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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013

American Euros Brings Street Food Indoors

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For years Milwaukee’s most distinctive gyro was also the hardest to track down. Topped not only with the customary lettuce, tomato, onions and cucumber sauce, but also with a squirt of red chili sauce and three crispy French fries, American Euros’ sandwiches were available only by cart and only during the warm-weather months. Though the cart attracted brisk business, it also posed some logistical headaches, owner Mark Miller explains. “The cart operated seasonally, so we’d build up our brand, then we’d have to shut down for four months,” Miller says. “And since we were preparing a lot of the food off site, it could be hard to predict how much we needed for any given day. We often ended up running out.”

Landing one of American Euros’ gyros became a lot easier last month when Miller opened an East Side storefront location at 3133 N. Oakland Ave., on a block shared with campus fast-dining staples Jimmy John’s, Noodles & Company and Qdoba. Though many of the proprietors behind the city’s late-2000s street-food boom harbored ambitions of one day expanding to a brick-and-mortar location, Miller is one of the first to make that leap. He says that’s no coincidence.

“When we first opened the cart three years ago, food trucks and carts were popping up everywhere, and I think that’s because a lot of businesses realized this was a niche that people liked, and that customers might buy food from a truck just for the experience, even if the food wasn’t as good as what they could get in a restaurant,” he says. “But we had a product that really stood on its own and we realized that if we set up the storefront right, we could offer it faster and cheaper than anybody else.”

American Euros’ sandwiches are priced with students in mind at about $4.50 a gyro; a combo meal with fries and a soda costs $6.50 after tax. The cart’s lean menu has also been expanded to offer more sandwiches, including doner kebabs, a slaw-covered sandwich popular in Turkey and Germany. “It’s close to a gyro but the bread is different,” Miller said. “We slice it down the center like a bun, then we top it with a slaw made out of cucumbers, cabbage, pickles and tomatoes.”

Even with the new storefront, American Euros hasn’t sacrificed its street-food roots. The company’s cart will continue to operate in season, and the restaurant was designed with the streets of Europe in mind. “We went with an outdoor theme,” Miller says. “It’s all brick on the inside, with sidewalk colored tiles, almost like an homage to the cart.”
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