Zinc plays a critical role in a restaurant by architect Howard Backen in Napa Valley’s downtown St. Helena. With a dining room full of zinc surfaces, French Blue creates a striking environment with an inspired menu from Leslie Rudd.
San Francisco, CA - Howard Backen, known as the go-to architect for Napa Valley estates and wineries, embraced the look of zinc for his most recent restaurant project of which he is part owner.
French Blue, which opened at the beginning of June in St. Helena, features a main dining room lined with 9 zinc counters, a two-piece curving main bar, and a selection of zinc tables. In addition to the zinc countertops made by Mio Metals, Backen chose to continue the soft gray look of zinc with metallic paint on the cabinet trim.
Backen has had an illustrious career working with wineries such as Harlan, Ovid, and Dana and he has also designed the Sundance Institute for Robert Redford among other notable projects.
Mio Metals has been crafting zinc countertops in America since 1981, and was personally selected by Backen for this critical role. Joe Cain, president of Mio Metals, states, “Backen, Gillam and Kroeger were great to work with and we were able to come up with some very unique edge details for this project. Surprisingly, there are three different edge details used throughout the restaurant.”
“We are really advancing the art of zinc countertops with every job we do,” Cain states. “We have a number of standard edge details, but when we work closely with a hospitality designer or business owner, we can really come up with a few unique features to set their project apart.”
Zinc is a reactive metal - similar to copper, but with a silver tone - and has gained popularity among luxury hotels and restaurants in the last few years. According to Mr. Cain, Mio Metals has made zinc countertops for interior and exterior applications across the United States as well as a few locations in Canada.
Mio Metals currently only sells their countertops directly through their product-specific website, ZincCountertops.net and is pursuing authorizing select showrooms in select locations.
French Blue, regardless of the design, is attracting a lot of attention. Backen’s partner is Leslie Rudd - known for Dean & Deluca and Press, both of which are mainstays of Napa Valley. Rudd’s menu includes locally sourced cheese, beef and, of course, wine.