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New Greek Restaurant Souvlaki GR Opens on Lower East Side

By Patrick Hedlund | March 21, 2011 4:12pm | Updated on March 22, 2011 6:11am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

LOWER EAST SIDE —The road from food truck to restaurant wasn't a particularly long one for the folks behind Souvlaki GR.

Eight months to the day after its founders rolled out the truck to serve traditional Greek souvlaki — earning a devoted following and acclaim in the street-food world — the group unveiled a new eatery on Stanton Street to take their concept to the next level.

Souvlaki GR opened its first brick-and-mortar location Monday near the corner of Ludlow Street to give diners the chance to experience the Greek cuisine the way it was meant to be.

"Nobody makes it the way it's supposed to be made," said co-owner Pavlos Sierros, who took his concept from street to storefront after his truck won Rookie of the Year honors at the 2010 Vendy Awards.

"My grandma used to feed me souvlaki all the time," he added. "It's all I ate."

So with the family recipe in hand — the restaurant serves its pita sandwiches relatively pared down, with a choice of marinated pork, chicken or beef accompanied by tomatoes, onions, salt, French fries and tzatziki sauce — Sierros wanted to get away from the heaving, gyro-style sandwiches found in so many New York restaurants.

"We saw the demand of how popular or souvlaki were, and we knew we could take it further" said Pavlos' wife, Abby, of why they decided to open a psitaria — the Greek name for a no-frills souvlaki joint — in the restaurant-rich Lower East Side.

"The truck is actually way more challenging."

The restaurant itself offers a slice of Greek life, with everything from a newsstand up front selling Greek magazines and newspapers to café tables designed by a Greek manufacturer, said co-owner Kostas Plagos.

They were even able to transform the space, formerly a Laundromat, to look like a Greek villa, complete with hanging bougainvillea and a white-and-blue color scheme.

But ultimately it all comes back to the souvlaki, which are served tightly wrapped and are best taken with a cold beer, Sierros said. The restaurant gets all its ingredients fresh, he added, meaning there's not even a freezer on site.

It's been a busy year for the West Villagers — the Sierros' live in the same Morton Street building as Plagos — who noted that "it's all come full circle" with the restaurant opening.

But do they ever get tired of grilling and wrapping all those souvlaki?

"I can eat that every day," Sierros said, "for the rest of my life."

Souvlaki GR is located at 116 Stanton St., between Ludlow and Essex streets.