Gyro Sandwich at Al's Quick Stop

Al's Quick Stop is a nondescript convenience store on a nondescript stretch of Waugh Drive in a nondescript area of Montrose. There's not even a sign -- Hurricane Ike blew that away last September and it has yet to be replaced. When I describe it to people, I always say "It's that place next to Rudz," referring to Rudyards Pub which is next door.

What Al's Quick Stop does have is a well-known (at least to hard core Houston food lovers) deli counter featuring both Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine. In the past, Al's has been recognized as having the best falafel in Houston.

On a recent falafel sampling trip around Houston, I dropped in to Al's for the first time in several months. I ordered both a falafel sandwich and a gyro sandwich, each for a bargain basement $3.99. In Robb Walsh's review back in 2004, they were listed for $3.89. That was a steal back then, and it's an even better deal now. There's no better falafel/gyro sandwich for the money in Houston.

The falafel sandwich I had at Al's on this day was good, but did not measure up to some of the other well-known falafel outlets in Houston. It was dry and crumbly -- my tastes for falafel have migrated more to the crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside style.

The gyro sandwich, on the other hand, knocked my socks off. It is presented more as a taco -- the enormous pile of meat is so big there's no way to fully wrap the pita around it. The "toppings" are standard for a gyro -- grilled onions and tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce. But what really stands out in this sandwich is the meat.

Like most gyro dishes (at least in the United States), it is made from a giant skewer of ground/processed meat. At Al's, the meat is shaved off the skewer in unusually large slices and then crisped on a flat grill until charred and crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. I'm not sure if Al's still has the best falafel in Houston, but it may be the new front runner for the best gyro sandwich.

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