The wall murals of the Mediterranean Sea make you feel as though you are in Greece. And that’s precisely the idea at Jayna Gyro, one of Sacramento’s newest restaurants.
After all a gyro, typically lamb, beef, pork or chicken roasted on a vertical skewer and sliced off in thin shavings as it cooks, is a delicacy from Greece.
But with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic in the background, owner Yusuf Topal isn’t taking any chances about customers enjoying the indoor view of the Mediterranean.
Thirty-eight of the 108 seats in the restaurant at 3101 Folsom Blvd. in East Sacramento are outdoors.
An outdoor seating patio was created from scratch. Star Ginger, the prior restaurant that had occupied Jayna Gyros’ location, had no al fresco dining.
Topal said the creation of the outdoor patio was a condition of him signing the lease.
“I must have outdoor dining,” he said, “in case another pandemic occurs and I need a place to seat people outside.” .
Janya Gyro General Manager Demetri Gregorakis thinks the restaurant is opening at a good time when the worst of COVID-19 has subsidized.
“People are coming out again into the world full-force”, he said.
A Sacramento native, Gregorakis started his career in Greece as a waiter. He has worked more than 17 years in the industry, most recently managing The Rind, a Sacramento wine and beer bar known for its cheese pairings.
Getting his start on a cruise ship
The opening of Jayna Gyro is the fourth for Topal, 43. In 2011, he opened Tarla Mediterranean Bar and Grill in downtown Napa, followed by Napkins Bar and Grill in 2013 in the same city.
Jayna Gyro’s first location opened at the Emeryville Public Market in 2020 by the Amtrak Station at the beginning of the pandemic. Topal said business has been strong from the start.
Topal, a native of Turkey, started at the bottom, working on a cruise ship, at the age of 20. His first assignment, the lowest level possible for food workers, was changing the food on the buffet
He worked himself up to waiter and then beverage director and then restaurant director in his 10 years working for Celebrity Cruises.
He also met his wife in the cruise industry, who was from California. In 2009, they moved to Napa.
While Janya Gyro is certainly not the only Greek restaurant in the Sacramento area, Topal hopes an elevated food experience will be the key for success,
A menu beyond gyros
In that sense, the Jayna Gyro name might be misleading since the restaurant has a varied Greek menu. Topal wanted the name recognition of a gyro to attract business.
One unique dish is Jayna Gyro’s rotisserie chicken. It is marinated for three days in a champagne vinegar and spice brine and served with a Napa chardonnay reduced gravy.
The dish is a creation of Tarla Executive Chef Kadriye Baspehlivan who developed the Jayna Gyro menu with Topal.
Baspehilvan, who is also a native of Turkey, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Jayna Gyro’s menu, of course, features traditional Greek items, including gyro chicken or beef and lamb pitas and octopus salad.
Dips include hummus, baba ghanoush and tzatziki along with Turkish inspired desserts such as kunefe and baklava.
Topal said given the health conscious nature of many California residents, more than half of menu features vegetarian dishes including a roasted chickpea gyro and gyro bowls. He also uses halal meat for lamb burgers.
Fast-casual with a twist
The restaurant is in the fast-casual category, meaning dishes can be cooked in a few minutes and are ordered at the counter. Take-out specials are also featured.
But Jayna Gyro also features a full bar with counter service for patrons who want a more traditional restaurant experience. Topal said the idea is to appeal to all customer segments.
Topal signed the lease for the restaurant in mid-2020 with an opening date slated for January 2022.
He said construction, design and supply chain delays all pushed back the restaurant’s opening to the beginning of August.
Topal said the renovation of the restaurant building cost around $500,000. His business partner is his brother-in-law Doron Perkins, the American basketball player who played for teams in Japan, Israel and Europe.
Perkins is now assistant coach for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Long-time Sacramento restaurant owner Bobbin Mulvaney, who owns Mulvaney’s B&L in midtown with her husband, Patrick, said the opening of Jayna Gyro is a positive sign for a Sacramento area restaurant community that has been hit hard the last several years.
“It’s sad to see how many restaurants have closed during the pandemic,” Mulvaney said.at Jayna Gyros pre-opening party on July 30. “The restaurant business is tough. I am here to welcome them with open arms.”