Chow Town

At Max’s Burgers & Gyros in Kansas City’s Waldo area the name says it all

Gyro and fries at Max’s Burgers & Gyros in Waldo.
Gyro and fries at Max’s Burgers & Gyros in Waldo. Special to The Star

When I first drove by this place, all I could think of was, “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. No Coke! Pepsi!”

Do you remember that from the “Saturday Night Live” skit with the comedic geniuses of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd?

I lived in New York City for a time when I was a teenager. And when I had money, I used to eat at a similar place that SNL lampooned. Although it wasn’t exactly the way as it was portrayed on TV, I do remember one time when the guy behind the counter started yelling at me to finish my omelet.

“How you gonna to grow up? Eat! Eat!”

Thanks for the coaching! I think I’ve got that eating thing down now.

But back to this place I drove by. The sign read, “Max’s Burgers & Gyros.” That’s pretty darn specific, don’t you think? If you specialize that much, your end product is probably pretty darn good.

So I had to stop in and check it out. A closer look at the menu showed that they have a bit more than just burgers and gyros — chicken sandwiches, chicken strips, tenderloins, and hot dogs. Also, to my delight, there are seasoned curly fries, Tater Tots and onion rings. It’s a small menu, but everything seems to have a purpose.

“One double burger with cheese and everything, one gyro and one medium order of curly fries,” I said. Hey, it’s on the sign, so that’s why my wife, Gay, and I ordered it. We split the order like always, so we each got to try a bit of everything.

As Gay tried to take pictures of our lunch, I sneaked a curly fry or two. Lightly battered and seasoned, they just seem to have had that extra “umph” that you won’t get on your standard fare of fries.

“Move your hand,” she said. “You’re getting in the picture.”

I responded smugly by stating, “You’re taking too long. Remember the rule: Be quick, spend no more than 30 to 45 seconds taking pictures of each dish. After all, the point is to enjoy your food, not just take pictures of it.”

“Well, it’s much easier when your hand isn’t in the way,” she quipped.

Good point, I suppose.

I grabbed the gyro first. Sometimes that first bite can be magical … as was the case that day. A soft, warm pillow-y pita, stuffed full of seasoned lamb and beef, a little tomato, long slivers of red onion and just the right amount of tzatziki sauce.

I’ve had a few gyros around Kansas City, and to be honest, this instantly became my favorite. Personally, I can’t stand places that put too many “fillers” in sandwiches. What I really appreciated about this gyro is that they didn’t put any iceberg lettuce in it. The meat was the star, with each ingredient in its supporting role. I don’t know if this is 100 percent authentic or not, but I really don’t care. I loved its simplicity and flavor.

“How’s your burger?” I asked my wife. Secretly, I hopped she wouldn’t want to switch half way through so I get to devour the rest of this gyro.

“I really love this burger!” she said enthusiastically. “You should try it.”

So we switched. I grabbed the half burger and spun it around for that “perfect bite.” Then, I sank my teeth into it. Nicely seasoned 80/20 beef patties, long sliced crunchy pickles. I loved the tang of red onions, and just enough lettuce for a crunch … but not too much. Yes, I must say, that was one nice burger.

Do not to blink while driving down Wornall Road, or you might miss Max’s Burgers & Gyros on the west side of the road near 82nd Street in the Waldo area. For 11 years, this family-run restaurant has been nestled unassumingly between other shops, car washes, fast food joints and strip malls. The place only seats 13 inside, but when patio season is upon us, the capacity at least triples.

So, when you have the craving for a good burger or gyro, or want to try a cool “new-to-you” joint, there’s not a more appropriately named place to serve you: Max’s Burgers & Gyros. And I promise you, you won’t be yelled at to finish your lunch … or that you can’t have a Coke.

Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS barbecue judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.