Palo Alto Weekly
Eating Out - August 23, 2013
MING'S TO DOWNSIZE, ADD HOTEL ... Ming's Chinese Cuisine and Bar, Palo Alto's largest and oldest Chinese restaurant, is about to undergo a huge transition. The entire 10,000-square-foot building at 1700 Embarcadero Road will be demolished and replaced with an upscale hotel and smaller restaurant. "We will close Ming's next year, probably in April, right after the Chinese New Year," owner Vicky Ching said. Then the demolition will begin to make way for a new hotel. "We chose extended-stay over a traditional hotel because we're so close to the freeway and we don't have a downtown address, so we were advised that extended-stay would be the best choice for this location. ... We're hoping this type of hotel will appeal to a variety of people, including temporary Stanford faculty and Stanford hospital patients and family," she said. Ching also noted an influx of Asian tourists in this area and said she thinks an extended-stay hotel would be a good option for them. Part of the InterContinental Hotel Group, Staybridge Suites has about 200 hotels and is known for its apartment-style rooms with workstations and furnished kitchens. Building the four-story, 177-room hotel, which will have underground parking, is expected to take 18 months to two years, according to Ching, who is keeping a close eye on sustainability during the construction. "We're looking to repurpose materials as much as possible," she said. "For example, we want to reuse the tiles from the original roof." Along with the hotel, a new Ming's will also be developed (the original Ming's opened in 1956). Preliminary plans call for the restaurant to be about one-third the size of the current one. Although it will be attached to the hotel, it will be independent. "We will have seating for about 150 diners, compared to now, where we have seating for 500," Ching said, adding that the menu will be much smaller and have fusion items. "But we'll still hang on to the old Ming's favorites, like Chinese chicken salad and dim sum dishes." Ching's decision for the major transformation is a direct result of the changing workplace. "Lunch used to be our biggest business, but things are different now. Our restaurant has suffered because so many companies now provide free food to their employees. Look around us. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and so many others all offer lunch in their own facilities. So we needed to adjust for that."
CANTOR MUSEUM STORE TO CLOSE ... The artsy, eclectic museum store in the Cantor Arts Center, located on the campus of Stanford University, closes on Aug. 30 after 23 years in business. The small shop on the museum's first floor, which is affiliated with the Stanford Bookstore, was a popular venue for shoppers looking for an unusual selection of jewelry, glassware, art books, toys and Rodin-inspired gifts. The store sharply discounted most items this month to prepare for the closure. "We hardly have anything left. Everything's been picked through pretty good. But we're still open until the end of the month," said one of the shop's employees.
SOPHIA RESURFACES ... The owner of the former Cafe Sophia, an Afgani restaurant in Palo Alto's Midtown area, is back. Kind of. Sophia Omar, who owned the small restaurant for more than 10 years, has started her own catering business. All proceeds benefit Rebuilding Alliance, a San Mateo nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities. Omar, who was recently named chief operating officer of the group, said: "It gives me the chance to combine my two passions: cooking and people. With catering, I can do something positive," she said. Omar sees herself as somewhat of a diplomat. "Through food I have the ability to connect to people," she said.
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.