I can’t think of too many things in life that are better than Mediterranean food. We’re often spoiled by the consistent presence of the B’more Greek food truck on 34th Street and North Charles Street, but there are a multitude of other incredible Mediterranean restaurants around the city.
If you’re looking for a way to scratch an itch for this kind of cuisine, you will win on price, location and taste if you opt for Souvlaki. Souvlaki is a small restaurant on 36th Street (colloquially known as the Avenue) in Hampden. Besides its Hampden store, Souvlaki also has locations in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. and is about to open a new branch in Miami, Florida.
In terms that might be familiar to Hopkins students, it sits just past Grano Pasta Bar and right next to Golden West Cafe, which is about four blocks down from the Charmery. You can’t miss the bright lime green storefront and marquee-style lights that spell the “Souvlaki” above the door.
I was fortunate to make a trek to Souvlaki for my latest trip, alongside our Editor-in-Chief Michelle Limpe and Managing Editor Paige Maultsby. We swiftly agreed that Greek food would be filling our stomachs that afternoon, and a lengthy discussion of its many merits followed.
Souvlaki’s menu offers a host of different appetizers, entrees and sides. The appetizers are a perfect size for sharing, so Paige, Michelle and I opted to split a hummus with warm pita for $8.95. This might sound like a lot for an appetizer for three, but the tub of hummus you get in return is as full and large as your average supermarket hummus.
Another classic appetizer is the spanakopita, which is a spinach pie made with phyllo dough and feta cheese. The flakiness of the dough offers the perfect textural background to experience the spinach and cheese, which is an infallible combination.
There are two main entree options at Souvlaki: the pita wrap (a souvlaki, in Greek terms) and a platter. The choice for me is abundantly clear every time I go: the souvlaki, of course!
A souvlaki is a warm pita wrap that contains your choice of protein, fresh french fries, sauce and vegetable toppings. The protein offerings are your typical choice of chicken, beef, pork or lamb, but they also include vegan and vegetarian options like zucchiniballs and beetballs. It ranges from $8.95 to $10.95 depending on the protein you select, which is an extremely good price considering the portion size.
The only difference between a souvlaki and a platter is that the protein and french fries (or whichever other side you might choose) are not wrapped in the pita bread. The taste is still just as impeccable, but to me the combination of each component eaten altogether is unbeatable.
My magical combination is a chicken souvlaki with hummus. I convinced Michelle and Paige that this is the only truly correct decision, and they happily obliged by ordering their own ideal pita wraps. We all sang praises to our souvlakis, overjoyed at the sublime textures and tastes all swimming on our palates.
While we didn’t opt for desserts during our visit, you can order from three Greek dessert options. You might be familiar with baklava, a layered honey phyllo dough cake, but you can also enjoy some kadaifi, a sweet cheese pastry with nuts, or yaourti, a Greek yogurt with honey or cherry sauce.
I’ve never had the fortune of eating Greek food at its source, but Souvlaki’s proclaimed intent to bring traditional food to a contemporary setting comes through strongly and successfully. It’s a simple, even inconspicuous, presence in a neighborhood full of great restaurants, but the sheer power of its quality solidifies its place among the best Baltimore food money can buy.
My final word of wisdom is that Souvlaki is best enjoyed as fresh as possible. You want your pita, protein and french fries to be as toasty as a warm hug on a winter day.