Souvla on Divisadero - mid 2016

hoodline reports the closure of Herbivore on Divisadero Street
and anticipates the opening of another Souvla mid-2016.

I just had Souvla for lunch this afternoon and I was somewhat disappointed. I can’t say that I had particularly high expectations and based on what I’d seen, I was certainly not looking for authenticity. Nonetheless, I still didn’t think it was anything special. I had the chicken souvla and garlic fries. The sandwich (which is what it should be considered as this doesn’t resemble a souvlaki or gyro in any form) was decent enough, though I found the chicken rather dry and bland. I was unable to detect any of that characteristic slow spit roast flavor that you would normally expect from Greek style rotisserie. Were it not for the pita and feta topping, I would never have made any association with Mediterranean food. The fries, which everyone seems to rate highly, were completely boring imo. I wasn’t thrilled about paying extra for a small dollop of garlic sauce, though I’m glad that I did as it made both items a bit more flavorful. Overall, I felt it was just fine for a neighborhood lunch spot and the sandwich, made with fresh quality ingredients, wasn’t bad… but it’s certainly not anything worthy of further discussion.

I don’t get it either. I went twice when the Hayes Valley location first opened, and had almost exactly the same experience with the lamb, both times. It was also pretty expensive for what it was. Frankly I don’t even think I prefer it to generic Kronos gyros. I’m stunned that they’re doing well enough to receive national press and open a second location.

My mom and I got lunch from there in October and it was fine. We both liked the salad better than the sandwich. I wouldn’t make the trip across the city to eat there though. The one thing I said to my mom was," It feels like they are preparing to chain this restaurant out." Apparently, I was right. It kind of reminds me of the old World Wraps if you remember that place.

I chalk it up to their homemade pita, which admittedly (and unfortunately) seems to be unique to the city, at least from my experience. That’s only one component though… I wonder if, without sounding too pretentious, people simply aren’t sophisticated or familiar enough with Greek fast food? The location/decor is nice and as I mentioned above, the quality and freshness of ingredients rate, so perhaps people just feel that they’re eating “healthy” and “trendy”? I don’t know… it’s a shame we don’t have any real souvlaki/gyros options. Growing up in Montreal with a huge Greek immigrant community, that was essentially our fast food. There was either a hole-in-the-wall souvlaki shop or Greek family-run greasy spoon (“casse-croute”) on every corner. Whether high school lunch breaks, lazy weekend delivery, or for casual family style sit-down meals. It’s one of the few foods that I genuinely miss living in SF.

It’s not an entirely unique format to San Francisco, that’s for sure. I see it as sort of similar to a place like Spinnerie on Polk. Both fairly bland, uninteresting takes on national/ethnic standards that should be far more flavorful and exciting. Both offer a certain level of customization with pricing to match, ie. pay extra for sauces and toppings, which is never a good sign as kitchens should feel confident in their recipes and flavors to not have to offer a half dozen choose-your-own-adventure-type garnishes for every palette - that never works. Both places offer healthier conscientious menus at somewhat of a premium for what they’re serving - local, organic, sustainable, veg options - all good and more power to them. The end result however, is completely middle of the road. Nothing wrong with these type of establishments and every city has them. What I find strange is how they’re not seen as simply passable or convenient neighborhood spots, but trending and perhaps it has to do with the shifting demographic and socio-economic turnover in the city; people would rather drop twice as much at some fresh new spot that ticks off all the boxes (bright space with reclaimed wood and healthy options) instead of their neighborhood corner store/market. Personally, I’ll take just about any generic $7 sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll over the former, but I’m guessing we’ll be seeing a lot more of these places and a lot less of the small family markets in future with the way things are going. They sure seem to be in vogue right now.

I’m disappointed that you were disappointed. Loving Greek food, I was hopeful with anticipation. It’s doubtful now that I will find my way to Souvla at 517 Hayes.
My interest wanes and Souvla’s mid 2016 Divisadero opening may not be met with great fanfare; end of discussion.

Stopped in again last night for dinner. I liked the food a lot–the sweet potato sandwich was a well-composed dish in a city with surprisingly limited vegetable sandwich options. A bite of lamb was tender, fries were really nice done.

Agree with the consensus on prices being a little high. Between three of us, we had three entrees, a shared order of fries, and split a bottle of inexpensive wine. The total after tax and tip came to $100. A couple frozen yogurts brought us to almost $40/person. Not unreasonable for a night out, but given the atmosphere–seat yourself, grab your own water, other patrons hovering over a spot at your communal table, I can think of better places to spend $40 on dinner. Hopefully the new location on Divisadero alleviates some of the crowding and lets the Hayes Valley location relax as more of a neighborhood spot.

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They have another branch now on Valencia.

We find ourselves on Divis quite frequently, and for some reason the husband and child always want to go to Souvla for lunch. I let them go by themselves. I thought the food was ok, but deadly boring.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold