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Meats Are Now Spinning on the Spits at Souvla in Hayes Valley

Last week I was happy to attend a preview party for Souvla, a brand-new souvlaki place in Hayes Valley. 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.

Lunch News: A16 San Francisco and Trou Normand Add Lunch, Hakkasan Has New Dishes

As spring ramps up, there are some new places to get your lunch on. First, Trou Normand in the Financial District has added lunch hours as of Monday April 7th. The menu includes sandwiches, along with smaller bites for sharing, like arancini, a housemade charcuterie plate, and salt-and-vinegar potato chips. Hours are 11am–2:30pm, and breakfast hours are coming soon too.

140 New Montgomery St. at Natoma, 415-975-0876.

A16 San Francisco in the Marina is now open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30am–2:30pm. The menu includes pizza, pasta dishes, and a broad selection of smaller dishes, including a tuna conserva panzanella. There is also a $20 tasting menu on offer, which includes three courses with choices that change regularly. Call for reservations.

2355 Chestnut St. at Scott St., 415-771-2216.

Hakkasan has added a selection of affordable lunch dishes to their menu, and all of them are priced at only $5.50 each. Choices include braised pork trotters in ginger and soy sauce, or stir-fry roasted duck with chile in Szechuan sauce; check out all the choices here. And it’s a pretty gorg location for lunch, so enjoy. 

One Kearny Place at Geary St., 415-829-8148.

Tartine Bakery Team Opening a Dream Project in the Heath Ceramics Building in the Mission

Some very exciting news here: Chad Robertson and Liz Prueitt of Tartine Bakery And Cafe and Bar Tartine have just signed a lease to a 5,000-square-foot space in the Heath Ceramics factory and showroom building at 18th Street and Alabama in the Mission. How’s that for a symbiotic fit?

I caught up with Chad Robertson, who isn’t able to share specific details about their plans for the space just yet because, quite frankly, they have so many ideas that they want to work through first (as Robertson puts it, “It’s a Willy Wonka situation!”). It’s a big space with a lot of promise, and there are also going to be many collaborative components to it.

It’s definitely a long-lead story here (the opening is looking like 2015), but what Robertson could share is this: there is going to be a restaurant venture as well as a bakery project in the new space—it will be in cooperation with the current Tartine Bakery, acting like another arm. Robertson says, “The bakery staff has been hammered the past 12 years in that space. We are going to be able to do things we have wanted to do for years. We’re going to create the most efficient and comfortable workspace for them.” In addition to having a commissary production space, he mentioned there is going to be a preservation kitchen as well—he said they used to do things like make jams at Tartine Bakery, and now they’ll be able to bring that back, and do some production for themselves.

As for the restaurant component, Robertson shared there is going to be a “daytime eating situation” (I am digging all these situations). When Heath Ceramics was looking for a tenant for the space, it was very important to them that the tenant would be able to provide food for the factory and showroom staff and many artisans in the building. In addition to the 50 factory staff members, there are also jewelry makers, a letterpress printer, an apron/uniform maker, and other craft/artisan subtenants (it’s a pretty amazing artisan factory and campus over there, with a very collaborative and supportive environment).

I spoke with Heath Ceramics managing director Robin Petravic, and he said they had even considered opening their own restaurant at one point. He said, “Our aesthetic is simple, we’re not trying too hard or are fancy. But we’re quality. And good. We were looking for food like that too.”

The space has been vacant all along, but Heath really hadn’t started looking for someone specific until the past year or so. (For a sense of timing, they opened the showroom in June 2012, the Blue Bottle kiosk opened in August 2012, and the factory got running in August 2013.) They really wanted to make sure the tenant would align with the Heath aesthetic, philosophy, and values, in addition to fitting into the atmosphere of a creative community centered around design, craftsmanship, and small-scale manufacturing. Of course, they are thrilled with how well the Tartine group fits with all of this. As Petravic said, “It’s a no-brainer!”

Petravic also said they want people to visit the factory and find ways to connect with the dinnerware, enjoy the space, and want to stay. He says the courtyard they created for guests to look at the factory while enjoying a coffee (in a Heath Ceramics coffee cup, of course) has been an example of that, and the restaurant will be another experience. He clarified further that Heath and Tartine have their own identities, but both will work together toward the common goal of creating a destination.

A destination, yes, it will definitely be that. Anyone who subscribes to the Bar Tartine newsletter knows how much guest chefs and culinary collaborations are a big part of what they do. Robertson is happy that they will be able to more easily host visiting chefs in the new space, and plan to have multiple kitchen setups. They want to create more space for Bar Tartine’s chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns to work on their own projects too. Robertson added that people are so inspired by what those two are doing, so there will be a teaching setup in mind as well.

Robertson and Prueitt actually moved into the neighborhood not too long ago, and serendipitously are living just two blocks away. And of course it’s a wonderful thing for them to be able to start this next chapter to their business while staying on 18th Street.

The plan is to open in early 2015. They are on a tight schedule, and will open in phases, probably making bread first (hopefully in time for the holidays to take some pressure off Tartine Bakery). Expect more updates in coming months on this sure-to-be-inspiring project, a total Tartine dream. It’s going to be smelling very good over there.

Corner of 18th St. and Alabama.

Photo by Serious Eats.