Kafe 421 brings quiet and class to Dinkytown

The restaurant draws on clients from the suburbs as well as from the U area.

Kafe 421 brings  quiet and class to Dinkytown

Stephanie Laumer

With candlelit tables and linen napkins, Kafe 421 stands out among DinkytownâÄôs quick-serve eateries and cafés.

But despite the steeper prices, the restaurant has thrived, attracting customers from the suburbs as well as the student community.

âÄúYou canâÄôt beat it,âÄù said Alyssa Davidson, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

âÄúYou can have a conversation here without screaming,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs quiet and classy, but itâÄôs affordably priced.âÄù

Davidson and her friend visit the restaurant every other week to take advantage of the 10 percent student discount and half-priced bottles of wine on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Since its opening eight and a half years ago, Kafe 421 has been a place for students to bring their parents or simply have a fancy night out, said owner Georgia Sander.

DinkytownâÄôs other upscale restaurant, Loring Pasta Bar, has been around for a decade, but the two businesses are not competing for clients, said Aly Maddocks, a Loring manager. She said Kafe 421âÄôs Mediterranean cuisine and quieter atmosphere often draws a different crowd.

Sander, who was born and raised in Greece, was introduced to the restaurant business by her uncle as a teenager. After college, she opened a catering business from which Kafe 421 materialized.

SanderâÄôs daughter, Antigoni Sander McCloud went to college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. When Sander visited, they would routinely go to a local restaurant called âÄúThe Living Room.âÄù Sander said she wanted to provide a similar place for Univeristy of Minnesota students.

To promote the restaurant, Sander McCloud, a co-owner, goes on local cooking shows. Because its presence extends beyond the University community, Kafe 421 gets many regulars from removed suburbs like Woodbury and Edina.

The restaurant doesnâÄôt get a lot of staff turnover. Eighty percent of the staff, many of them University students at the time, were hired when the place opened, Sander McCloud said.

Annie Ciminski was the first interview at the Kafe 421 eight and a half years ago. She was an early childhood education major, and since graduation she has not felt the urge to leave her waitress position. The restaurantâÄôs waitresses pool their tips, and Sander McCloud often steps from behind the counter to help out.

âÄúThe key to running a successful business is being able to lead by example,âÄù she said. âÄúThrough that you gain a significant amount of respect.âÄù

The restaurant also boasts itself to be a cupid of sorts.

âÄúWe have played a role in uniting many college couples,âÄù Sander McCloud said. She has seen many first dates turn into engagements and wedding parties âÄî all taking place at Kafe 421.