A Schenectady couple with decades of experience working at Capital Region diners are bringing a restaurant back to the first floor of the Schenectady County Office Building.
The State Street office complex and the people who work there have been without a restaurant since the first week of February when Bea LaLonde, who ran the cafe for more than a decade, closed operations for personal reasons, County Attorney Chris Gardner said.
John and Soula Tsakopiakos plan to reopen the County Cafe around April 1 and serve a mix of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, including Greek offerings like gyros and spanakopita (spinach pie).
The menu is still in the works, as the county Legislature just voted to award the couple a contract to run the restaurant on Tuesday, effective April 1, Soula Tsakopiakos said.
“Homemade soups, sandwiches, things like Greek specialties, homemade dinner-type specials like homemade meatloaf — things that are hot,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of things on my mind.”
She emphasized that the food will be fresh, clean, high-quality and made with care.
“That’s what we do,” she said. “That’s what we’ve always done.”
Tsakopiakos, 47, has worked in the business for more than 30 years. She started working at her father’s restaurant, Village Diner in Latham — now the Route 7 Diner under new ownership — as a teenager, and did everything from bussing tables to eventually managing the restaurant.
Her husband of 26 years, John, 52, who will be the restaurant’s cook, has over 25 years of restaurant experience. For the last 10 years he has cooked at Blue Ribbon Diner in Schenectady.
John and Soula Tsakopiakos raised three daughters, ages 19, 20 and 25, in Schenectady.
“I pride myself in what I feed my family, and I would never feed people lower quality,” Soula Tsakopiakos said.
The pair will pay $400 per month to rent the restaurant, which includes a kitchen and grilling area, counter space and dining tables, according to a one-year lease with four one-year renewals. The previous operator paid about $390 per month, Gardner said.
“But the rent’s really not that significant an issue with the county, as the most significant thing is providing a relatively low-cost luncheon option for the employees that work here,” he said, adding that jurors often patronize the cafe during trials. “It increases the possibility of there being a mistrial if they’re leaving the building.”
Gardner said county employees are excited to have a restaurant again.
“It’ll make life easier for them, and government more efficient,” he said.
Tsakopiakos said she expects to have plenty of customers who don’t work for the county and also aren’t there for court — employees from MVP Health Care across the street, for example.
She said she and her husband are excited to have their own restaurant downtown.
“Schenectady’s definitely up and coming,” she said.
The restaurant will be open to the public and serve food from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. In July and August, it will close early at 3 p.m.