New Dinkytown restaurant blends ethnic cuisines

Greece meets Russia meets Mexico meets Minneapolis, all on 14th Street Southeast in Dinkytown.

Kafe 421 restaurant opened Aug. 1 and offers students the chance to experience food from all three countries.

Georgia Sander – who emigrated from Greece 42 years ago – co-owns the restaurant with friend Dina Tsypin, who came from Russia 25 years ago. Together with Mexican chef Hector Rulz, the group created a restaurant that offers all the food they love.

The mix ranges from spankopita – a Greek spinach pie – and borscht to a more typical Kafe 421 double burger.

So far, Sander said, the trio has been successful.

“It’s incredible that we can all work together, because we are all different,” she said. “Everyone has a great work ethic, and we all bring something to the restaurant.”

But for Sander the restaurant offers more than food: It is a place for people to feel at home.

The idea developed when Sander visited her daughter on another college campus, and she realized most campuses do not offer casual, affordable upscale dining.

So she decided to create “a place to catch up with your parents when they come to visit you at college.” When Sander saw the Dinkytown community, she knew Kafe 421 could become reality.

Patrons enjoy the new business as well. The restaurant – with only a dozen tables and a counter lining the street window – has a constant flow of people trickling in.

“It’s very good, very unique,” said a student and first-time customer reading at the counter.

Sander said that is precisely the atmosphere she wants to create.

“It’s a real casual feel. You don’t have to dress up to come and get nice food,” she said. “There is lots of energy here and lots of young people coming in to eat or to grab a menu.”

“It’s our first time here, but it won’t be our last,” said Janet Martin, an employee at Avalon Campus Cards, who was dining with Avalon owner Karen Hansen at an outdoor table.

Sander said she looks forward to meeting all the new customers. She said one of the most rewarding aspects of her business is meeting the clientele.

“At a restaurant, people need to be recognized. They need to feel at home,” she said. “I talk with them and see what they like, and then I work with the chef to make any changes.”

Sander said more hot sandwiches will soon appear on the menu and by popular demand, the restaurant will also serve sandwiches with a traditional campus staple: homemade french fries.

Sander also said she loves the variety of ethnic groups the restaurant attracts, which was what she hoped would happen.

“I think people see the sign on the window that has all the different kinds of foods we have here and see that there’s something for everyone, no matter what you like,” she said.

Sander said she is proud of her restaurant and hopes the community will think of it as a home.

“This is a destination place for everyone,” she said.