How did the place get to be so purple?

Shop Talk
By: Art Garcia Telegraph Correspondent
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While others may be green with envy, this place is purple with pride. When it opened in 1955, one of the original owners of the bar and grill on Green Valley Road mixed paint used at Folsom State Prison and the Folsom Dam to coat the exterior of the building. The result? The mixture produced the business’ trademark color. Billing itself as “El Dorado Hills’ Original Roadhouse” on its website, The Purple Place will maintain its color, per a requirement in the lease contract signed by current operators Denise and Mike Hountalas.  Mike, 43, and Denise, 42, moved to El Dorado Hills from Danville six years ago. The couple live with their three boys, ages 12, 10 and 7, in the Promontory, a mile from The Purple Place. The couple were high school sweethearts and have been married 25 years.  Mike, with experience in the restaurant business, took a job as director of operations for the Paragary Group, which owns 10 restaurants in the Sacramento region. After two and a half years there, “it was time to own our own restaurant,” said Denise. Mike had started in the business at age 6, cracking eggs at San Francisco’s famed Cliff House, in its 45th year of ownership by his parents. He rose to washing dishes and busing tables before graduating from St. Mary’s College with a degree in business. He followed that with graduation from a culinary school in Lausanne, Switzerland, then returned to the Cliff House as general manager for six years. From there he signed on as director of operations for the Kimpton Group in San Francisco, which runs Harry Denton’s, Kuleto’s, Masa and other prominent restaurants there. With Mike trained in every aspect of the restaurant business from the bottom up, it was time to look for restaurant ownership close to home. The choice: The Purple Place, well known as a biker bar that served good food. “Now it’s a family restaurant and sports bar, as well as a biker bar and a kid-friendly place,” said Denise, who attended UCLA on a swimming scholarship and later worked in catering at the Cliff House. “It was always a fun bar but wasn’t woman-friendly, more of a hard-core biker bar. Now we’re known as a really good restaurant and sports bar.” All are welcome, but the emphasis is on a family menu and service. “Almost everything we make is made in-house,” from potstickers to meat butchered by the restaurant, she said. Produce and breads are delivered from local sources and everything is fresh. Much of the restaurant’s recent growth has come from word of mouth and active involvement in the community, added Denise, former president of Lakewood Elementary School parents’ association for two years. The restaurant was named the 2009 Business of the Year by the El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce. The couple has completely renovated it and the sports bar, where food is served off the main menu, and the exterior was given a fresh coat of purple paint. The grill and its California cuisine are open for weekend brunch from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and its regular hours for breakfast are 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., with lunch served from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., 10 p.m. on weekends. There’s patio dining when weather permits. New menu items are featured weekly. Happy hour at the sports bar, which has six plasma high-definition TVs and two more to come, is 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, when drinks are $1 off and appetizers are half price. There’s live music and dancing in the bar on Fridays and Saturdays and a $5 cover charge Saturdays. * * * SHOP TALK What: The Purple Place Where: 363 Green Valley Road, El Dorado Hills Owners: Mike and Denise Hountalas Info: 933-2313 and 933-2616,