It's no secret that souvlaki has been the go-to snack food for late-night city revellers forever and ever. The lashings of garlic entangled with tender meat, lettuce and tomato, all wrapped up in a soft pita are the makings of a loyal friend on the lonely taxi ride home…or tragically for some, an early morning ready-made breakfast.
Lately, a new wave of souvlaki has taken over Melbourne, and with it comes a string of gourmet souvlaki bars – all offering something slightly different. So whether you're after something traditional or contemporary, kick back and relax, because we've scoured the streets to give you a list of the best souvlaki in Melbourne!
JIMMY GRANTS | FITZROY & MELBOURNE CBD
First up is none other than George Calombaris's Jimmy Grants, a name that is fast popping up all over town. First serving up souvas to the north in Fitzroy and now sitting pretty at two locations in the CBD, Jimmy's is famous for all the right reasons. Our pick: the Bonegilla. The perfect combo of 12-hour slow-cooked lamb shoulder alongside spit-roasted free-range chicken, it's great if decision-making isn't your forte! This baby is flavoured with mustard aioli, chips, caramelised onions and parsley, and enveloped in super soft pita bread. You can't take a bite without saying 'ermagardthisissooogood'. It's actually not possible. Sure, the servings are smallish, but for just $9 a pop, you can afford to get a couple.
KALIMERA SOUVLAKI ART | OAKLEIGH
The guys at Kalimera Souvlaki Art take passion to a new level. With their 'fresh is always best' motto, they don't skimp on anything, and hands down dish up some of the best souvlaki in Melbourne. From handmade pita bread, to house made speciality sauces and home grown herbs, the Greek uncle/nephew duo behind this family-run business pride themselves on offering the highest standard of ingredients every time – they even import their oregano all the way from Greece!
Head to Oakleigh to try the signature gyros pork souvlaki, a speciality from the chef's hometown area in Northern Greece. Trust us, it's worth the drive when you bite into succulent spit-roasted pork with onion, perfectly seasoned chips, tomato and house made tzatziki. Their chips are in a league of their own, so be sure to get them as a side. You know, just 'cause.
STALACTITES | MELBOURNE CBD
Stalactites has been home to the late-night souva for around 35 years. Located in the heart of the city, this iconic family-run Greek restaurant is open 24 hours, offering (very large) souvlaki to the masses. There's no way you'll need more than one serve here; these guys get it done right the first time. Featuring their own pita recipe, which is by comparison slightly thinner than their competitors' so as not to take away from the ingredients, Stalactites offers four varieties of souvlaki with a huge range of toppings to cater for everyone.
Our pick: the tender marinated lamb gyros. It doesn't come with chips, but you can always add them on. Oh, and for the slightly health conscious, you have the option of having grilled lamb or chicken fillet too. Everybody wins! (Editor's Note: Stalactites also makes it onto our list of 50 meals you should have eaten in Melbourne).
SOUVLAKI KING | FITZROY
Did you know Souvlaki King was featured in The Wog Boy? That's gotta speak volumes right? Fame aside, Souvlaki King has been a popular Brunswick Street haunt for years and years, and it's not hard to see why. With a menu boasting all the usuals and then some, this clever souvlaki bar has invented its very own specialty, the hangover. If you're feeling a little worse for wear next Sunday, just pop in, choose between traditional lamb or chicken from the spit, then top it with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, garlic dip and chilli sauce. We can't promise you'll feel better, but your taste buds sure will. You can also pre-order your souvlaki online, so it's ready and waiting when you arrive. Pretty neat huh?
GAZI | MELBOURNE CBD
If you haven't been to Gazi yet, you really need to go. Yep, George Calombaris gets yet another mention on our list of the best souvlaki in Melbourne; this time with casual, laid-back and ultra-modern restaurant, Gazi, in the CBD. We'll be honest, you won't find the biggest souvlaki here, but they're not meant to be. At Gazi, you'll find souvlakakia (meaning small souvlaki), but what they lack in size, they make up for in taste. Sink your teeth into the juicy beef souvlakakia and enjoy chips, parsley, onion and delicious mustard mayo. Sure it's not the most traditional menu when it comes to souvlaki, but it'll definitely hit the spot.
KALAMAKI GREEK STREET FOOD | MELBOURNE CBD
Simple is best according to Kalamaki Greek Street Food on Lonsdale Street. Having been open for a year now, this modern eatery spends its days catering to the large and loyal CBD lunch crowd. The unique selection of souvlaki all contain red onion (traditional in some parts of Greece) and the option of virgin tzatziki, which doesn't contain garlic; perfect for those who have to return to the office after a face full of souvlaki. The chicken with tomato, red onion, lettuce and chips with mustard/mayo sauce is the clear winner here, but definitely check out the haloumi or chickpea souva for something different!
Image Credit: The Berry