In the latest Shop Talk retail column, read about the return of a longtime local favorite cafe, a pizzeria changing locations in Palo Alto, new businesses coming to California Avenue and an Indian restaurant's new casual concept.
MIKE'S CAFE COMING BACK SOON ... After more than a year of being closed temporarily for a renovation and expansion, the 23-year-old Mike's Cafe at 2680 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto is nearing reopening. "We are able to say we're very close," owner Mike Wallau said cautiously this week. He still has to go through final building inspections and hire more staff but is hoping to reopen in several weeks. Wallau took over the adjacent site of the former Peninsula Hardware in 2017 and closed last January for a major revamp. The menu will largely be the same as before, Wallau said, though with a larger kitchen, the restaurant will be making more ingredients in house, including pasta, bread and pizza dough. There will also be a full bar and outdoor seating.
PIZZA CHICAGO RELOCATES ... After nearly three decades of serving deep-dish pizza from its restaurant at 4114 El Camino Real, Palo Alto's Pizza Chicago is relocating. A three-story mixed-use project has been proposed for the site, so owner Juan Lorenz signed a lease at 2305 El Camino Real (near California Avenue), which has sat empty since Pieology Pizzeria closed in 2017. Lorenz hopes to close the current restaurant and open the new one by June. The new space is currently under construction. The menu will largely remain the same, Lorenz said, with a few new items, including thin-crust pizza. He said he hopes to see more business from foot traffic from the nearby California Avenue. Pizza Chicago has been around since the 1990s. The first location opened in Santa Clara in 1991 and then Palo Alto several years later. A San Jose outpost closed last year. Stay tuned on firm closure and opening dates for the Palo Alto pizzeria. — E.K.
NEW RETAILERS SET TO MOVE TO CAL. AVE. ... Renovation work is winding down at two new tenant spaces along the 200 block of California Avenue. The longtime FedEx Office Print & Ship Center at 249 S. California Ave., reopened in a smaller space earlier this year after dividing the building into two storefronts. Work on the new FedEx portion of the building, which began in August 2018, is complete and the new, adjoining 6,704-square-foot space has a lease sign in the window. Another new storefront just a block away at 265 S. California Ave., next to Pilates V, is preparing to open. The 951-square-foot interior of Raw Smoke Shop looks ready for business and a sign has gone up on the exterior. The site has remained vacant since Solid Electric divided the lower-level of the building into two retail storefronts. Pilates V moved in at the end of 2017 shortly after construction work on the building was complete. Raw Smoke Shop had pulled permits in July 2017 to move into the adjoining storefront, but according to city records, the permit wasn't finalized until this past March. There's a head shop located in El Cajon with the same name, but it's unclear if the two businesses are related. — L.T.
AMBER DHARA BECOMES NEW, CASUAL CONCEPT ... Another local restaurant is transitioning from long lunches and white tablecloths to casual service in the face of changing demographics and rising labor costs. Amber Dhara, which opened in downtown Palo Alto in 2011, has been replaced with Gup Shup, still an Indian restaurant but one focused on "superfoods" and a lower price point in an effort to serve younger, health-conscious diners. Owner Vijay Bist, who has long run a string of Indian restaurants in the Bay Area, said the change is being spearheaded by three young chefs: Sri Ram Reddy Punnam, Vivek Desirazu and Hitesh Gauta, who recently joined the team from the Middle East and will lead the Amber Indian San Francisco kitchen. Gup Shup soft opened at 150 University Ave. on April 5 with a new menu that includes ingredients such as jackfruit, farro, barley, kale and chia seeds. Many traditional Indian dishes, however — from tandoori chicken and dosa to pav bhaji and cauliflower bezule — still remain on the menu. Gup Shup is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and happy hour at 4 p.m. Dinner is 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. — E.K.
Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Elena Kadvany and Linda Taaffe. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.