July 17, 2019 11:18:57 AM
When I was a student at Millsaps back in the late '90s (can you believe I am old enough to say things like that? I cannot.) Anyway, when I was a student at Millsaps College, one of my favorite places to go eat was Keifer's.
At that time, Keifer's served up Greek-style food in a small, crumbling, dark restaurant with ample outside seating and terrible service. But the food, y'all. The food was so good that the exterior and the exceedingly slow drink refills hardly mattered. They had cottage fries: thick-cut slices of actual potato cut lengthwise and fried until golden. They had souvlaki chicken and stuffed grape leaves, pita mozz and hummus.
But for my money, the best thing on the menu was a gyro on their signature flatbread with thinly sliced onion and feta dressing in place of tzatziki. In fact, I knew very few people who ever ordered anything else.
Keifer's is still near Millsaps. The building is bigger and brighter. The service is much better, too ... a fact that is -- I feel sure -- completely unrelated to the fact that my friends and I are no longer college students more trouble than we were ever worth.
But I am too far away to eat there routinely. I've had delicious gyros in Starkville, but no other place I know locally serves the feta dressing that makes all my savory dreams come true.
So, years ago, I began trying to recreate the sandwich at home. I've finally gotten the dressing just about the way I remember it, though Jackson locals with more recent memories might disagree with me. After several mediocre attempts at pita, I even found that naan from the deli section of my local grocery store is actually a pretty good substitute for the flatbread.
But figuring out the gyro meat part has been significantly more difficult. I don't have a giant spit on which I can rack a loaf of gyro meat, and Zack said it would be a bad idea to try to install one. I have to settle for things I can cook at home, which typically means lots of substitutions.
I've tried substituting thin slices of meat loaves, deli roast beef, and minute steak. I've used the stovetop, the oven, and the Instant Pot. All those substitutes were OK, but none were divine. The recipe for meatballs here is one I found on This Old Gal's blog and adjusted to suit our tastes. It's the closest thing I've been able to find thus far.
But honestly? I'd eat nearly anything drenched in this feta dressing.
Amelia Plair is a mom and high school teacher in Starkville. Email reaches her at [email protected]
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese (I prefer using an 8-ounce block and crumbling it myself)
Juice of one small or half a large lemon
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 single-serving size carton plain Greek yogurt (about 5 ounces)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
3/4 cup uncooked oats
1/2 red onion, quartered
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper