Since she closed her Lost Barrio cafe six years ago, fans of Tooley’s Cafe’s turkey tacos and plate-sized cookies, soft and chewy from the oven, sometimes asked owner Patricia Schwabe when she was going to bring him back.
Last fall, Schwabe, who also owns the popular downtown Penca Mexican restaurant at 50 E. Broadway, decided it was time to resurrect Tooley’s Cafe and its popular turkey-centric menu.
The restaurant at 299 S. Park Ave. will reopen on Friday, June 3, with the original breakfast and lunch menu that dates back to 1989, when Schwabe’s then-boyfriend Ron opened the restaurant.
The restaurant was meant to be a hobby for Ron Schwabe, whose main business was his development company Peach Properties. When he told Patricia he was considering closing the restaurant, she said it would be a loss for the community.
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“You can’t close. People love it,” she recalled telling him.
“Well, you can have it,” he told her.
She admitted that she knew nothing about restaurants at the time.
“I had never, ever, ever worked in restaurants. I was never a waitress or hostess or anything,” she said. “But I grew up in a house where we cooked a lot. I have never been afraid of cooking.
For the next 19 years, Patricia Schwabe ran the restaurant. In 2013, she opened the Mexican restaurant Penca, inspired by central Mexico, and ran both businesses alongside her role as a rental agent at Peach Properties. Penca was a year-round operation, but each summer it closed Tooley’s from July to September, reopening in time for the return of winter visitors and students.
But in September 2016, Schwabe lost her sister and when it came time to reopen Tooley’s, she put it on hold. She said she didn’t have the energy or motivation, especially with street construction on South Park and East Broadway cutting off many Lost Barrio businesses. Instead, she focused on Penca and her other downtown business, The Owl’s Club at 236 S. Scott Ave.
Last fall, Schwabe decided enough time had passed. It took him six months to clean the restaurant, which has a dozen seats inside and another thirty on the terrace. Last month, she got the necessary county and city permits to reopen and began hiring and training staff, and last week she spent several mornings at the restaurant testing out the menu coming from the kitchen.
“Tooley’s was the original. It was our first entry into this business, the place where we started cooking and developing a lot of these recipes,” she said. “People loved the corncakes and the pozolé and the turkey tacos.”
Tooley’s Cafe will be open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday starting June 3.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch