Authentic eats served up in a mall food court
I recently ordered food from a restaurant stall in the Polaris mall that bore this groaner of a name: What's for Doner.
If you're unfamiliar with “doner,” that dinnertime pun is probably more of a head-scratcher than an eye-roller. Backstory time.
The majority of the best gyros in Columbus come from Turkish restaurants, where the bread is baked on-site and the spit-roasted, house-prepared meat is called “doner kebab.” These sandwiches outpace the admittedly still-irresistible gyros sold in most local Greek eateries because of their fresh, Turkish-style bread and because those ubiquitous spinning cylinders usually seen in Greek places originate in factories — primarily located in the Chicago-area — that use a highly industrialized process to create a meat paste that is then formed into those notorious gyro cones.
How are the sandwiches at WFDoner? They're huge and outclass the standard fast-food Greek specimens, but don't reach the level of the versions sold in full-service Turkish restaurants. That's still a pretty solid recommendation.
More backstory: WFDoner is only Turkish via cultural osmosis, as its super-friendly owners come from southern Germany — meaning they hail from a country whose large population of folks with Turkish ancestry has helped spawn a German street-food craze of doner kebab sandwiches.
Because the WFDoner crewmen are clever and energetic fellows who have a good handle on American culture — you'll realize this via their voluble website and/or with a little conversation — they've set up their eatery Chipotle style. So WFDoner diners can customize salads, wraps, rice-anchored bowls or sandwiches made with sesame-seeded house bread.
I strongly suggest the latter, which showcase a fresh and remarkably thin pita-esque loaf that gets panini-pressed and arrives warm and invitingly crisp yet chewy. Inside, the star can be slices of lamb-and-beef gyro meat ($7.95) with that familiar salty, oregano-scented appeal — but harvested from a “hand-stacked” tower rather than carved from a cone — or herby and salty chicken ($7.45), which tastes at least as good.
Feta cheese ($1 extra) and bins of vegetables (free) such as red cabbage, cucumbers, onions, greens and tomatoes await for embellishment. Ditto for several house sauces (free); I let my server pick, and his tzatziki-like yogurt plus spicy thousand island-type choices did the trick nicely. The result: A sandwich that is much healthier, heartier and fresher tasting than your typical mall fare.