Hi. I’m Walking Bob, and I remember a day when my family was enjoying a pepperoni pizza and plates piled high with salad at what was then called Steve’s Place downtown. I saw a man closer to my age than to the age of most of the crowd clearing tables and heard someone call him Steve. I asked him, “Are you the Steve?” He smiled and said he was Steve Wilkinson, and he had opened up his first Steve’s right there at 314 F Street back in 1978. As a former school superintendent, who also served as night custodian when needed, I let him know how much I love having the boss pitching in and doing the work people wouldn’t expect him or her to do.
Fast forward a few months and imagine my dismay when I came by Steve’s one day and found it closed up and changing ownership. I shouldn’t have worried. It turns out that the new owner is Steve’s son, Jeff Wilkinson, a Davis High graduate who wasn’t even born yet when the original restaurant opened. Jeff will run the place, but Steve and his wife, Cathy, will continue to help their son with marketing and bookkeeping at what is now known as “Original Steve’s”. Those cozy booths, the big round table, and the back rooms where people gather for sports or celebrations will stay in place.
Steve started the pizza business back in 1978 after spending several years working in food services at U.C. Davis. The business grew until he was managing eight stores, and after that he franchised more before deciding to settle back to the original store here in Davis. The current restaurant is actually about twice the size it was in 1978 with the back rooms and back patio added to greatly increase the seating capacity.
Jeff spent his college days in Chico learning about resort and lodging management and spent some time interning at a hotel, but all of that has just prepared him to take on the family business. Jeff speaks fondly of the value of growing up in Davis and is partnering with another Davis High graduate, Katie Hamilton Shaffer for a unique re-opening fundraiser on Friday, May 6.
The event will open with a Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting at about 5:00. There will be wine tasting to sample vintner Katie’s own Toolbox Wine Company wines. As the evening progresses there will be a raffle, and opportunities to buy wine and food with a portion of the proceeds going to support the Yolo County Habitat for Humanity. There will also be live music from local band “Vintage.”
If you’ve raised kids, or been a kid, in Davis over the past thirty-three years, you’ve probably celebrated some birthdays or soccer, baseball or football seasons at Steve’s, or you might have just gone there to enjoy the great pizza, sandwiches and breadsticks, the fresh salad and what I think are the best croutons in Davis. A favorite sporting event is probably playing on one of the TV’s, too. With some of the drama settled, we’ll even get to yell “Go, Kings” again, for at least one more season.
The Wilkinsons are still working on some slight revisions in the menu and a new web site, but the restaurant is going strong. You might even see Steve and Jeff out there bussing tables and keeping the place going smoothly on what will be a busy night. Here’s your chance to support two Davis High graduates, one with his restaurant and the other with her winery, to cheer on a local band, and to raise money for a great cause. Sure you can get them to deliver a pizza to you, but why miss all the fun?