When Martini House restaurant closed in St. Helena in 2010, I was crushed.
With its warm, polished wood interior and bucolic al fresco patio, it was the perfect place year-round to enjoy everything from an outstanding burger to a top-notch prix fixe dinner.
The marketplace, reminiscent but smaller than the one at the San Francisco Ferry Building, is a mix of food, wine and tea vendors, most of them situated in a large, indoor walk-around space.
But Kitchen Door is an actual separate restaurant located at the rear of the complex. It’s a lively fast-casual establishment with an open kitchen sporting a wood-fired oven and rotisserie.
Recently, on my way home from an assignment in the Napa Valley, I stopped in at Kitchen Door for a quick lunch on my own dime. Place your order at the counter, then the food is brought to your table by a server. Choose a seat inside at the bar with its big-screen TV or at one of the many tables in the large dining room with soaring white beams with a collection of lanterns and copper pots hanging from them. On a sunny afternoon, a table on the patio overlooking the Napa River is perfect spot to hang out.
Service is quite attentive, too. Servers are constantly roaming about, ready to refill water and ice tea glasses or to box-up leftovers for you to take home.
The food is all about local, seasonal and comfort. There’s everything from a roast duck banh mi sandwich ($13.75) to a grilled Kobe-style beef burger ($14.50) to Straus soft-serve ($4) with your choice of toppings. Humphries, who often featured my favorite candy cap mushrooms — with their beguiling flavor of maple syrup — in desserts at Martini House, has brought that ingredient over to Kitchen Door in a candy cap mushroom bread pudding ($6.95).
I decided to try one of the restaurant’s most popular offerings: Lahmajune “Armenian Fold and Eat” Flatbread ($15).
The 12-inch-diameter flatbread emerges from the wood-fire oven thin, crisp, and yes, fold-able. Shawarma-like thin, pressed slices of spiced lamb top the flatbread along with crisp romaine leaves, chunks of cucumber, pickled red onion and a drizzle of harissa yogurt. It’s warm and cold, crisp and soft, spicy and cooling — all in one bite.
Kitchen Door is definitely worth the detour off of Highway 29.
One Quick Bite Part I: Wo Hing General Store