Old Pro owner takes over University Cafe, plans revamp | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Palo Alto Online |


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By Elena Kadvany

Old Pro owner takes over University Cafe, plans revamp

Uploaded: Sep 5, 2014

Downtown Palo Alto's University Café will be closing this Sunday, Sept. 7, for brief renovations, the first step in a larger revamp planned by new ownership. Steve Sinchek, owner of popular sports bar Old Pro, took over the café/restaurant from previous owners Lynn and Kenny Kuo this Monday.

Sinchek has big plans for the space at 271 University Ave., but he's starting small with new chairs, tables, paint job and espresso machine that will come in next week. He said the restaurant will close Sunday night and hopefully reopen within a week.

But in January or February, University Café as Palo Altans know it will cease to exist. Sinchek will fully close the restaurant and begin work on Local Union 271, a locally focused breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant with a full bar.

"The whole idea is to unite as many local ranchers and farms and dairies form the area, wine and beer as well, and be as local as possible," Sinchek said Thursday. "It's a play on a union thing."

To run the kitchen, Sinchek is bringing in local chef Michael Ellis, whose resume includes three years at the Old Pro as well as Michelin-starred Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, Penthouse Club & Steakhouse in San Francisco and Hult's Restaurant in Los Gatos.

Sinchek said he and Ellis plan to sit down next week to redo the entire menu. They already started by making it leaner and improving the quality of food (Sinchek said some canned food was being used; now it's all fresh).

With a full bar, he also hopes to "improve the nighttime business."

University Cafe opened as University Coffee Cafe in the mid-1990s.

"It kind of needs some fine tuning and spit shine," Sinchek said. "That's the plan ? keep it University Cafe until the winter; at that point do a major remodel then and change the inside, structure, put in a full bar, redo the kitchen and really, really get it up to speed."

He also wants to keep on all University Cafe staff, so they'll stay until the restaurant closes next year and then work at Old Pro, if they want to, during the remodel.