Though quite a long time ago, I can remember my first meal at the original Red Hen. It was one of those family style fried chicken joints which served only chicken which came in one of those plastic red wire baskets. You could get a fried half chicken and fries for about $3.00. Granted it was the early 1970’s but this and the Grape Vine Inn were one of the few restaurants on Highway 29.
Located on Solano Avenue between Napa and Yountville, the former Red Hen restaurant complex has been purchased by vintner Ken Laird of Laird Family Estate. The longtime Napa winery owner said he’s had his eye on the property for years. It’s easy for him to see because 160 acres of Laird vineyards partially wrap around the 3.5-acre parcel. “I have a substantial investment” in the area, Laird said. “I wanted to make sure I had a voice in what would happen.”
The property has an assorted past. After the original Red Hen closed, for many years the parcel at 5091 Solano Ave. was an antiques center. Later, the Red Hen Cantina moved in. The Red Hen Cantina moved to the City of Napa in 2003 and San Francisco restaurateur Hoss Zare opened a restaurant. Zare closed in 2007, leaving behind a lavender building, a reminder of more festive times.
The property was listed for sale in BAREIS, the local MLS, for $6,200,000 which expired in March of 2010. The property is a of only a few commercial zoned sites which have Highway 29 exposure.
The purchase became possible after former owner Kathy Smith lost the parcel to foreclosure in September 2010 and the property was returned to lender Liberty Bank. Smith had bought the property five years earlier. Laird closed on the deal in late October and as of now is not certain of his exact plans for the property. The purchase price was not disclosured.
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