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Already better than Torchy's Tacos: New Austin import delivers on vow to serve Europe's best fast food

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Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
Behold the Verts kebap! Photo by Eric Sandler
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
Owners Michael Heyne and Dominik Stein are in Houston to supervise the opening.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
An employee shaves meat from vertical roaster.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
Watch your sandwich be assembled in front of your eyes.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
The interior has a clean, Ikea-esque look.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014
Verts Kebap Houston Heights April 2014

The first location of Austin-based kebap chain Verts has opened in Houston. As CultureMap first reported back in December, founders Michael Heyne and Dominik Stein are bringing their restaurant that serves döner kebap to Houston and Dallas this year. 

For the unfamiliar, döner kebap is the gyro-style sandwich that's become Europe's most popular fast food. At Verts, diners choose from a beef/lamb mixture, chicken or vegetarian options, which can be eaten as a sandwich in the fresh baked flatbread or as a salad. The company describes the dish as "a panini pressed sandwich filled with vertically roasted meats and topped with fresh vegetables and yogurt-based sauces."

Even as a sandwich with sauce, the meal comes in at less than 550 calories, making it healthier than a burger or burrito.

 As Austin imports go, it's comfortably ahead of Torchy's or Pluckers in the flavor department.  

That, along with the ability to appeal to both vegetarian and gluten-free diners, makes Verts a healthy choice in the fast-casual world. Diners have embraced it, too. Verts is already the second bigget kebap chain in the world, although at 11 locations that status might sound a touch inflated. Heyne notes that in Europe most kebap stands are family owned businesses that are one-off affairs.

Just as a chain of taco stands might seem ridiculous in Texas, the idea of a kebap empire hasn't caught on in Germany. 

If things go according to plan, Verts will expand to 20 locations by moving into Dallas and Houston. The company has streamlined its building processes and training methods to ensure that every location operates identically, which further aids growth. At the end of the year, Heyne says they'll assess the success of the growth plan before contemplating their next move. 

How's it taste? Pretty good. The manager advised my friends and I to eat from the top down to avoid spillage, or, as he called it, "death from above." As with a burrito, keeping the sandwich in its wrapping prevent drips or spills.

The thinly sliced meat is tucked into the bottom of the sandwich, so it may take a few bites of bread and veggies to get a good taste. It's well spiced, and basically familiar to anyone who's had a gyro. All three of us devoured it and decided we'd be back for another go. Despite the relatively low calorie count, the sandwich itself is plenty filling. Three of us split a large order of fries to round out the meal. 

As Austin imports go, it's comfortably ahead of Torchy's or Pluckers in the flavor department. Now, if Hopdoddy would make the move east, Houston's need for Austin restaurants would be totally sated.

On Saturday, Verts will host a grand opening event from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with free food. The location is in the strip center that faces the Heights Walmart with a Corner Bakery Cafe. 

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