Souvla, Spit Fired Meats [Hayes Valley, San Francisco]
- Melanie Wong Apr 2, 2014 10:57 PM
Billed as an affordable Greek sandwich shop with local sensibilities, the latest word is that Souvla will open on Tuesday, April 8.
It's open, I went for lunch yesterday. At 1:45 they were out of the lamb. There were maybe 6-8 other customers, and lots of people poking heads in to have a look. Very casual, order at counter. Nice staff, and the owner walked around asking how people were enjoying it.
I had the pork pita sandwich ($10). I don't know a lot about Greek food, but I enjoyed it, the meat in particular was really nice, tender and juicy. I thought the tzatziki could've used more tang, but it was very satisfying overall. Tomatoes & cucumbers were very fresh. I felt like the pita was a bit too thick, and made it cumbersome to eat, but maybe that's as it's supposed to be.
Fries ($4) came out very hot and crispy (i.e., perfect) but came unaccompanied; I used some of the tzatziki which dribbled out of the sandwich.
It's a nice, bright space for being so small. One large communal table and maybe 4 individual tables. There are a couple of seats on the sidewalk at the big open window which looked like a good option on such a nice day.
I went yesterday as well. It's a nice idea, and all that meat rotating on the spits is very appetizing to look at, but they're still working out the kinks, it seems like. Everyone is friendly and it's sorta promising, but.
I had the lamb shoulder in the evening; they must have run out and bought more. I don't know if this accounts for the quality, but it was pretty dry. I didn't mind the pita, as that is what I am used to with Greek fast food, and actually I probably would have liked the sandwich just fine, if only the meat had not been so dry and bland. I'm guessing there was a slight mishap somewhere, so they probably deserve a pass on this, considering how new the place is.
I also had the fries, which were good, I don't have anything to say about them, although that garnish (feta cheese? or something similar) didn't stick well to the fries, so for the most part it was just fries. Good fries, though.
I got a "Greek Cherry Spritz" or something for a soft drink, and it was quite delicious, but was an astoundingly bad value; it was $4 for perhaps 6 ounces of fluid in a small cup filled with ice. As it was, I found myself rationing sips throughout my meal. If they must charge that much, then I'd rather they just charge $6 or $7 and give me twice as much, or something. (I didn't ask if there were refills, but the woman at the bar had to mix my drink together with seltzer, so I assumed it was not an option.) Still, quite a nice drink.
It was decently packed when I was in there, so I guess they'll do fine, but I wonder how the Hayes and Kebob across the street will affect their business, which is similar enough to Souvla and a much better value. Anyway, I'm hoping they succeed, so long as my meal was an aberration from what we can regularly expect in the future.
Looks like they changed the prices, for both the lamb pita and the soda. See opening day menu below.
I'd still have the same complaint about the soda at $3, assuming the quantity is the same (perhaps they use a bigger cup now). They may as well just charge $4 and give me 33% more soda, then. (Yes, a person could just buy two drinks, but that is sort of ridiculous, don't you think?)
Tried out Souvla for lunch Wed 4/16/14. It took over that Sebo spot on Hayes next to Patxi Pizza. It's more bright with some two-tops and a communal table.
You order at the register, pay, get a number, sit down, and someone brings you your food.
I got the Pork Shoulder Wrap for $10. Extra yogurt sauce is $1. Got my food pretty quick. Wrap is average size, good amount of meat, tiny amount of yogurt, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese. I thought the meat was a bit chunky and kinda dry, but not too bad. The extra yogurt sauce I think is skimpy, can't even tell it's in there. Guy said it's in there, right.
Asked for hot sauce got Cholula hot sauce - nothing special.
Then I got the Greek Frozen Yogurt w/ sour Greek cherry preserve $4, with tax $4.35. Paid at the spot where the yogurt machine is. Thought it was just ok, small cup, kinda tangy, melts fast, preserve was pretty runny - sweet and a bit sour.
You can charge your food.
A few days ago I was driving through the the intersection of Grove & Frankling when I figured this would be the closest I'd be to Souvla at meal time for awhile. At 11:35a, no problem getting a metered parking space on the same block.
Having been a customer at Sebo, it was interesting to see the changes in the space. With the white walls, the spot feels larger. First I stopped at the counter near the entrance with a couple people ahead of me. The staffer pointed to a second order station at the back by the rotisserie. I was a little disappointed to see the empty Rotisol and no meat turning.
I ordered the lamb, $12, to go. While the price tag is high, this is a hefty sandwich packed with moist chunks of lamb, slivers of radish, pickled red onions and cucumber. There's not enough chili-spiked yogurt sauce for me, yet I don't want to shell out a buck for more. The bread's nice and fresh but a bit on the thin side.
The sandwich is wrapped in foil and then brown paper, but still leaks. There was about 2 tablespoons of bright yellow fat in the bottom of the foil and more escaped to the bottom of the take-out dish and hardened up on cooling to room temperature. Be sure to get extra napkins.
We had a pork sandwich and lamb salad. Both meats were tender but bland. It's not that the meat lacked spices, which it did, but that it felt under seasoned with salt to begin with. Unlike some previous reports, I got quite a lot of feta and yogurt sauce in the sandwich, though the sauce still didn't make much of an impression. Liked the pita bread. The salad had kale, romaine, radishes, sprouts and probably a couple of other things I'm forgetting. A good mix, though not filling as a dinner entree salad.
Similar reaction as dunstable to the fries: good, but since nothing coated to them, the "greek fries" title didn't register. If you sometimes doze off during the concert after a filling dinner, this place could be for you.
"If you sometimes doze off during the concert after a filling dinner, this place could be for you."
This is as good a reason as any to eat here!
I also found my lamb choice somewhat undersalted, now that you mention it. I wondered if eating shwarma and doner kebap more often, which are more highly spiced, makes me look for more oomph in sandwich of this format.
I went back recently. It is improved from my last visit -- for the most part, I didn't think the meat was too dry, although some individual pieces were still a little dry. There was a decent amount of sauce, enough that the sandwich didn't feel too dry, but not so much that it was spilling out of the pita (as often happens with fast food Greek sandwiches).
The soda is now some bottle thing that I guess is available in Greece or something, I'd never had it before. Again, I suppose the price was reasonable compared to what it actually cost, but the volume of liquid was quite small; a thirsty person can down the whole drink in two or three sips.
Overall, though, I don't think Souvla is worth going out of one's way for. It's all right, but it's really quite expensive for what one is getting. If I happen to want a kebab type sandwich in Hayes Valley, I'll probably go to Hayes and Kebab more often than Souvla. But it was quite crowded in there when I went, so they probably won't miss me much.