Narrows Gyro in Tacoma is now open, have you been?
Ziad Abusamha and Wafa Ahmad opened their Narrows Gyro in Tacoma in November after a few rough years trying to operate a combination Mediterranean grocery store and gyro take-out restaurant at the same location.
“We weren’t making any money, we were hanging on,” said Abusamha.
Around 2008, they first opened Daniah’s International Market, the combination take-out restaurant and grocery store with an inventory of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean supplies at 6603 Sixth Ave.
“The big stores started carrying more of our ingredients and things we specialized in. The downturn was drastic. We were making $30 in gross sales a day,” he said.
They closed their doors just ahead of the pandemic, thinking they would rebrand with a new name and expanded restaurant concept to feature some of their favorite Palestinian recipes. They’d swap out the grocery section for casual seating and expand their kitchen to accommodate a broader menu of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern favorites.
Then came the pandemic and it became impossible to find contractors to hire for the buildout, even after construction restrictions were lifted.
“We had a hard time securing funds,” he said. It took a year longer than they wanted, but they got it done.
In November they reopened as Narrows Gyro with a light-and-airy casual dining area equipped with a television and booths. The ordering counter is in the same spot, but visitors hardly will recognize the interior that once held rows of groceries.
Abusamha runs operations out front while wife Ahmad is the restaurant’s chef.
THE KITCHEN BUILDOUT INCREASED THEIR MENU
Improved kitchen equipment translated into an increased menu. Abusamha and Ahmad introduced shawarma, kibbeh and Palestinaian-style cauliflower.
Before when they had a lesser equipped kitchen, they microwaved their pita bread, but now they can grill the bread, thanks to a $25,000 investment in a better venting hood. They also added more refrigeration. “We installed an 8-by-8 walk-in cooler. It’s a little tight back there, but it’s a lot of refrigerator space. I’m glad we did it,” said Abusamha.
That’s because an upgraded cooler means more vegetable-based items that rely on fresh produce, such as tabbouleh salad, that they now can store in that larger fridge space.
“Our menu before it was limited, but we have a whole host of new items like the rice and the shawarma. We can do chicken, lamb and beef shawarma. You can do a chicken gyro. We have all kinds of salads now, such as falafel salad. It’s a broad Mediterranean menu now. We have the cauliflower dishes now. We added the food, such as dishes with the fava beans and we have the kibbeh, which is bulgar shell with meat and spices,” he explained.
That shawarma is made on site with housemade marinades from Ahmad’s cooking repertoire.
The only thing not made on site is the beef-and-lamb gyro, a purchased product they grill-to-order until the meat has sizzled edges. They serve the meat thinly sliced over ultra-long grain basmati rice.
And now they can accommodate take-out catering orders. Something new they’re making is whole cooked lamb, available for pick-up for parties and events that are just now resuming after a lifting of pandemic restrictions.
LONGTIME CUSTOMERS SLOWLY RETURNING
After the extended closure, their longtime customers have found them again. The generosity of those customers has lifted their spirits.
“A friend was buying a $6 gyro and he gave me a $10 tip to show me support. They realize how much value is in our food,” said Abusamha.
And about that. The menu is exceptionally priced considering the amount of food served. A $10.99 platter of gyros came stacked with ultra-long grain basmati rice, buttery and fluffy, with a big mound of shaved-and-grilled gyros. Served with the gyros was a creamy pool of hummus drizzled with olive oil. A salad topped with kalamatas and feta finished the plate. This was slow-cooked food, tended with care, and served at fast food prices. I can’t stress how much of a good deal this restaurant is.
Now that Abusamha is almost 65, he has thoughts of retirement, but he said Ahmad still wants to cook every day. Their children aren’t likely to take over the business – their kids work in real estate and one is a nurse – but Abusamha said he’ll keep showing up as long as his wife wants him to.
Abusamha said to build his business, he’s embracing new technology with his revamped Narrows Gyro. Diners can find him on third-party delivery apps (this is where I remind diners that restaurants don’t make much money, if any, off third-party delivery orders, so please order direct from the restaurant). He’s got a brand new online menu ordering system, but he asks customers to please be patient as he’s still trying to figure it out and it occasionally misfires. He’s also got a website. And he’s even giving social media a try.
ON A FIRST VISIT TRY THESE DISHES
Ahmad’s dishes are drenched in Mediterrianean flavors. Sumac is sprinkled on hummus. Garlic wafts from shawarma. You can smell the scents of this restaurant from the parking lot out front.
For me, a devoted cauliflower fan, ordering the fried cauliflower sandwich was an easy choice. Did I mention it was only five bucks? I couldn’t believe the value ratio here. Fresh cauliflower, cut into big wedges, arrived well-fried and lightly spiced, tucked into a warmed pita with tahini sauce, cucumbers, tomatoes and shredded lettuce. It was right up there with my other favorite fried cauliflower sandwich at Gyro Zone, the University Place gyro and shawarma stop you also should have on your list of places to try. If you don’t see the cauliflower sandwich listed on the chalkboard menu, just ask for it. It is listed on the online menu.
The gyro platter was priced $10.99 on the dine-in menu, but absolutely built for two with a pile of meat, rice, salad, hummus and a side of grilled pita. That ultra-long grained basmati is a style of rice I don’t see often, and I’m not sure you’ll find a more buttery rendition of ultra-long grain basmati than at Narrows Gyro. “It’s really very tasty. It’s a little pricey, but it’s worth it,” said Abusamha.
If you order any side on a first visit, make it the creamy hummus, a pureed chickpea dip fueled by nutty tahini and drizzled with sumac, that tangy spice with the distinctive bright red color ($4.99). It was served with a side of pita for scooping.
Where: 6603 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-503-1674
Order online: https://www.narrowsgyro.com/order