A Q&A with Steve Paxos of Papa Gyros
After 20 years in the soccer business as co-owner of the Canton Invaders and commissioner of the National Professional Soccer League, Steve Paxos was ready for something new.
So in 2001, he and his wife Kelly, with help from their three sons, opened a Greek restaurant called Papa Gyros in a building they already owned at 21st Street and Cleveland Avenue NW.
“I didn’t want to relocate for soccer. My roots were in Canton,” Paxos said. “We decided to open this little sandwich shop and specialize in authentic Greek food. It became a little bit bigger than we planned.”
So successful was the first location at 2054 Cleveland Avenue NW location, that Paxos opened a second, larger Papa Gyros restaurant in Jackson Township in 2006. Three more have followed: Green in 2013, Alliance in 2016 and, most recently, West Akron in late May.
Q. What percentage of your sales at Papa Gyros is gyros?
A. “A very high number. Probably 75 percent of our business. But not necessarily gyro sandwiches. We also do gyro salads and gyro platters, which are popular.”
Q. What do you think makes your gyros so popular?
A. “We slice the meat fresh. A lot of places we visited would use frozen strips then throw them on the grill. We use 30-pound cones (of lamb), and we go through quite a few during the day. There’s no comparison to slicing it fresh as you use it. A company makes the pita bread especially for us. It’s a little thinner than normal, not as bready, and it’s infused with olive oil. It has a unique flavor, and it browns real nice on the grill. We make our tzatziki sauce daily with 100 percent fresh ingredients—we chop tomatoes and onions daily. We put lettuce on our gyros, a lot of places use it as filler.”
Q. I’m always floored by the quantity of sliced lamb in your gyros. I usually eat half of it with a fork first.
A. “When we first opened on Cleveland Avenue, at the end of the day there was meat left on the cone, and instead of trying to reheat it the next day, we started piling more meat on the gyro sandwiches. It caught on to the point we had to stick with it.”
Q. What are some of your favorite things on the Papa Gyros menu?
A. “I love our lamb shank, it’s cooked for three hours, braised with vegetables in a red sauce. A lot of people don’t realize we have five seafood items, including Greek-style plaki, which is cod with sauteed tomatoes and onions. Our No. 1 appetizer is saganaki, the fried cheese. We use kasseri cheese imported from Greece that really holds up well when you flambee it tableside. We introduced a baklava cheesecake, and we can hardly keep it on hand, it’s so popular.”
Papa Gyros locations:
2045 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton // 330-456-9000
4760 Everhard Rd. NW, Jackson Twp. // 330-497-1100
320 W State St., Alliance // 330-823-7773
3939 Massillon Rd., Green // 330-899-0707
1 North Hawkins Ave., Akron // 330-247-2475