A look into the new Souvla. Photo: Jen Pelka.
The communal table with a picture of my new hero on the wall. Photo: Jen Pelka.
Souvla time! Photo courtesy of Souvla.
The fantastic fries. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Last week I was happy to attend a preview party for ~SOUVLA~, a brand-new souvlaki place in Hayes Valley. You may remember when I wrote about the concept a couple of years ago, when Greek American chef-owner Charles Bililies was still looking for investors and a location. Isn’t it great when ideas come true? Especially when souvlaki is involved—something this city has been sorely lacking (sorry, the gyro places with mystery meat don’t count).
He is definitely doing a Bay Area spin on things: the spit-roasted meats (the “souvla” is literally the rotisserie rod/roasting spit) are all-natural, hormone-free meats (the chickens are Rocky Jr. from Petaluma, the lamb from a collective of Northern California farms, and the pork is from Homestead Farms). Each souvlaki ($9-$11) has its own combo of ingredients, from feta or mizithra, and sauces like harissa-spiked yogurt or minted yogurt. There’s also a vegetarian version with roasted vegetables. The pita is notably soft and pillowy—it’s their proprietary recipe made especially for them by a South Bay bakery specializing in flatbreads and pitas, delivered fresh daily.
Here’s the opening menu. There are some crazy-delicious fries you will need to order—they’re tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and topped with mizithra cheese (a salty sheep’s milk cheese from Greece). Oh yeah, and there are also fries with the drippings. Yup. For dessert, there are some different toppings you can get on frozen Greek yogurt ($4-$5), like baklava crumbles, sour cherry syrup, or Greek olive oil and flaky sea salt. There are Greek wines on the list, plus some Greek beer too (opa!).
It’s a fast-casual setup (you order at the counter), with 35 seats in all. Bililies ended up taking over the former Sebo location, and the room feels completely different, with light coming in from the skylight, a couple bars made of white oak with custom-aged copper trim, and Carrara marble penny tile. There is a communal table (with a copper top, the same as the high-top bar tables). To complete the airy feeling, the front windows open up to the sidewalk. There’s a wraparound bar with three outdoor bar stools, plus a counter with stools both in and outside. Be sure to check out the hanging pots, which are vintage pieces from his grandfather’s Boston restaurant.
Hours are Tue-Sun 11am-10pm. 517 Hayes St. at Octavia, 415-400-5458.