SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Souvla, the Greek fast-casual restaurant in San Francisco has remained closed during the shelter in place order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but did open so Sam Goldstein could propose to his girlfriend of five years, Christa Simone, Eater San Francisco reported on May 22.
“Goldstein, a startup founder, and Simone, a product manager, have lived together for six years, in a big multi-bedroom flat in the Lower Haight with a close group of friends. They've been romantically involved for five years,” Eater reported, adding that “Souvla was the site of their first official date.”
“It felt exciting and monumental, to be going out and purchasing food,” Simone told Eater.
“It had all been very secretive up until then. We wanted to wait a few weeks to make sure it was for real,” Goldstein told Eater, noting that “they ordered chicken salads, of course, with Greek fries and harissa yogurt dip… Goldstein got a bottle of rosé, always a strong lunch decision, and the rest is history.”
Goldstein had been planning on proposing when the pandemic hit. “I'm generally into big crowds, so I was trying to publicly embarrass Christa. But when the world shut down, that became increasingly hard,” he told Eater.
He decided to send “a heartfelt email to Souvla, and was surprised to get a response,” Eater reported, adding that the Greek-American owner Charles Bililies “opened up the restaurant, and helped arrange a sign in the front window, along with photos and roses.” Bililies' wife, Jen Pelka, who owns the Riddler Champagne bar, also “joined in on all of the fun,” Eater reported.
Goldstein and Simone went out for a walk in the neighborhood one Saturday, and “Simone was initially excited to see that Souvla had a sign in the window, hoping the restaurant might have reopened (sadly, no),” Eater reported, noting that “she was confused that it had her name on it, then shocked when Goldstein finally dropped to one knee and popped the question.”
“I thought we were going to the Mill, because we heard they were giving out sourdough starter, instead we got wasted,” Simone told Eater.
Needless to say, she accepted Goldstein's proposal.
“This couple loves Souvla because it was their first date spot, but also, it was somewhere low key to catch up with an old friend,” Eater reported, adding that “Goldstein has no regrets about choosing it for their proposal.”
He told Eater, “We were blown away by how incredibly generous and helpful Charles and Jen were. It just goes to show how kind people can be, even to complete strangers. It was one of those moments that restores your faith in humanity.”
Souvla remains closed due to the pandemic, Eater reported, adding that the restaurant is “playing it safe.”
Bililies in a previous interview with The National Herald, noted that “What we're doing is truly unique and people really, really love it, we're super fortunate and even though the menu is very, very concise and doesn't change, it's one of those things where people find whatever that thing is that they like whether it's a soup or a salad or a sandwich and for lack of a better adjective, they become addicted to it, and then they find themselves craving our frozen Greek yogurt, and they can't wait to come in, so that's also really good.”
“We've always been of the mindset of the importance of doing one thing and doing it really, really well,” Bililies said.
He also told TNH about his own engagement to Pelka, “We actually got engaged in Santorini at sunset the kind of quintessential engagement there, and we traveled all throughout Greece together.”
Of his Greek heritage, he said, “Mom, Maria Bililies, maiden name Leotsakos, came to the U.S. in the mid 70's from Chalandri, Athens, where she grew up, her dad was from Paros, and her mom was from Athens. My father's grandparents, my great-grandparents came to the United States from the western Peloponnese, Mani, so I am kind of not exactly first generation, not exactly second generation Greek-American.
“Greek on both sides, of course, also Souvla as a brand, as a restaurant, and experience, is a direct reflection of my cultural upbringing and my relationship with my Greek heritage as a child of the 80s from a generational standpoint, the child of an immigrant mother who wanted us to be normal American kids. We grew up with a lot of the customs and traditions of a traditional Greek family, however, we are in the States and my parents wanted us to be normal American kids and not have that sort of definitive Greek, über-sort of Greekness, so we grew up in the church and all that, but we also grew up speaking Greek at home. Even 35 years later my Greek is sort of plus minus, I sound more fluent than I actually am, but then it was very important to me in creating Souvla that it be for everyone.”
More information about Souvla is available online: www.souvlasf.com.