It comes as a surprise to think that customizable restaurant food is still considered a relatively new trend. After all, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the salad bar was finally introduced to Utahns, which is now so ingrained in our culture that it’s hard to imagine a time when they didn’t exist. In the last decade, however, salad bar-style eateries have popped up all over the state, and the Paulous family—owners of the Greek Souvlaki chain, decided to capitalize on the trending business model.
Greek Souvlaki first opened in 1972, introducing Utah to the little-known gyro. Started by a young Greek couple, Lee and Mary Paulos, the establishment gained popularity and has expanded to several locations across the Wasatch Front, including a notable stop at the Salt Lake International Airport.
“They essentially built the business from nothing,” says Chris Paulos, the youngest of three brothers who now operate the business. “When they first opened, no one in Utah knew what a gyro or souvlaki even was. It took a while, but people are finally more comfortable with Greek food.”
After their father’s retirement nearly 15 years ago, Chris, along with older brothers Frank and Leo, wanted a new concept for a restaurant after noticing the popularity of customizable dining such as Cafe Rio and Chipotle. Their solution was Padeli’s Street Greek.
Named for their father, whose name is Padeli in Greek, the restaurant is a cafeteria-style concept that allows diners to pick-and-choose what they want in their gyro or souvlaki. Similar to a salad bar, behind-the-counter workers prepare the meals based on customers’ requests.
“To fully enjoy a gyro,” Chris explains, “end your order by stuffing it with French fries. That’s how it’s done in Greece.”
Unlike the traditional gyro you can order at Greek Souvlaki (prepared with lamb or beef), Padeli’s offers chicken and pork protein choices that also reflect true Greek culture. They even added a popular rice bowl option. “People are really digging it,” says Chris. “There’s almost always a line out the door during lunchtime.”
While a number of other Greek restaurants have made names for themselves across Utah, Chris notes that it’s the speed of service at Padeli’s truly distinguishes them from the pack. “The line may be long, but it moves quickly. And people know that.”
Now retired, Lee Paulos still makes regular visits to the stores, often being spotted on a patio, sipping a cup of coffee, watching the fruits of his labor continue to grow.
“We are currently looking to expand beyond our single Padeli’s location,” Chris adds. As they continue to grow their business, the Paulos’ plan to keep the business within the family.
Padeli’s is located at 300 E. Broadway in SLC