Jekyll and Fried

Posted June 6, 2012 by Chow, Baby in Eats

Jekyll and Hyde have nothing on me in the morning. Before my customary nosh and multiple cups of coffee, I have all the charm of Hyde — or of Hannibal Lecter high on bath salts. Still in partial Hyde mode a few mornings ago, I dropped by Paul’s Donuts, Subs & Gyros (1324 Hemphill St.) for something fried, glazed, and holy … and was instantly transformed. Birds perched on my outstretched finger, and flowers faced me as I passed them.

It’s easy to take a place like Paul’s for granted. A few months back I wrote about some of my favorite kabob-erries (“Taking Me to Marrakech,” Nov. 2, 2011) and completely snubbed Paul’s — as several loyal readers pointed out in e-mails. Donuts and gyros may seem like strange bedfellows, but given my own duality, I felt an instant bond. I’ve always been a fan of weird-combo places like Paul’s, along with the dear departed Yoko’s Donuts and Teriyaki Lunchbox on Geddes Avenue and Rodak’s Cadillac Repair, which also custom-roasts coffee and sells barbecue grills and homemade salsa.

There’s nothing fancy about Paul’s, but that’s part of its charm. Having been a gyro hero for 20-plus years in these parts, it’s still a port of call for many Southside devotees. The décor is get-’em-in-get-’em-out — a boxy room with a counter and exposed kitchen. But the place has a familiar and welcoming vibe, the staff is friendly and quick, and the kitchen is a marvel of consistency.

When I arrived, the caffeine hadn’t quite civilized me yet. I approached the counter like a skittish deer being offered a handful of corn. The donut selection wasn’t staggering, but it was enough to send my foggy head reeling. (Everything on the pastry list is made in-house, and there are plenty of non-donut breakfast options as well.) The very patient woman at the counter suggested an apple fritter ($1.49) and cinnamon roll ($1.39). Both were fresh, filling, delicious, and hit my system like shots of adrenaline to the heart. I’m sure the fine fellow I met with after breakfast must have thought I’d forgotten to take my Ritalin.

Driven by equal parts hunger and guilt from the earlier column snub, I trekked back to Paul’s for lunch, and the joint was hoppin’. I had officially crashed from my earlier sugar/caffeine buzz and must have looked like a zombie. Sufficiently stimulant-depleted, at any rate, that for a minute I thought the friendly counterman was actually going to put sprinkles on my gyro, as I had jokingly requested.

One of the best values in town has to be the gyro combination ($7.29), a generous plate of tender, juicy strips of the lamb/beef combo, a creamy tzatziki sauce, fries, and a drink. It was therapy wrapped in pita bread. I pretty much took down the gyro without the use of my teeth and went back for another fritter.

Paul’s is officially back on my radar as a jewel of the South Side. There’s nothing not to like: It’s family-owned, fast, delicious, and a rare bargain in that increasingly trendy area. If you’re ever there and see a disheveled, red-eyed monster with a murderous gleam, that’s just me before coffee and fritters. For your own safety, don’t approach until the formula takes hold.

Contact Chow, Baby at chow.b


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