The Marina is the fast-casual capital of San Francisco, so it makes a great deal of sense that Souvla, Charles Bililies’ clutch of “fast-fine” Greek eateries, would open up among the Tacolicious, Dabba, Mixt, and Rooster & Rice locations. With its Superior Farms lamb sandwiches and juicy potatoes made with oregano and plenty of rotisserie drippings, Souvla’s original location on Hayes Street remains perpetually packed, and its subsequent spots on Valencia and Divisadero are close behind. (Pro-tip for omnivores: Order the vegetarian option, made with sweet potatoes, and add chicken to it.)
At the opening on Monday night, Bililies told SF Weekly that “at least three” of the mini-chain’s 10 most frequent customers had been there, with others the night before. While the phrase “cult following” gets tossed around indiscriminately, it’s more accurate to say that Souvla is just really, really popular. And it might become more so.
“Not only is it in an incredible neighborhood, it’s the first with a dedicated pick-up window,” he said. “We’ve got a passenger loading zone right here, for delivery couriers — or if you’re ordering online you can pull right up.”
Doesn’t that mean a few parking spaces have been eliminated?
“It’s a huge investment in the neighborhood,” Bililies countered, “because you have a bus line coming through, and it’s not just for us. It’s for our neighbors. It’s for your dry-cleaning or if you’re dropping something off at the UPS Store. You don’t even have to worry about the line.”
Further expansion might not be on this coast, as he said they’re “looking at real estate in New York right now.” But in the meantime, the signs over the pickup window that read “Pick Up” and “Deliveries” are also written correctly in Greek, not just transliterated letter by letter.
“My mother grew up in Greece, and she’s fluent in it,” Bililies said. “But what’s interesting is that ‘pick-up’ is not really a word in Greek, so we had to think about what made the most sense if you were a Greek speaker, if you would read that and it would make sense to you. ‘Deliveries’ was a little easier. But ‘pick-up’ was kind of a challenge.”
Souvla, 2272 Chestnut St., souvla.com