Greek food is all too often relegated to the margins, possibly owing to the mediocrity of most gyros and the vegetarian adoration of hummus and baba ghanouj. (A certain cheesiness factor doesn't help. The "Greek" typeface, with its pointy E's, is worse than comic sans). If there's a place in the Bay Area to get really excellent Greek food, it needs a better publicist.
But now we have Souvla, which completely remodeled the former Sebo in Hayes Valley in rather a delightful way. On the one hand, it's sticking to a well-trod path (reclaimed wood, white tiles, industrial lighting), but with lots of thoughtful add-ons. The tables -- some two-tops, others communal -- are copper. The rotisserie is a focal point, and there's still a skylight. Some chair backs bear Greek surnames on them (Z. Georgopoulos, R. Economidis) as if they were pilfered from a church basement. What dominates the floor is a striking black-and-white blow-up print of a guy drinking straight from a bottle while gripping a chair by the leg in his other hand. And those blue-and-white coffee cups that are ubiquitous in New York delis (corny Greek font and all) are piled high in the front. But the three outdoor seats that face inward towards a counter are the best feature. They're going to be highly coveted.
Ordering is pretty simple. Choose among lamb, chicken, pork or veg (which is roasted white sweet potato), either as a wrap or a salad, and there are sides like Greek fries (olive oil, lemon, oregano and mizithra cheese) and several yogurt sauces. Souvla offers a single beer (Mythos) and three wines, but also frozen Greek yogurt with exciting toppings like baklava crumbles and syrup, or a sour cherry glaze.
A chicken wrap -- made with "Granch" dressing, fennel & citrus salad, pickled red onion, pea shoots and mizithra cheese -- was delicious, if messy. The pea shoots were stalk-like and hard to chew, and shy eaters sitting at that communal table will find themselves blushing as they reach for a paper towel again and again. (Proper napkins would be nice.) But these are minor points. Souvla's main issue was that they were running out of things mid-way through lunch on Day One -- always a bittersweet problem. Did they think no one would come? Because they will.
Souvla, 517 Hayes St., (415) 400-5458.