This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Lee and Mary Paulos opened the first "fast food" Greek restaurant in Salt Lake City in 1972. Thirty-five years later, the original Greek Souvlaki is still going strong and two other locations are up and running.
The Pauloses have since retired and the family business is now in the hands of their sons, Frank, Leo and Chris. Each location is managed by one of the sons and yet the three collaborate to maintain the reputation for good food and friendly service that their parents worked so hard to establish.
Leo has fond memories of working side-by-side with his parents and brothers while growing up. He says of the restaurant business, "I was born into it and I love what I do." Leo now oversees the original restaurant while brothers Frank and Chris tend to the West Valley City and Murray locations.
Success has not come easy for the Paulos family. In the beginning, Lee and Mary often worked 15- to 20-hour days. Their sons are no strangers to long days and they all agree that the restaurant business is stressful.
"I read somewhere recently," Frank quips, "that restaurant owners have a very high rate of heart attack and divorce, so we have to be careful to try to balance things out."
The brothers enjoy working together and still look to their dad for advice. Leo says they often have different ideas on how to run things and yet they complement and need each other. "Frank's strength is the accounting, I like to be in the kitchen and Chris is the one who organizes things and contributes a lot of energy," he explains.
"If we all can't agree on something," continues Leo, "we just put it to the vote. It's always two to one and the issue gets resolved. We may disagree, but then we go out and have a drink together and in the end, the most important thing is that we're brothers."
Leo realizes they would not succeed without good employees. Shara Darcey has worked for team Paulos for eight years while going to school. "When Mr. Paulos retired, it was just the three sons and me running the restaurant so we go back a long ways," she explains. "They take good care of me and treat me like family."
Leo enjoys the diversity of the downtown crowd, from businesspeople to construction workers to students. He acknowledges loyal customers who have eaten at his restaurant for years.
Long-time patron, Kent Lewis of Salt Lake City, ate at the Greek Souvlaki for many years while working downtown. There is a tradition in the Lewis household of eating lunch at the restaurant on the first day the out-of-town children come to visit.
Many of Mary's original recipes are still used for the homemade food at the Greek Souvlaki. Although it is time-consuming to make many of the menu items, the Paulos brothers are committed to offering high quality food.
Leo loves to tinker with the menu and is always working on ways to adapt to the current trends. He often calls his mom for advice, but because her recipes are in her head and not on paper, he doesn't always get it right. "I have trouble deciding how much a pinch or a dash is," he laughs.
The restaurant has consistently garnered the City Weekly's peoples' choice awards for serving the best Greek food in Salt Lake City and more specifically for one of their trademark items, yeeros (gyros). Try one of these and you'll jump up and holler "Opa" even if you're not Greek. "Loosely translated," explains Frank, "opa means yeehaw."
Other traditional menu favorites include souvlaki, dolmathes (meat-stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese pie), rice pilaf and Greek salad. Although the Pauloses like to offer mostly authentic Greek food, they also serve a great burger and fries.
More recent menu additions include lemon chicken and lentil bean soups. "Our low-carb special which is a Greek salad topped with a souvlaki is very popular," says Leo. Don't forget the baklava and rice pudding.
Leo and his brothers are grateful for good parents who taught them the value of hard work. "It means a lot to us to be able to carry on the tradition they worked so hard to build and hope we have made them proud," he says.
Visit the Greek Souvlaki
at the following locations:
404 East 300 South
2192 West 3500 South
Murray (By 24 Hour Fitness)
5692 South 900 East