Folks, the stories don’t get much more wild than this one, but I’m going to roll with it anyway, since that’s part of what I do: I’ve just heard that the Martini House in St. Helena will be sold to Flemings Steakhouse. I’ve been mulling this one over all morning, thinking about the possibility of this rumor being true, and what it could all mean to the Napa Valley. What I do know is that the Martini House has struggled over the last couple years, due to the economic downturn: Along the way, the St. Helena restaurant has lost its Michelin star (I had speculated that the “family meal” program had been part of that); the Kobe burger, which was once a bar-menu item only, now appears on the regular dinner menu (with fries, not onion rings). In addition to these sorts of things, I had also heard rumblings about the Martini House being sold this summer, but I couldn’t confirm them at the time, or even flesh out any specifics. This sale to Flemings Steakhouse is the first piece of Martini House news with any real details.
As for Martini House chef-owner Todd Humphries, I would guess that he might be preparing to assume a new role somewhere else. Before opening the Martini House with restaurant mogul Pat Kuleto, Humphries had served as the executive chef at CIA Greystone. I can say with much more certainty, however, that Flemings Steakhouse is attempting to stake its claim in St. Helena, although it probably won’t be “Flemings Steakhouse” as you’ve seen elsewhere (St. Helena has imposed a moratorium on chain restaurants, so we may see Flemings adopt another name for its Napa Valley location, similar to the way that the Houston’s in Rutherford had adopted the name “Rutherford Grill” in order to open).
I can’t say for sure, of course, but if everything pans out, I’d assume that these changes would occur sooner rather than later, once the tourism begins to subside in the Napa Valley. Better get that last bowl of the legendary Martini House mushroom soup while you can — I’ve heard from one of my very best sources that the restaurant may possibly shutter by the end of the month. You heard it here first.