OK, OK…I know. You can't serve a Greek sandwich on two slices of bread. But we'll make an exception for Souvla in Hayes Valley and its pita-wrapped souvlaki-style sandwiches, cause this isn't your grandparents' Greek food stand. Gone is the mysterious cone-shaped meat, gone is the poster of the girl with '80s hair telling you to “Ask for a Kronos gyros!” No. French Laundry and Michael Mina veteran Charles Bililies has given Souvla the California cuisine treatment.

[jump] The big differentiator here, is carefully selected, high-quality meats, like rotisserie-cooked Mary's Free Range chicken, marinated in olive oil, lemon, feta, and oregano. Or juicy, spit-fired Superior Farms Lamb Leg and American Homestead Pork Shoulder. Now wrap these lovelies in warm pita bread with pickled red onion, Greek feta or mizithra cheese, a different homemade yogurt sauce to pair with each meat and more fix-ins. Mouth watering yet? Souvla takes the concept of souvlaki and gyros and spins it on it's head to provide an experience that's more than what you'd expect from your typical Greek spot. 

Step inside the chic dining room and you'll find Greek photography adorning the walls. A long communal table on the right side, four-tops lining the left side of the wall and a counter wrapping around the two other sides of the room, one of which faces the large rotisserie. There's even smooth standing tables outside, where you can enjoy your food and drinks facing bustling Hayes St. Order at the counter, take a number and a seat, or if you're feeling adventurous, get it to go and eat at the Hayes Valley Park. But enough about the constructs, onto the sandwich.

Today's souvla-du-jour was the Mary's Free Range chicken sandwich ($11). On this, my fourth visit to Souvla, the chicken came apart so easily that I was never stuck pulling out a chunk that's too big for a bite, or robbing a section of pita of a bite with chicken on it. The marinated flavors come across beautifully; there's no need for feta as it's already soaked into the chicken. Pickled red onions are present from top to bottom and complement the fennel, with a dusting of mizithra cheese and pea shoots for earthiness. But the most audacious addition is the skinned naval orange slices. There's such a wild confluence of flavors that comes together, lathered with garlicky yogurt sauce so the juices drip to the bottom of the paper in which it's wrapped. (This is a good thing.) And if you want to get really ambitious, you'll order the not-so-secret “Greek” style version, with Souvla's perfectly crispy fries, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and mizithra (pictured at top, cause #YOLO.) Somewhere, militant fans of San Diego Mexican food are smiling at this Greek cousin of the California burrito.

Plain and simple, Souvla is a quality, quality spot. It's an innovative concept, unlike any Greek place I've ever been to. They run a tight ship, as a lunch rush never seems to be a problem. Open for Saturday and Sunday Brunch, Souvla serves Greek toast (cinnamon- and sugar-dusted crispy pita with sour cherry syrup and Greek yogurt), and scrambled eggs with lamb, to pair with pitchers of Greek brunch punch. It's also a low-key solid date spot, with candlelit tables in the evening, complete Greek wine & beer and low noise factor.

But sorry, no ouzo.

Recommended Sides

– The house-made hot sauce is just spicy enough not to be considered mild and a flavorful addition that I use liberally on every bite. 

– There's a full Greek frozen yogurt set-up behind the counter. I recommend the one with olive oil and sea salt and have the baklava crumbles and syrup on my to-do list!

– Get the fries. Don't screw this one up. 

– Juicy potatoes with oregano and all of the rotisseries drippings crushed it. 

Full menu here.

Souvla, 517 Hayes, 415-400-5458.