Two immigrant family members partner to open Chicago Style Gyros eatery on Grand Rapids' Westside

Sharon Hanks

Two family members from the Middle East have teamed up to establish a new restaurant they've named "Chicago Style Gyros" on the Westside of Grand Rapids. The small diner was so popular during its first weekend of business that it ran out of key ingredients to prepare some of its tasty dishes.

Iraqi native Sulaiman Chalabi, 28, and his uncle, Sait Pektas, 64, an immigrant from Turkey, opened the casual dining spot in a former pizza place at 539 Leonard St. NW last week where nearly 50 can enjoy a sit-down meal. "We've been so busy," exclaims Chalabi. "I can't believe it! Yesterday, we ran out of food."

The eatery is a restaurant where diners are allowed to create their own sandwich combinations by mixing meat dishes with onions, feta cheese, humus, lettuce, cucumbers, pepper, cheese, olives and other vegetables, topped by a creamy cucumber-based sauce. Stuffed into a folded pita bread, the lamb and beef mixture is first marinated in a seasoning Chalabi says is a "secret" Iraqi family recipe.

Diners can also choose a chicken or veggie gyro. The gyro meals cost $6.99, come with seasoned fries and a soft drink, and can be prepared for eat-in or take-out meals.

Arriving in 1997 as a teenager who spoke only Kurdish, Chalabi has since established himself as a businessman and owner of the Leonard Short Stop party store at 1038 Leonard Street NW.

Kendal Pektas, daughter of Sait Pektas, said her father immigrated from Turkey in 1998 along with her mother, Pakizer, her two sisters and her brother. Kendal, an 18-year-old student at Forest Hills Central High School who expects to attend Grand Valley State University, works part time at the restaurant.

She says her father, an attorney in his native country, arrived here speaking only Turkish and Kurdish and does not have personal experience in the restaurant business, but he does have business savvy. Chalabi says other family members have experience in the restaurant business acquired while living in Iraq.

Besides the gyros, Chicago Style Gyros also offers the standard fare of hot dogs, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, salads (include Greek), onion rings, breaded mushrooms, chicken wings, chicken/lamb/beef kabobs, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, turkey subs, and other delights.

Chicago Style Gryos is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Sources: Sulaiman Chalabi, co-owner of Chicago Style Gyros; Kendal Pektas, daughter of Sait Pektas

Sharon Hanks is innovations and jobs news editor at Rapid Growth Media. Please send story ideas and comments for the column to Sharon at [email protected] She also is owner of The Write Words in Grand Rapids.
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