If you’ve lived in San Francisco for any measurable amount of time, then there’s a good chance you’ve eaten at Souvla or, at the very least, had someone tell you that you should. Since launching in 2014, the fast-casual mini-chain has staked out space in some of the city’s most popular dining neighborhoods — NoPa, Hayes Valley, the Mission, and the Marina — becoming, in the words of founder and CEO Charles Bililies, almost like a utility for busy tech workers on the hunt for a fast, fresh, and relatively affordable meal. “It’s become a part of the cultural fabric of the city in a way I couldn’t have expected,” Bililies says.
Now, and for the first time in three years, Souvla expands once again with a spacious new restaurant less than a mile from Chase Center in the Dogpatch neighborhood. The new restaurant will make its debut next Tuesday, August 16. It’s not only the first new outpost the company has opened since sliding into that narrow space in the Marina in the blissful pre-pandemic days of 2019, but it’s also the first time Souvla will introduce a slew of new menu items into the mix. Unlike the company’s other locations, Souvla Dogpatch will serve a new list of hot and cold Greek meze, plus an expanded list of Greek wines. “It’s a little bit of a departure for us,” Bililies acknowledges. “It’s basically almost like two restaurants in one.”
Die-hard fans need not fret, however: the restaurant will also serve the familiar Souvla menu of salads and wraps starring your choice of Snake River Farms pork, Mary’s free-range chicken, Thomas Farms lamb, Black Sheep plant-based lamb, or roasted sweet potatoes. Diners will order their entree — and perhaps a side of Greek fries and Greek yogurt topped with olive oil and flaky sea salt — at a counter immediately to the left of the entryway before settling themselves into one of the copper-topped tables around the dining room.
But those looking for a different kind of Souvla dining experience will have another option too. The space, which housed Magnolia Brewery’s Dogpatch outpost until it closed in February, already came equipped with an L-shaped bar and towering back bar, giving Bililies the chance to expand the Souvla concept. He’d always played with the idea of opening a Greek wine bar, he says, “So this kind of gave us the opportunity to do it alongside the regular Souvla menu.” The new meze menu offers 10 items including chilled octopus salad; dakos, a traditional salad from Crete; pan-seared saganaki; and dolmades. “As a proud Greek American, this is the food I grew up eating,” Bililies says.
Customers will also be able to order a whole roasted feta-brined chicken for dine-in, Bililies says, which up until this point has been a sort of secret, off-menu option for to-go orders only. The $33 rotisserie chicken comes broken down and served with sliced and charred lemon and Greek olive oil.
According to Bililies, Souvla can lay claim to being the first restaurant in the U.S. to serve an all-Greek beverage list — and that means not just the wine, and not just the beer, but everything down to the Zagori-brand still and sparkling water. Souvla Dogpatch, however, will pour an expanded list of Greek wines, including the Souvla-branded white, red, and rose, but also a longer selection of Greek varietals, which are listed by flavor profile to make the list as approachable as possible for those unfamiliar with Greek grapes.
Bililies says because the space had such good bones — those 19-foot ceilings and tons of exposed brick, for example — the team didn’t have to do much after acquiring it in March. Primarily they made cosmetic changes to make the new restaurant feel like a cohesive part of the company and give it a bit of a personal touch. For example, Bililies says they used some common Souvla design touches like white subway tiles, copper-topped tables, and that signature blue-and-white enamel serving ware. He also filled the many nooks and crannies of the back bar with tchotchkes collecting during his travels. On a more sentimental note, he brought in and refurbished a light fixture from his grandfather’s restaurant in Boston.
To start, Bililies says the restaurant will serve the regular Souvla menu for dine-in, takeout, and delivery through DoorDash and Caviar. They’ll add in items from the meze menu for delivery down the line. Expect a loading zone out front for pick-up orders. With a handful of high-profile new openings in the surrounding neighborhood, including RH’s five-story gallery and atrium restaurant at Pier 70, Bililies says he’s happy to be a part of the growth. “It’s a really, really cool part of the city,” he says. “We’re really excited to be here.”
Souvla Dogpatch (2505 3rd Street, San Francisco) opens Wednesday, August 16 and will serve lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.