The doner kebab is sometimes described as Turkish gyro, and that description is more or less accurate in theory. Both terms refer to meat -- traditionally lamb -- that's slowly roasted on a vertical spit and shaved off from the outside as it gets done.
But in practice, the Greek gyro has become the victim of its own popularity, particularly on pita sandwiches. The traditional labor-intensive method of grinding and seasoning the meat, then molding it by hand to a large skewer simply isn't compatible with the high turnover of a fast-food sandwich shop. As a result, what is often served is a commercially made product that bears only passing resemblance to authentic gyro.
Meanwhile, thanks at least in part to its relative obscurity, the doner kebab has escaped such mass production methods. On the rare occasion that you see doner on a menu, in all likelihood it's made in house -- ideally, using an old family recipe handed down through the generations to the restaurant's owner. The problem is finding the restaurant.
In the Triangle, that restaurant would be Bosphorus. And the owner would be Turkish native Mustafa Dilekoglu, who begins making doner on Saturdays so that it's ready to serve by Sunday afternoon. The lengthy process begins with the deboning and trimming of legs of lamb, which are then marinated for a day in a blend of yogurt, egg, onion, oregano, salt and pepper. When Dilekoglu judges the meat ready to cook, he grinds some of it and leaves the rest in large pieces. He then skewers the chunks, using the ground lamb to bind them into a single cohesive mass. At the top of the skewer he places tomatoes, whose juices are heated by the flames and dribble down through the meat, flavoring it as it cooks.
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The result, every bit as juicy and flavorful as it sounds, is served over bulgur, with house-baked pide (thick, sesame-spangled Turkish pita) on the side. Unless you order Iskender kebab, that is, in which case the succulent ribbons of meat are served atop cubes of fried pide in a yogurt garlic sauce and topped with tomatoes simmered in butter.
The doner is usually ready by 3 p.m. on Sundays, though it's a good idea to call ahead and confirm. Traditional recipes such as this don't always conform to precise timing.
Of course, if you're in a hurry, there are plenty of gyro shops around.