Oakland Gyros opened on the East Side in 1985 (a second location opened on Layton Avenue in 2002). Owned and operated by the Karampelas family, the restaurant quickly became a favorite of UWM students, UWM faculty, and rank-and-file night-owl bar patrons. Here’s writer James Wigderson (long before his reign as a tired conservative crank) in a 1991 piece for the long-defunct UWM Times:
Oakland Gyros has always been somewhat of a holy place of eating worship for me. I went there as a freshmen after hitting the bars (in the good old days when nobody checked your ID) and have not been able to find a better gyros sandwich since. […] I can remember UWM Times editors holding lengthy discussions in the corner booth over gyros. There was also the last-minute meal prior to having an all-night study session for a midterm in Dr. Browne’s Politics of Western Europe. […] Often one can see their professor grabbing a quick lunch at this establishment.
For the record, I am not tired, just cranky.
Yes, it is true I once lived on the tragically hip and trendy East Side of Milwaukee, where conservatives are scarce and so are women with shaved armpits. But, as the one-time existence of the UWM Times proved, there were conservatives at UW-Milwaukee once. I was one of them.
I actually got my start as a writer for the UWM Times, a plucky band of upstarts opposite the leftwing establishment UWM Post. I started writing for the student newspaper a year after it was founded. During my college career, I served off-and-on as the editorial editor. Yes, I was was anti-establishment before being anti-establishment was cool. I was also a lot thinner.
The UWM Times really was a creation of the Gasthaus, before it was remodeled from the basement dungeon of happier days. However, some of our best political discussions were held in the corner booth at Oakland Gyros, usually after drinking. And, as I wrote in the review in 1991, we would sometimes continue the drinking and the eating next door at Axels.
Now I live out in Waukesha, where most Milwaukeeans would like to live to get away from the crime and high taxes of our big neighbor to the east. Our city is so wonderful, the mayor of Milwaukee would even like to sell us water after fighting our right to purchase it. However, I still make it down to Oakland Gyros on occasion and, yes, the restaurant review I wrote in college is still on the wall.
The point to this, and there sort of is one, I don’t believe that anyone who knew me at the time I wrote that restaurant review would say it was before I began my “reign” as a “conservative crank.”
But the gyros at Oakland Gyros are still very, very good, even at the location by the airport. Thanks, Matt, you’ve made me hungry again.