Kafe 421, Dinkytown’s longtime Greek food staple, is closing its doors this summer to instead focus on the catering.
The restaurant’s last day of service will be July 31, ending a 16-year-run in Dinkytown at its current location — 421 14th Ave. SE. Owners say Kafe 421 will solely run their catering service out of the location.
“Over the years while the restaurant has grown, so has the catering,” said Antigoni Sander, who runs the restaurant with her mother, Georgia Sander. “As life adjusts itself, we have to look at what we’re doing, and we want to make some changes, too.”
Antigoni Sander became a mother in December, and Georgia Sander, a grandmother. They are hoping to focus on their family and catering business while staying in the neighborhood.
“This will remain our hub,” Antigoni said. The Sanders' plan to stay at the location for an indefinite amount of time to run their catering service.
The location, cozy atmosphere and sense of community drew people into the door, said regular Kafe 421 customers Josh Winter and Chris Cunnington.
Winter has been coming to the restaurant since 2006, in a regular, and superstitious, manner — believing that going to Kafe 421 could pull the Gophers hockey team out of a losing streak.
“It was such a flexible place. You know, you could have the dean of students there, and you could have the theater people,” Winter said. “You could have my sister and I are rolling in, getting ready to have a couple beers, ready to go to a hockey game.”
Cunnington once worked at the Weisman Art Museum, which often catered events with Kafe 421.
“They make you just feel so much like family. They're so wonderful and so warm,” Cunnington said. “I think it's a shame that Dinkytown is losing an authentic place that’s not a chain [restaurant.]”
“We've definitely seen the decline of locally owned small businesses throughout the community … but at the same time, we always have to remember that there have been corporate entities within Dinkytown for decades,” said Chris Lautenschlager, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. “We're sad to see [Kafe 421] go but happy to see that they're entering a new phase in their life.”
For the Sanders', Dinkytown is a place they have called home. They are excited to keep a continued presence in the area, Antigoni said.
“We very much thank the U of M community just for the ability to sustain us here for so long. We got so much energy from the student body [and] so much support from departments,” she said. “So that’s really what’s kept us grounded here ... all the many types of people from different walks of life that we get to meet.”