Generous Greek Restaurant Opens Doors for Regular’s Surprise Engagement

Sam Goldstein and Christa Simone. Source: Souvla

A Greek restaurant in San Francisco generously opened their doors in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic so that one of their longtime regulars could pull off a surprise engagement proposal.

Souvla restaurant, located at Hayes Valley, was the site of the Sam Goldstein and Christa Simone’s first official date.

Goldstein had been contemplating a proposal long before the pandemic, which repeatedly thwarted his plans. Instead, he sent a heartfelt email to Souvla, and was surprised to get a response.

Owner Charles Bililies opened up the restaurant, and helped arrange a sign in the front window, along with photos and roses. Jen Pelka, Bililies’ wife and the owner of the Riddler Champagne bar, joined in on all of the fun.

A Greek-American, Bililies comes from a family tradition of restaurateurs and is deeply passionate about the hospitality experience. Bon Appetit Magazine dubbed Bililies “the Mark Zuckerberg of fast fine restaurants” and Souvla is a San Francisco Chronicle “Top 100 restaurant”, a recipient of the StarChefs award for “Best Concept”.

Goldstein led his girlfriend to Souvla on a promise of a take-away. He then dropped down to one knee. She said yes on Souvla’s sunny back patio, and the rest is history.

During these strange times, it’s a reminder of how restaurants serve as spaces where people celebrate big moments such as birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and engagements.

This couple loves Souvla not only because it was where they went on their their first date, but also it was somewhere low-key to go to catch up with an old friend.

Goldstein has no regrets about choosing the restaurant for their proposal. “We were blown away by how incredibly generous and helpful Charles and Jen were,” Goldstein told Eater San Francisco.

“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 is a group of modern fast-fine Greek restaurants with locations throughout San Francisco, inspired by casual souvlaki joints found throughout Greece.

The first Souvla opened its doors in April, 2014 in Hayes Valley, and in the four years since, additional locations have opened in San Francisco’s NoPa, Mission and Marina neighborhoods.