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New Café Named After Campus Cat

By Jocelyn Anderson on January 22, 2019 in University

He's an unlikely namesake for a café in the Yocha Dehe Grand Lobby of the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

 Drawing of espresso drink with paw design in broth

Café  Walter, which opened last week, is named for a feral cat that was beloved by many on campus including those at the Mondavi Center. Walter, also known as Magic Walter on his very own Instagram page (formerly operated by a staff member at the Mondavi Center), first showed up on campus about three years ago.

Described as a free spirit, he lived in the arboretum and became a well-known theater cat, visiting staff members in their offices where he would get snacks. Mondavi employees even pooled resources to take him to the vet for checkups.

Walter died in September after a concerned groundskeeper found him ailing in the arboretum and took him to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

“Having Café Walter has a lot of meaning for all of us, and I think a lot of people will recognize his picture from seeing him in the arboretum,” said Herb Garman, director of operations for the Mondavi Center, who added that Walter would visit his office and ask to go back outside. “I’d follow him to the front door and open it, and he’d go out. He was pretty bright.”

Barista makes espresso drink.
Wendy Johnson makes a coffee drink at the new Café Walter. (Mike Tentis/UC Davis)

The new café offers espresso and other coffee drinks, as well as baked goods. Blended drinks will come next, and later this month hot and cold food options will be available.

Food and drinks are offered through a partnership with Sacramento-based Capitol Garage, which also manages the concessions at nighttime shows. The café will have a limited coffee menu during shows, in addition to the usual snacks and full bar already on offer.

“It started a number of years ago when we wanted to open our lobby and make it more accessible — to build community,” Garman said. “It seemed like the natural extension was a coffee shop. We want to provide the Gateway neighborhood a place to sit down and have a cup of coffee.”

In addition to its performance calendar, Jackson Hall, with a capacity for about 1,800 people, is home to classes five days per week during the quarter. As a result, the Mondavi Center has steady foot traffic of 600 to 700 people at times.

Café Walter is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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