Kostas Souvlaki

Monday, June 13, 2011

It’s not everyday that I lose total self control and give in to the temptation for Greece’s classic “junk food”—souvlaki. But when I do, there is only one place worth sacrificing self-esteem and birthright for: Kosta’s.
A tiny, hole-in-the-wall with a large following and an even larger queue, Kosta’s has been around for a few generations, serving up this Greek classic to legions of Athenians who happen to work or live or stroll in the immediate vicinity of Syntagma (Constitution) Square. The place, almost nondescript from the outside, is nonetheless pretty easy to recognize because a line of mostly men of the round-belly body type starts to form around 11.30 in the morning and doesn’t ease up until late afternoon. They  typically leave with bags full of Kosta’s souvlaki, to share over a beer with their work buddies.
One caveat: The wait for a 2 euro souvlaki is an exercise in zen patience. It could take up to a half hour. Over the grill, where Kosta the younger (the original owner’s grandson) tends to skewers, hangs a sign that says, simply (in Greek): No Anxiety!
The wait is worth it because every component of the souvlaki here is perfect. The pita bread is grilled and smokey, just on the cusp of crunchy, and nothing like the greased-up pita wraps of other, lesser, souvlaki joints. Lamb is the meat of choice here, grilled over coals, juicy, tender, delicious. The fixings give Kostas’s souvlaki the brush strokes of culinary brilliance. First there is the yogurt, which is as thick as ice cream and unapologetically sour. Tomatoes are fresh and sweet, onions pungent and plentiful, parsley properly refreshing, and cayenne pepper spared no quarter for anyone who asks for it. Add to this the fact that the place is spanking clean, a rare thing, indeed, and what you get is the ultimate recipe for success. A, and one more jewel in this souvlaki’s crown: He will gladly prepare Greece’s national street food for…vegetarians.
Kosta’s Souvlaki
Mitropoleos & Pentelis St. 5
Tel. 210 322 8502
Price: 2 euro each