John and Semra Tekmen have a long history here at the beach. John owned and operated several hotels and motels in Dewey Beach and Fenwick Island, while Semra, in John's words, was a "professional housewife for 19 years. Her cooking," he continues, "she learned from her mother, who is very organized and precise." Sounds like a good foundation for a restaurateur! Samra's Turkish/Middle Eastern cooking was known far and wide, and they thought it might be the perfect addition to the ocean block of Rehoboth Avenue.
The traditional gyro sandwich starts with either seasoned chicken or a seasoned beef/lamb combination [pictured, right*] that slowly rotates on a vertical spit. The meat bastes itself, browning on the outside as it rotates. When it comes time to make a gyro, a special tool is used to cut long strips of the meat into a specially designed skillet. The meat is then either sautéed/seared or transferred directly to a fluffy pita round with lettuce, tomato, onions (optional) and creamy tzatziki.
Though there are some good gyro places here in Rehoboth, Semra's is the only one that uses the vertical spit. They have two machines up by the front window, one with the beef/lamb and the other with the chicken.
Tzatziki is the other critical element of the gyro [chicken pictured, left -- it's messy because I ordered extra tzatziki]. There are just a few places here in Rehoboth Beach that make their own tzatziki. They are all good, and each one is different. I like Semra's because it's loaded with tiny chunks of cool cucumber. But I do wish for a bit more garlic. I brought that up to John, and he immediately agreed, but they are concerned about over-garlicking the average innocent beachgoer for whom a gyro could be a new thing. "Baby steps," I smiled. "Yes," Tekmen agreed.
The gyro meat is also available as a platter with pita two sides of your choice [chicken is pictured, right].
Semra also whips up a delicious, and yes again, mild, hummus and also occasionally makes a red pepper hummus [both are pictured, left]. It tastes like the regular thing with a little pimiento kick.
A Greek salad tops the list of light bites, along with Spanakopita (they call it spinach pie) and a Feta Pie: Kind of a Greek/Turkish pizza with feta and parsley. The average price of the mains is around $9, with appetizers averaging $4.75.
Another of Semra's veggie sides reminded me of a dish my mother used to make when I was but a tiny Foodette. It was called kousa; basically yellow squash stuffed with rice, spices and sometimes ground lamb in a tomato base. Semra's version is deconstructed, and eggplant is subbed for squash. It is lightly spiced and delicious.
Semra's Mediterranean Grill also features lots of authentic Middle-Eastern desserts, including freshly made-right-before-your-eyes Loukoumades. Don't be intimidated. They are wonderful little donuts. And they will happily ice them for you.
Cheesesteak wraps and shish-kabobs round out the menu.
Y'know, just because you're in Rehoboth Beach doesn't mean it always has to be about pizza and hot dogs (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Break out of your rut and give Semra's Mediterranean Grill a try. I suggest a gyro sandwich (both the chicken and the beef/lamb are tasty) with a side of red pepper salad and maybe some red pepper hummus.
For dessert? Get one of each. Eat the baklava there, and take the rest home to nibble during Mad Men reruns.
By the way, they sell fresh lemonade and funnel cakes. Just sayin'....
Semra's is at 19 Rehoboth Avenue, where Seaside Thai used to be. They are open 7 days in-season. Call them for more details (or carryout) at 302-727-5964. They are open for breakfast too (the donuts are indeed good). (B., L., D.) Price range: Inexpensive -.
*Thanks to RBW and her gyro-seeking camera for the beef/lamb gyro photo.