Shop TalkCAFE SOPHIA CLOSES ... It's the end of the line for Midtown Palo Alto's cozy Afghani restaurant. Cafe Sophia at 2706 Middlefield Road closed on Feb. 12 after a nearly eight-year run. Owner Sophia Omar, who had a significant presence in her restaurant, has had a long history in Palo Alto. She started Sophia's Cafe in Charleston Shopping Center more than a decade ago, serving coffee and pastries in the small space that Peet's Coffee now occupies. Omar, saddened by the closure of her cafe, politely declined to give details or be interviewed for this story. The restaurant is dark and locked, awaiting a new tenant.
HOLY COW! BURGERS BURGEONING IN PALO ALTO ... Big burger news this week with the recent announcement that Umami Burger is coming to Palo Alto, marking the Los Angeles company's 15th location in California since 2009. Scheduled to open in mid-2013, the burger joint will take over the 1,500-square-foot space at 452 University Ave. Umami Burger, which was named Best Burger of the Year in 2010 by GQ Magazine, is known for its unusual offerings such as the truffle burger and the port-and-Stilton burger, along with its variety of sauces. The University Avenue location has seen a variety of restaurants come and go in recent years. Han Fine Korean Cuisine was the most recent occupant. Prior to that, it was Mint Leaf, a Thai restaurant. For several years, the spot was home to the long-standing Italian restaurant Palermo Ristorante. Umami joins two other burger eateries on the avenue: Workshop Burger Bar and Sliderbar Cafe, which recently opened a second location in San Francisco. In other burger news, The Counter Burger at 369 S. California Ave. has started serving bison. Although the burgers cost an additional $3.50, putting the price at $12.45, "customers don't blink an eye at the higher price," owner George Haymaker said. It's all part of the movement toward more healthful alternatives to beef, he said: "Our bison is very lean; it's organic; it's lower in cholesterol and higher in protein." Mountain View is next on the list to get a Counter Burger. It's scheduled to open in late May at 2580 El Camino Real.
TWO NEW ARRIVALS: DIM SUM AND PIZZA ... Two new restaurants opened in Palo Alto this month. Steam, a dim sum restaurant, made its debut on Feb. 6 at 209 University Ave. Occupying the former site of Mediterranean Wraps, the restaurant went through a complete makeover and is now elegantly decorated in a sleek, contemporary style. The small 48-seat space was created by the owners of the Palo Alto Chinese restaurant Tai Pan at 520 Waverley St. Also new this month is Terrone at 448 S. California Ave., taking over the former home of Bistro Elan (which moved down the street and around the corner and became Birch Street in 2011). Terrone opened its doors on Feb. 11. The 2,000-square-foot traditional Italian pizzeria is co-owned by Franco Campilongo, his brother and his cousin. "We've had a great response so far. Lots of our friends are coming here," Campilongo said. The restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner, also has a patio in the back for additional seating.
Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out, or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out.