When it comes to dining on The Drag, there are lots of restaurants to choose from but little in the realm of inspired concepts. There are at least two or three frozen yogurt places, coffee shops, sandwich eateries, pizza joints and Mexican, Mediterranean or Asian upstarts apiece in the handful of blocks that make up the western border of campus. Verts, the new kid on the block, fits the bill while maintaining its unique identity.
The first of its kind in Austin, Verts is a cramped, minimalistic, Chipotle-style restaurant that serves up Berlin-inspired street food, doner kebaps — pronounced “doohner k-baps,” on both The Drag and in the Dobie Mall food court.
A close cousin to the gyro, doner kebaps were introduced in Europe by Turkish immigrants. The Berlin-style doner is a sliced pita stuffed with a combination of spiced lamb and beef roasted on a vertical spit and sliced to order, topped with a menagerie of vegetables and sauces for added flavor.
In addition to the doner kebap, Verts offers two other variations of the same meat and veggies — either wrapped in a tortilla or served in a bowl, sans pita or tortilla. After telling the friendly employees behind the counter how you’d like your dish served, you then order which filling you’d like. Their menu offers a choice of beef, chicken, a combination of 90 percent beef and 10 percent lamb, and a vegetarian option.
Moving down the line, you can further customize your order with a salad of sorts to crown your meat selection. Opting for an eyeful of colors, a smattering of red peppers and tomatoes, violet cabbage, lettuce, crisp cucumbers, sweet yellow corn and Verts’ house sauce, a completed sandwich is a visual marvel.
As far as taste is concerned, the fresh vegetables’ mingling with the peppery meat and toasted pita is worth a mention.
However, a doner kebap is not something you can eat neatly. About halfway into the sandwich, the nearly too-thin pita cracks and becomes unstable, causing a doner avalanche onto the unsuspecting surface below. Take extra napkins with you when you order this, ladies and gentlemen. They’re next to the register.
The sandwich is sizeable and filling but not heavy. Verts doesn’t offer sides gratis with the meal. Instead, they have little fruit cups, carrot and celery cups, small bags of chips and chocolate-dipped strawberries, which are also served in a cup. But when your dine-in basket only contains a sandwich, it does leave a little to be desired, like a side of fries... maybe. Depending on your appetite, there may not be room for anything other than the doner anyway.
Verts’ atmosphere is, as mentioned before, minimalistic and modern, playing on a red, white, grey and black theme. The establishment, occupying the same lot that once was Hot Slice Pizza, is cramped, but the wooden wall seating helps accommodate the seemingly insatiable line of patrons that forms at Verts’ counter.
Verts, on this visit, had a disc jockey setting up in the back. An intriguing touch, though unusual.
Any way you slice it, Verts is a welcome addition to the UT restaurant culture and worth a visit or two.
Printed on Monday, August 29, 2011 as: Berlin-inspired eatery creates sizeable, messy version of gyro.