Demetri Gregorakis. “You’ll order at the counter, but our staff will be there for refills, second rounds of drinks and anything else you need.”
Other than the fine service, what you might notice is a subtle difference in the menu compared to many Greek restaurants.
“These are scratch-cooked family recipes,” Gregorakis tells me. “I’m more likely to just call it Greek since I am Greek, but it’s more than that given Yusuf’s background.”
Topal comes from a Kurdish background and was raised in Turkey. Many of his recipes, whether the spice mix on the gyro meat or the simple-seeming rice with chickpeas, have a different slant from familiar Greek fare.
The octopus salad sports an insanely herby and bright dressing. The octopus melds with pillowy chickpeas throughout the bowl. The lamb and beef pita is as bright and fresh as sunrise. More fresh herbs blend delightfully with a light tzatziki sauce and fresh California vegetables.
An unexpected treat is rotisserie chicken. It’s simple and well-priced for dine-in or perfect for a quick takeout family meal. This is about 17 steps up from grocery store rotisserie birds. The seasoning on the delightfully crispy skin is off the charts. The lemony herbaceous dipping sauce carries an enchanting citrus kick.
You’ll find more American-Mediterranean mashups on the menu, such as a grilled lamb burger and a vegan burger called the “black sheep.” The cheekiest item is the “Greek fries,” a Mediterranean take on that great California creation, carne asada fries. The Greek version comes with gyro, spicy aioli and tzatziki.
Overall, you’ll be struck by the pleasantness. “We want Jayna to be a little bit of an escape,” Gregorakis says. “We’ve already had a great reception from the East Sacramento neighbors since our opening in August, so I think people are getting what we’re trying to do.”
If you’re looking for an escape or just beautifully fresh fare, I think you’ll get it, too.
Jayna Gyro is at 3101 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 898-2708; jaynagyro.com.
Greg Sabin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.