It may be due to a childhood in which getting to eat at a Stuckeys while on the road was a treat (although I'm not sure why, because all we ever ate was hot dogs and never, to my recollection, the famous Pecan Log Roll that Stuckey's was supposedly known for), but for whatever reason, the idea of finding incredible homemade food at a gas station is like the Holy Grail to me.
(Stuckey's, if you're not familiar, was a national gas station/trinket shop/hot dog stand/pecan log roll purveyor. There's an old one at the Hwy. N exit to I-39/90/94 between Madison and Stoughton that's a fireworks shop now.)
So imagine the thrill when I discovered a great Greek food stand inside a Shell station in Westport. The north side may be short on restaurants, but now we have Athens Gyros, (or as I like to think of it, Trader Gus's -- Trader Gus is technically the name of the gas station; Athens Gyros is the name of the food stand inside it.)
This is no shipped-in stick-it-in-the-microwave Quick-E-Mart food. This is food homemade by Gus and Angela Kyriakopoulos. It's on Hwy M near the intersection with 113. While it's mostly a takeout operation, there's a not-unpleasant seating area with a few cafe tables. And now that summer's upon us, what a great place to get a takeout picnic for nearby Governor Nelson State Park.
A while back I expressed some disappointment in the chicken gyros at Dimitri's on East Wash. My colleague Vikki Kratz opined that it is not fair to judge a gyros place on its chicken gyros. I get it! Gyros are made with the lamby-beef stuff.
So I ordered the regular gyros (sandwich $5.25; plate $8) at Athens G. And it was good. But for that matter, so is the chicken souvlaki sandwich, the Greek chicken ($8), and the spanikopita ($5.25). There are American grill items on the menu too -- hamburger, chicken nuggets, tuna salad -- but why would you order them?
The gyros is large, with an excellent tart homemade tzatziki sauce. The fries are good, too, but you could also skip the fries and go for a side of rice or the Greek potatoes or even the spicy, olive-oily, olive-topped Greek potato salad ($2.25 for a deli side). The daily soup is often a thick Greek lemon chicken and rice ($2.25). I tried to eat only half the soup and save the rest and ended up scraping the bottom of the bowl, succumbing to the "just one more spoonful" delusion until I reached the point of "it would be silly to save only this much."
The spanakopita's phyllo dough suffered a little from the re-heating process, but the blend of spinach and feta inside tasted fresh. Also available are a variety of homemade Greek desserts, from a honey-drippin' baklava to kataifi (it looks like a honey-drenched Shredded Wheat biscuit filled with nuts) and my favorite, galaktobourkeo, which is basically baklava with a custard filling (all $2.25). Karidopita (Greek walnut cake) is also on the menu. Check the deli case to the right of the grill area -- there's a selection of items like homemade Greek yogurt, feta, olives, Greek pasta salad, and those desserts.
Athens Gyros has quickly become the take-out venue of choice at my house (of course, it's near my house, which has something to do with it).
The north side is without any representatives of the new upscale fast-food chains (Panera, Cosi, Noodles, etc.) currently proliferating in Middleton and Fitchburg and I sometimes think it would be nice to have one of these places closer than East Towne. But upon further consideration, why? I'd just as soon have a locally owned, Mom-and-Pop place.
Yep, look for Athens Gyros at the Shell Station. Buy ten gyros, get one free.