Los Angeles-based Spitz is a funky concept featuring Mediterranean street food with a California flair. Co-founder Bryce Rademan launched the brand in LA with friend Robert Wicklund after Rademan got hooked on doner kebabs (a popular European street food of shaved roasted meat, usually in a wrap or sandwich) while studying abroad in Spain. Since debuting in 2006, Spitz has launched two additional LA-area restaurants as well as two Salt Lake City locations and one San Diego outpost.
Spitz offers a focused menu of Mediterranean-inspired street fare, with much of the selection devoted to doner kebabs ranging in varieties from Zesty Feta to one stuffed with french fries. Patrons can choose their type of doner meat, including mixed meat, chicken or beef and lamb, which slow-roasts throughout the day on vertical spits (hence the concept name). Other specialties include loaded Street Cart Fries and Doquitos, Mediterrranean-style taquitos made with fried lavash bread. The Doquitos feature feta, onion and aioli and are topped with the same ingredients, plus pepperoncini, green pepper, tomato and olives.
For health-conscious California diners, Spitz offers a lighter version of doner kebabs than the ones found on the street corners in Europe. All of the doners feature housemade sauces along with fresh vegetables such as cucumbers and green peppers, and protein options include falafel and vegetables for non-meat eaters. The menu also lists Doner Salads along with paleo-friendly Garden Bowls, which feature nine fruits and vegetables along with garbanzo beans, hummus and a choice of protein.
Betting on the bar
While ubiquitous in Europe, doner kebabs are relatively unfamiliar in the U.S. One thing Americans are familiar with, though: alcohol. “The bar program at Spitz isn’t an afterthought. It’s a real focus,” Wicklund said. “At some of our stores, alcohol sales are almost 40 percent of what we do.” Patrons can grab a stool at the bar and order from a selection of craft beers, wine and seasonal cocktails. Inspired by its Spanish roots, the concept offers housemade sangria in flavors such as white wine with lavender and pear and rose with mint, apple and lime. Spitz also entices customers with daily happy hour specials and weekend Hangover Brunches that include Champagne and mimosas.
Wicklund and Rademan look to the streets for inspiration not only for Spitz’s menu, but also for its funky look. “The graffiti of Berlin, where doner kebab was popularized, to all of the amazing murals and street art in Los Angeles where we first started Spitz serve as constant inspiration to us,” Wicklund said. Materials such as concrete and raw lumber along with stencils and brightly colored spray paints give each restaurant a high-energy, edgy setting. Restaurants also sometimes turn into mini art galleries, displaying local artwork for sale.
In addition to unique foods, adult beverages and street decor, Spitz tries to attract patrons with laid-back spaces where diners can gather with friends. Restaurants offer a selection of popular games like Cards Against Humanity along with TVs broadcasting sporting events. The San Diego unit and downtown Salt Lake City restaurant, both of which feature large patios, have outdoor entertainment options such as giant Jenga and bean-bag toss. On certain nights, restaurants adopt a lounge-like atmosphere with a live DJ spinning upbeat tunes. “We want our restaurants to be places where our guests can hang out, enjoy the art and music and unwind or grab a quick beer and bite before they go out on the town,” said Wicklund.
Slow and steady
Cautious of compromising the brand by expanding too quickly, Rademan and Wicklund have been carefully choosing partners with whom they’re familiar to introduce the concept to new markets. Friends of Rademan’s are behind Spitz’s two Salt Lake City units, and Wicklund’s brother-in-law will help open the chain’s newest location in Minneapolis this summer. There are no plans to franchise, because “Spitz still feels and acts very much like a family business,” said Wicklund, “and I think that translates into everything from the service we provide to the happiness of our staff.”