When I got to Souvla on Sunday at 2 pm, and there was still a line out the door from the “brunch rush,” I knew this place had to be doing something right. In New York, this line wouldn’t be surprising, as it would still be considered prime time. But in SF, where by 2 pm many people have already had breakfast, lunch, and are maybe on their second hike of the day, I was impressed to see that there was still a steady flow of people filing in for their Souvla fix well into the afternoon …
Located on buzzing Hayes Street, Souvla (meaning “skewer” in Greek) is a little restaurant producing big flavors. Upon entering you’ll smell some beautiful aromas floating through the air, and in the back corner, spot a 7-spit rotisserie oven with golden chickens twirling round and round, their juices dripping from one rung onto the chickens below it, and so forth. The name of the game here is spit-fired meats, of which you have three choices: American Homestead pork shoulder, Mary’s free-range chicken, or Superior Farms lamb leg. There is no GF pita bread here, but trust me when I say you won’t miss the bread upon digging into one of these super-satisfying salad bowls. Each hot-off-the-spit meat is tossed into a different combination of luscious greens, veggies, and then topped with a yogurt-based dressing. The options are the pork with a traditional Greek salad setup of tomato, pickled onion, cucumber and feta; chicken with fennel, oranges, pickled onion, and Mizithra cheese; and lamb with cucumber, radish, pickled onion and feta. There’s also a killer vegetarian option: roasted white sweet potato with Kalamata olive, toasted walnut, pickled onion, and Mizithra cheese. Dressings include minted greek yogurt, “Granch,” harissa-spiked yogurt, and garlic yogurt. (*All salads can be made dairy-free upon request!). While I thought their chosen flavor combinations worked perfectly, any of the salads can be customized to your liking (swap chicken for lamb, sweet potato for pork, etc). My friend and I shared the lamb and the sweet potato salads, which were both out of this world; a yummy combination of textures and flavors within each bowl. Warm, juicy meat; crisp, fresh vegetables; and creamy tangy dressing make for perfectly composed salads. Side dishes were spot on as well: Bright, refreshing, lemon-y Avgolemono soup is a great way to start the meal. Golden and crisp french fries that come sprinkled with herbs, cheese, lemon, and a side of two kick-ass dipping sauces are perfect for nibbling in between bites of salad. Beware of cross-contamination though if you go the fries route. Although our bellies were very full at this point, we made space for the frozen Greek yogurt, and I suggest you do the same. Tangy and rich, yet not overly sweet, and topped with Greek sour cherry syrup – I mean, who could really resist? Your other topping choices include olive oil and sea salt, and cretan wildflower honey. If not for the taste alone, it’s served in an adorable Greek coffee cup, which is incredibly Insta-worthy.
This place opened its doors two years ago, and has been drawing the crowds in at an increasing pace ever since. Perfect for a casual lunch, brunch, dinner, or dessert drive-by, it really is a staple establishment. With a second location coming soon to NOPA, perhaps that line will dissipate slightly, but probably not. Also worth mentioning is that these guys are super passionate about Greek wines, and nothing goes better with a Greek salad than a crisp glass of white wine, if you ask me. If you’ve seen the pita sandwich from here before, and thought this place was off-limits to you, think again.