Restaurant owners Kristen and Mitch Kauffman closed their popular Urbano Paninoteca in December because the rent on their McKinney Avenue space kept going up, and their dinner business was lagging. But the couple, who opened the first Urbano in 2002, found a new space in Old East Dallas. Maybe "new" isn’t the right word exactly. They are renovating a 90-year-old space on Bryan Street near Fitzhugh Avenue. The Kauffmans are not rushing it. They had hoped to open this month, but now are shooting for early May.

"Anyone who has worked on an old building like that knows that you just don’t know what’s going to come up," Kristen said. "And you have to find the right person to do the work."

They removed layer after avocado-green layer of linoleum, and they plan to stain the concrete floors. They discovered and restored the building’s original tin cieling tiles after removing a low cieling that previous tenants had installed, and they uncovered transom windows that had been boarded up. The old Urbano had seating for about 65 inside and 65 on the patio. The reinvented Urbano Cafe will seat about 32 inside and have a few sidewalk tables.

"It is smaller than our old place, but we’re OK with that," Kristen said.  "We love that it’s a real neighborhood place."

Read about Urbano Cafe’s menu after the jump.


The old Urbano had 20 types of panini on the menu. The new Urbano Cafe menu will have fewer, but the menu will still contain favorites such as parmesan chicken with penne pomodoro, tomato basil soup and parmesan-crusted chicken salad. There’s no wine list — the restaurant will be BYOB when it opens.

"People who know and love Urbano will find most of their favorites on the lunch menu," Kristen said.

The Kauffmans have hired a chef, but aren’t ready to say who he is. The restaurant uses in-season, local produce whenever possible and makes everything from scratch. The new location is sandwiched between two foodie institutions — Tom Spicer’s Dallas Produce, which sells specialty groceries to chefs and the public, and Jimmy’s Food Store, an Italian grocery that serves a mean panino itself. One item that the Kauffman’s are removing from their menu is a panino that was made with Jimmy’s sausage.

"We’ve been Jimmy’s customers for a long time. We love Jimmy’s like everyone else does," Kristin said. "We don’t see them as competition, and we hope everyone will be stopping over at Jimmy’s to buy their wine before they come have dinner with us."

Spicer has put in a garden in the lot behind his business, and the two companies might collaborate on a special harvest dinner once the garden takes off. The Kauffmans also are keeping their eyes on another restaurant space down the block. Once Urbano Cafe gets heated up, they might "do a pizza thing," there, Mitch said.

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