Popular burger joint is closed until March for remodeling


This is an expanded version of a previous story.

The Alpine Inn, also known as Rossotti's and Zott's, is set to reopen in mid-March, according to a post on the inn's website. The new owners, Deke and Lori Hunter, Jim Kohlberg, and Stephanie and Fred Harmanall, of whom live in the community, add: "We plan to maintain the casual good cheer and historical integrity of the place."

A set of remodeling plans at Town Hall lists The Hunter 1988 Revocable Trust as owner of the property at 3915 Alpine Road – home to the Alpine Inn and to roadhouses of some kind or another since 1868 and, for a decade or so before that, a gambling retreat and meeting place for Hispanic natives of California, according to a bronze plaque outside the restaurant. (The one-story building has long been designated as a historic structure, thereby protecting its exterior from modification.)

The group bought the property in December, the previous owner, Geri Alexander of the Alexander family, said in an email.

Greg St. Claire, president of the San Carlos-based Avenir Restaurant Group, which owns three Peninsula restaurants – Town in San Carlos, Milagros in Redwood City, and Nola in Palo Alto – will be involved to ensure that the transfer in ownership "is a smooth transition," Alexander said.

A post on the inn's website states that the new owners hope to reopen the eatery in mid-March.

"Know that all of the partners live in the neighborhood and hold Zott's as an important part of our community," an excerpt from the post reads. "We plan to maintain the casual good cheer and historical integrity of the place."

Deke Hunter is a developer and president of Hunter Properties, based in Cupertino, according to a bio on the company website. The bio states that Hunter is "active in community affairs, such as the Portola Valley School Foundation and Portola Valley Town Center redevelopment."

Kohlberg is chairman of Kohlberg & Company, a private equity firm. He is also a member of the board of the New York Times company and is a movie director, producer and writer.

Fred Harman is a managing partner at Oak Investment Partners, which has offices in Connecticut and Palo Alto. According to his bio at Oak Investments, Harman was a general partner at Morgan Stanley's Venture Capital Group and is a member of the board of Stanford Health Care.

The inn's remodeling will be overseen by Woodside architect Stevan Patrick, according to plans submitted Feb. 6 at Town Hall. The tasks to be undertaken include repairing dry rot in the bar, the kitchen, the floors and the walls; adding accessibility features, including ramps, handrails and automatic doors; and replacing residential-grade equipment with commercial-grade equipment.

The list of equipment to be replaced includes the deep fat fryer, the range, three refrigerators, the griddle and the beer dispenser.

The historic features of the inn include the saloon doors out front and a beer cooler, the plans say.


In May 2018, when the inn went on the market, Portola Valley resident and vintner Lucy Neely formed a corporation – Portola Valley Community Roadhouse, LLC – with plans to raise enough money from local investors to buy the inn and thereby maintain its community character.

"Our intention," Neely said in a statement at the time, "is to create an inclusive, welcoming restaurant that maintains the beloved character of a 156-year-old drinking establishment. We plan to serve delicious food and drink and offer a comfortable and inspirational space that functions as a vibrant community gathering place."

She met with more than 100 people over a week and emailed a questionnaire asking how much people would be willing to invest. Of the 30 responses she received, 63 percent ticked the box for $10,000 to $50,000, she said.

But one month later, with bidders required to make final offers of at least $3.8 million, the Roadhouse group withdrew. At the time, Neely would not identify anyone from the winning group of investors but, referring to the Hunters, she said, "I know them and like them. We (in the Roadhouse group) just all felt confident that they have a similar vision for the place and that they will do a good job stewarding its future."

Neely said she didn't see the need to elaborate on what she said in June.

Danna Breen, a member of the Roadhouse group, described the Hunters' enthusiasm for the inn as aligned with that of the Roadhouse group. "Deke and Lori get it," she said, adding that the group members were enthusiastic back in June when the Hunters and their co-investors won the bid. "They have impeccable taste," she said.

As to what makes Rossotti's special, Breen didn't hesitate. "Anybody can go there," she said. "There's a CEO sitting next to a painter. I'm sure (the Hunters) feel the same way. I think that's inherent to what it's all about. ... I love that about Rossotti's.


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1 person likes this
Posted by Say what?
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 18, 2019 at 9:47 pm

Deke Hunter has "impeccable taste"? Huh? Have you seen that giant piece of crap (Box HQ) that he built in Downtown Redwood City? If that's impeccable taste then say your prayers for Rossotti's.

Like this comment
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2019 at 8:42 am

"burger joint" unfortunately now a mere hobby for some bored wealthy folks. Well let's hope they can make a go of it.

Like this comment
Posted by Todd Wulfert
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 24, 2019 at 7:45 am

Give it a chance. I remember when ROLM used to have a Bier Garten back in the day. The investors had the good sense to bring in an expert restauranter in Greg St. Claire, a native Woodside guy, foodie and all around good people that given the latitude, can do wonders for the place. Part of the appeal for the "Rich People" is the deep rooted history the Alpine Inn has with Silicon Valley. This place will be great if Greg gets his way. He knows how to setup and operate consistently good food establishments. Best of luck and can't wait to try it this summer!

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