Be forewarned: Picking up one of Sami Chelbi's gyros may result in a mess. There's just too much meat, sauce, tomatoes and onions stuffed inside the pita to manage without licking your fingers. Or, resorting to a knife and fork.
"We want to give you enough and leave happy," said the modest Sami, 42, a member of a family that has made its name in Chicago and Bloomington with Super Gyros restaurants.
Last year, he came from Bloomington where he and his brother run two eateries to the St. Louis area, hoping to open another Super Gyros. The Greek-Turkish family is originally from Chicago, where his father immigrated in the 1970s.
"We came here and saw this place and thought it was a great location. I like Belleville. It's the right size," Sami said. "The high school is right across the street and the Air Force base is close by. We've had business people order lunches for their office, and the firefighters like our Italian beef."
The former White Castle on Carlyle Avenue opened April 19 as Super Gyros after much kitchen cleaning and updating, painting blue trim bright red, a bit of renovating the dining area and adding free wi-fi.
Customers consistently ask for the same things, he said. At the top of the list is the Italian Beef sandwich ($5.24), thin-sliced on crusty bread with your choice of red sauce or homemade gravy on the side. Next up is the gyro (GERE-oh), also $5.24. If you look in the kitchen, you'll see Sami or one of his employees shaving slices of meat off the veritcal spit. Cucumber sauce is a must to top it.
"We make our own sauce with cucumbers and sour cream, but after that I can't tell you" the rest of the secret ingredients, he said with a grin. It's family secret.
The Philly Steak ($5.24), also popular, is made with onions, green peppers and meat topped with mozzarella cheese, mayo and banana peppers on French bread.
Other menu items include Italian Sausage Sandwich ($4.49), all-beef Chicago Hot Dog ($2.49), Maxwell Street Polish ($2.89), burgers, five chicken sandwiches and the Fabulous Greek Salad, $5.99, made with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions topped with sliced pepperoncinis, Greek olives, feta cheese, oregano and homemade dressing on the side.
Sandwich combo meals include a 20-ounce drink and fries ($4.59 to $7.24). If you have a super-size appetite, order the double ($11.99) or triple gyro plates ($15.99). Five kids' meals are $2.99 to $3.29 and include fries and a drink. And, military always get a 10 percent discount.
Al Frankel, 59, of Belleville, said he has chowed down on a variety of menu items, but that day was finishing off a gyro.
"I got some extra sauce and it was so good," he said with a chuckle, wiping his hands on several napkins. "I'm so glad they're here. I've been waiting for some place that made good gyros and theirs is the best."
Sami said not to forget dessert: baklava ($2.19).
"This is a family business. We're small and we care about what people think of us," Sami said. "We want people to talk about us and know we have good service and good food."
Dine-in and carryout
Where: 766 Carlyle Ave., Belleville
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Information: 618-257-2280; FAX, 618-257-2281