Humphreys keeps it fresh, local to stage SD music experience
by Patricia Walsh
Dec 13, 2012 | 6920 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Humphreys Restaurant on Shelter Island has been transformed into a winter wonderland for the holidays. Humphreys recently added zebra-wood table tops in the restaurant and renovated the Backstage Live music and bar venue to enhance its contemporary waterfront setting.
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Revelers ringing in the new year at Humphreys Backstage Live will have extra room to move in 2013 with an expanded dance floor. The bigger floor, an upgraded sound system and VIP seating are all part of a renovation Humphreys is undergoing to reflect the global modern cuisine created by chef Paul Murphy.

In Backstage Live, where local bands and musicians take the stage nightly, a new motif of browns and blacks culminates in a wall of sleek floor-to-ceiling granite behind the bar. Wood elements and accent lighting add emphasis to the contemporary décor. A VIP seating area has been added to give special attention to patrons willing to pay for a more personalized experience.

Complementing the remodel at Backstage Live is the bar menu, a wide-ranging selection that appeals to the diverse crowd Humphreys draws. The baked Dungeness crab portobello with a hint of fennel satisfies the more adventurous palate, while tried-and-true dishes like sliders and fries appeal to the comfort-food set. Creative cocktails abound and traditional libations like the old fashioned are served up with a twist to appeal to a younger crowd.

“We believe in changing and are always looking at new ideas and trends,” said Humphreys general manager Sergio Davies.

In the main restaurant, food and beverage director Michael Blake has replaced white table cloths with zebra wood for a more modern touch. The tan hardwood with dark streaks creates a stirring contrast to the restaurant’s waterfront setting.

“We used to be the go-to special-occasion restaurant,” Blake said. “Now, with chef Paul’s influence and cutting-edge food we appeal to a younger generation.”

To reflect Murphy’s seasonal selections, the restaurant has been transformed into a waterfront winter wonderland of silvers and whites with red accents. A special prix fixe menu is being offered and includes a box of Murphy’s own organic Equadorian truffles to take home.

Purchased by hotelier Richard Bartell in 1984, Humphreys is the flagship of seven locally-owned properties.

“We have endurance because of our ownership,” Davies said. “We have an owner who believes in what we do and investing in it.”

For all of its effort, Humphreys has become a name synonymous with the San Diego experience. Backstage Live has nurtured the success of countless area artists from Rockola to Fattburger, Eve Selis to Jose Serrano to Reggie Smith and Ruby and the Red Hots. Outside on the lawn, Humphreys Concerts by the Bay stages star power like B.B. King, Seal, Counting Crows, Diana Ross, Ray Charles and Bonnie Raitt. The now-famous concert series, which started in 1982 with just four performances a year, had its longest running season ever last summer with shows from mid-April to Nov. 1.

“There’s nothing like us,” Davies said. “There’s not a bad seat in the house for our concerts and many people don’t know they’re sitting next to hotel rooms.”

While the property is ever-changing to keep its cutting edge, it has retained its original name, which is taken from the actor who played ex-patriot Rick Blaine in the Oscar-winning classic Casablanca. In the 1980s, Backstage Live was a piano bar serving cognac and cigars to echo the era of Rick’s Café.

“It’s definitely changed,” Davies said. “We’ve invested, evolved and believed.”

For more information about Humphreys Restaurant and Backstage Live, visit www.humphreysbythebay.com.

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