Every day, at 6.30 in the morning, Kostas Lavidas enters his shop. He cleans up and then begins preparations for the day, washing and cutting tomatoes and parsley, lining up pita wraps, yogurt and chili powder so that they are all in their place.
At around 9.00, the daily meat delivery arrives. He checks his meat skewers one by one, which takes an hour, rejecting fat ‒ it must be lean meat ‒ and checks the mince. He puts nothing but salt and pepper in the mix for his oblong beef patties ‒ avoiding bread or spices. He then shapes them and immediately starts cooking
Customers start arriving early, as do the orders, and by 3 p.m. he’s already sold them all. He’s been doing this for nearly 20 years and claims he’s the best at wrapping souvlakis.
“The pita wraps are thin and oil free, just crispy enough and perfectly charred from the cast-iron grill plate.”
Kostas’ grandfather had a souvlaki joint in Plaka, on Adrianou St, since the 1950s. He learnt from him, and decided that that’s what he wanted to do too. When he left for military service, he asked his grandfather to keep the shop open just a little longer and he happily obliged. Kostas left Plaka in 2008 and relocated to Syntagma. “I did not want a bigger shop, so I just renovated the premises we moved in to.”
The old shop was tiny, and the new one is only slightly larger. A favorite relic of the old shop, a sign reading “No Stress” hangs over the grill, as do a few others here and there. Newspaper and magazine, articles about his shop hang from the walls as well as foreign guidebook clippings which recommend it as a place not to be missed when it comes to Athenian street food, and with good cause.
Souvlakis are light and small and you’ll need three to feel full. The pita wraps are thin and oil free, just crispy enough and perfectly charred from the cast-iron grill plate. You can choose a beef patty or pork.
Tzatziki is not an option. It makes sense to leave it out in terms of labor and for gastronomical reasons, as yogurt adds freshness to the combination. “This is how we’ve always done it,” says Kosta.
Tomatoes are sweet, even in the winter and the liberal sprinkling of parsley adds a crunch, while the chili powder adds heat. The souvlaki can be made as spicy as you want. For the hard-core types, he adds chili flakes or chopped fresh chilies.
Kostas’ souvlaki shop is an attraction for tourists, well-known in the neighborhood and with a loyal customer base. And although it’s a grill house, it is spotlessly clean. Don’t be surprised when he reaches out with a pair of tongs to take your money notes you as you pay.
Beer and soft drinks, Greek and foreign. And moonshine for friends.
“Kostas’ souvlaki shop is an attraction for tourists, well-known in the neighborhood and with a loyal customer base”