Santorini’s Greek Grill lets you have it your way
At Santorini’s Greek Grill, you can watch your meal being custom-built the way you want it.
Owner Sean Dehghani applied the assembly line concept to Greek food when he opened in 2018 at Farmington Station Park.
Its success, he said, is due to three factors: “Customer experience, food quality and speed.”
After surviving the pandemic shutdown, Dehghani opened his second location in November 2020, at 135 N. 500 West in West Bountiful. A spot in Sandy is currently in the works, with future plans for Phoenix and Riverton.
Pretty lofty goals, but Dehghani said multiple locations were always part of his plan. “I always had the thought process of scaling big. Go big or go home.”
A Greek seaside wall mural greets you when you walk into either location. At the counter, you’ll find lots of ingredient choices to mix and match, even for people who aren’t Greek food fans.
“We definitely don’t claim to be traditional Greek,” Dehghani said. “This is a modern take on Mediterranean flavors and not-so-Mediterranean flavors. So there’s something for the guy who wants a barbecue chicken salad, or the guy who wants a traditional pita with gyro meat.”
To build your own meal, you first pick a base — white or wheat pita bread, lemon rice, fries, lettuce, fresh spinach or Greek salad (chopped lettuce, tomato and onion).
Next, you choose a protein — lemon chicken, garlic herb chicken, smoked BBQ chicken, gyro meat, chicken gyro meat, grilled steak, grilled pork, grilled shrimp or veggie falafel.
Then you add your choice of toppings — chopped tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, chickpeas, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, beets, shredded carrots, corn, peperoncini, red cabbage, corn, asparagus, dolmathes or slaw.
Then you choose from about a dozen different sauces, including tzatziki (yogurt-cucumber), hummus, honey mango, olive oil and balsamic, and ranch.
The huge stuffed pitas are tied with twine to hold them together, but they are so loaded with ingredients that they can get pretty sloppy to eat. You’ll probably want a knife and fork to tame this beast.
Dehghani said the pitas are a signature item. “They’re massive, and until now we’ve been getting them from a company in West Jordan. We now have our own recipe for pita bread and will be making them fresh in-house.”
If you’re looking for a lower carb or calorie count, using salad as a base is a lighter option.
The top-seller is the traditional Greek bowl ($11) with lemon rice and lemon chicken, topped with Greek salad, feta and Kalamata olives, with tzatziki sauce.
“That’s our go-to dish for any first-timer,” Dehghani said.
Another favorite is the traditional gyro — a fresh pita stuffed with gyro meat, Greek salad mix, feta and Kalamata olives ($12).
“And to serve it Santorini style, we will stuff it with french fries,” Dehghani said. “If you were to get one in the streets of Greece, that’s how they would serve it.”
You can also get an order of “loaded” french fries – spicy parmesan, feta, Greek garlic, sweet potato waffle or street cart fries.
On the sweeter side, there’s a yogurt bar — thick Greek yogurt, and a choice of fruit or granola toppings, with local honey. Or you can choose the traditional baklava or loukoumades, or a baklava shake — a vanilla base topped with shaved baklava and whipped cream.
Dehghani, who lives in Clinton, can draw culinary inspiration from his Mediterranean roots. He was born and raised in the U.S. after his Persian parents emigrated from Iran. He worked at the Sbarro’s pizza chain and CousCous Grill, a Mediterranean-style restaurant, and ran his own Greek restaurant.
“After I had closed my traditional Greek restaurant, I sat down to try to develop a new concept that would be easier for me,” he said. “It seemed like people are leaning towards the fast-casual, build-your-own style.”
He wanted to simplify preparation: “For instance, the amount of time we took to thread chicken on a skewer for souvlaki. Instead, we marinate the chicken, grill it and we’re done.”
Santorini is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. But it was also the name Dehghani’s wife had written in chalk on top of his young son’s play kitchen. Dehghani spotted the toy kitchen when he was considering a name for the restaurant, and Santorini’s was a good fit.
Around March 1, 2020, Dehghani signed a lease for the Bountiful location — formerly home to Paradise Bakery. Two weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down indoor dining in Utah restaurants for several weeks.
“I had two choices — try to scrap the entire deal or hope for the best and continue in the brand we created,” he said. “I felt good about Davis County and our involvement in the community. I felt we had the county behind us.”
As for the Farmington location, “We didn’t let the pandemic slow us down,” Dehghani said. “We did a lot of takeout. We didn’t cut hours. That way, we were able to give people the routine they wanted.”
Dehghani is moving forward, planning to open his third store at The Commons at South Towne in Sandy within the next two months.
He’s facing the same challenges currently plaguing other restaurants — higher food prices and a shortage of supplies and staff.
“We are spending more money than we have to offer sign-on bonuses,” he said. “But we have a positive attitude.”
If you go
Locations: 290 Central Ave., Farmington; 135 N. 500 West, West Bountiful
Contact: (801) 451-5850; https://www.santorinisgreek.com
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
Prices: Entrees, $10-$12; kids meals, $7; desserts, $5-10