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Iconic Pleasanton diner to close after 32 years

Beloved Pleasanton cafe set to close after 32 years
Beloved Pleasanton cafe set to close after 32 years 03:30

PLEASANTOn - This week marks the end of an era in Pleasanton as the popular breakfast spot, the Stable Cafe, is closing its doors for good. The restaurant itself is in the barn area of the racetrack at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, and after serving track workers and fans for years, the owner is planning to retire.

If horse racing is the sport of kings, then the Stable Cafe is where they come to feast.

Esther Hill has owned the restaurant for the past 32 years. No one really knows how old the restaurant is, but they can agree it was built sometime in the 70's and passed to Esther in 1991. It's basically been a one-woman show ever since.

"A lot of times if she's busy and you want more coffee, you'd better get up and get it," says Allen Rogers. He started working at the Pleasanton track in the 1960s and says Esther quickly became part of the racetrack family.

The cafe itself is right next to the barns that used to be home to hundreds of race horses and an entire community of grooms, trainers, and jockeys.

She's hosted some of the greats like hall of fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and the winningest jockey in racing history, Bay Area native Russell Baze.

"He usually only came in for coffee," says Esther.

While their pictures grace the walls, that was never really Esther's focus. It's always been about the people.

"It's like Cheers, but it's for breakfast. It's not fancy but it's home. She just welcomes you here," says Deb Cilk. She and her husband, Bob, started coming to the Stable Café 30 years ago.

"Esther, you see all her signs up there and she tries to play like she's mean, but she's really not. Her heart. Her heart. She's sweet. She's a good lady," says Roy Francies, another regular, who was sitting next to Gwen Spicka, who also comes in weekly.

"She treated everybody like family. It's just always a warm feeling. You come here and your heart was full," says long-time customer Cheryl McCarthy.

"Esther likes to say that she picks on me all the time. I don't know why I keep coming back. She says I'm her oldest customer. I said, "No, no, no! I'm the longest but not the oldest," says Rogers as he laughs.

But no matter how great the race, eventually, it always comes to an end.

"I had to weigh, do I miss my kids more or will I miss this family more? And I had to go back and forth, but the kids won and my grandkids won," says Esther as she tried to fight back the tears, that seem to be coming more regularly these days.

Esther is hanging up her apron and moving to Utah to be closer to her family, the same ones who've come to help during her last week in business.

"Very hard decision. Still haven't locked the door yet," says Esther.

For many, the cafe is a place time forgot - much like the Bay Area horse racing track - once vibrant gathering places, now, mostly memories.

"If these walls could talk, I don't know if we could put that on TV," Esther says laughing.

If racing really is, as they say, the sport of kings, just ask her customers and they'll tell you - Esther is the queen of their hearts.

"This is going to be so hard. We are so sad to see her go," says Deb.

Ester has fed their hunger and passion for racing at her table for years.

The Stable Cafe will be open during normal hours 6am-11am Thursday, September 7th and Friday, September 8th. Esther says, so far, no one has offered to buy the restaurant, so it will just close for good after lunch on Friday, the 8th.

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