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Cheap Eats: Gas Station Gyros at Max's Market

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Tuesday, late-morning, almost lunchtime for elementary school children. Eating Companion and I are inside Max's Market, a gas station and convenience store on Stickney Point. We're here with some very close friends of ours to pick up what our friends claim are the best gyros in town for their seven-year-old, our Little Brother from a Different Mother (LBDM), who we are visiting for lunch over at Phillippi Shores. He's kind of the coolest kid ever. And he loves Max's gyros.

Max's Market is unassuming, a little green and white gas station on the south side of the road. The first time I went in was simply to fill up my tank. Upon entering I was confused by the unmistakable smell of gyro meat, not the smell you expect in a 400 square feet convenience store, though my confusion was cleared by the massive carved cylinder of gyro meat on a spit behind the counter.

Aside from the aforementioned gyros, Max's has baklava, really fresh looking Greek salads, and spinach pies the size of street signs. They also stock an interesting selection of packaged Greek foods like dolmas and olives, hummus and more.

But we're taking forever in here and the lunch bell is going to ring any second. We order a handful of gyros, with the works, a Greek salad, a couple spinach pies and some baklava for desert. I'm not sure if running late is clouding our sense of time, but it seems the very sweet woman behind the counter is moving in slow motion.

But we're out, and headed to school, arriving just in time to hear the bell. After securing visitors passes, we make our way through the chaos of bodies and raised voices that is the lunch room, and spot LBDM across the lunchroom, kicking it with some compadres. He sees us, and cinematically excuses himself from his table to come greet us.

We head outside and grab a table in the shade. It turns out lots of parents, both moms and dads, come to eat lunch with their kids, which is nice to see. LBDM runs to grab drinks and returns with something called a Rips Slush, a sort of slushy in a pouch from the good people at Cool Tropics, with a tear-off tab that leaves vary sharp corners indeed.

The salad is colorful and bright, with good kalamata olives and crumbles of tangy feta cheese, red onions, and thick-cut cucumbers and tomatoes. It's a refreshing, easy salad with a nice balsamic dressing.

We tear into the gyros. Now it should be stated up front that EC and I have both spent some quality time with spit-roasted meat in our day. We've had a gyro or two, that's all I'm saying. And we've been seriously disappointed in the area's offerings. Until now.

The pita bread is thick and dense, but tender. The lettuce, onions, and tomato are crisp and fresh. The tzatziki is mild, cool and light, allowing the meat's flavor to stand out. And they aren't skimpy on the meat -- it's packed with thick, rich, juicy tender slices. The thing barely fits in LBDM's mouth, and a great deal of it ends up on the table and, well, all over the kid's face.

EC and I turn our attention to the spinach pies, or spanakopita, triangles of flaky filo dough pastry stuffed with a savory goop of spinach and feta and, possibly, ricotta, seasoned to a lovely, rich flavor. LBDM says, "Absolutely not." Spinach is not his thing. But it's delicious, a little messy and greasy, with the flakes of filo floating off in the afternoon's light breeze.

All the brushing off and wiping down after finishing the spinach pie is a waste of time, since we haven't gotten to the baklava yet. Max's baklava comes in massive hunks almost two inches thick, packed with honey and ground pistachios, the filo dough saturated with the thick syrup. It is so sweet (almost too sweet, not for the light of heart) it's almost gritty with sugar.

The bell rings, indicating lunch's end, and LBDM is off to the races, his parents chasing him down to make sure the remaining tzatziki is gone from his prepubescent cheeks. And we're out, too.

Max's is a neat place to grab some food on the run, and a destination for anyone looking to try one of the best gyros in the area.

 

Max's Market
2616 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota
921-9287
Last modified: September 13, 2013
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