Goldy's Bistro and The Stagecoach Inn are legendary Boise restaurants, but they have little in common. While Goldy's customers anxiously wait outside on the street, Stagecoach regulars can retire to the spacious bar or lobby while waiting for a table. The menus come from opposite ends of the gastronomic spectrum: The Stagecoach serves hundreds of giant prawns and hundreds of pounds of prime rib on certain nights; Goldy's breakfast-only menu serves up, quite possibly, the best eggs Benedict in town.
However, the common ingredient in each restaurant's recipe for success is Wanda Martinat, co-owner/manager of both. The longtime Stagecoach employee purchased Goldy's in 2004 and earlier this year reopened The Stagecoach Inn—which closed in January 2014 after 55 years in buisness—along with Fred and Francie Oliver.
Martinat is rarely not in continuous motion, so Boise Weekly took advantage of a rare opportunity to sit down and talk with her about her passion for the two restaurants.
Tell me about your family's roots.
My mother's and father's families had been sent to the Minidoka internment camp in southern Idaho [where thousands of Japanese Americans were locked up during World War II]. My mother was 13 when her family lost everything and was sent to Minidoka. And my father's family was sent there, in spite of the fact that my dad fought in the war for the U.S. Army. After the war, a family in Parma took my father in and gave him farm work. He met my mother one night at a Caldwell dancehall where Japanese would go to be together. My parents married and had seven kids. I'm the middle child.
What was the dream for you as a young girl?
I was very shy in school. We were farm kids. I don't think I had a dream. One day when I was 14, my friend said she needed a job and applied at a Caldwell drive-in. But they hired me instead of her. Honestly, I was afraid to tell my dad at the time, because we worked the farm.
Did he say yes to the job at the drive-in?
No. But he didn't say no either. Many, many years later, he told me that going to work at the drive-in was the best thing, because all of my sisters got jobs there, too, and he always knew where we were.
Have you been around food service ever since?
Over 40 years.
Sitting here in The Stagecoach makes me think that a lot of business deals were struck here over the decades.
I worked in the bar for many years. And we would see all of these business phone numbers that had been written on the back of the old Stagecoach drink coasters. And there were countless napkins with deals sketched out and even signatures on them. The Albertsons were always here striking deals. A lot of companies—Ore-Ida, Idaho Power, you name it—they all made big business deals here.
How did Goldy's ever come onto your radar?
In 2004, I was looking to buy a little bakery. My son, Michael, said, "You should look at Goldy's. Just go talk to them." I thought the food was really good, but I was certain that they had other offers to buy the place that were better than my offer. The former owners decided to go with someone that would take care of Goldy's and thought I was the right fit.
What a game-changer for you.
It exceeded my expectations. We kept the crew and staff, but it was a bit overwhelming at first. It's an absolute joy. I start my day at Goldy's, then I head over to The Stagecoach in the afternoons, and sometimes I'm here until well into the nighttime. Our whole family is over at Goldy's. My son, Michael, now owns and operates Goldy's Corner on Main Street. We took that over in June 2011. We got a beer and wine license, stayed open in the evening hours and things are going very well there.
During that same time, your old stomping ground, The Stagecoach, was slowly heading toward closure and ultimately went dark in early 2014.
But two of our longtime customers, Fred and Francie Oliver, wanted to give The Stagecoach new life and they called me to reopen the place.
When you took over The Stagecoach, this time, in many ways, you were starting from scratch.
That's right. We had to re-hire a new team. We have about 40 employees here.
Tell me what you look for when you hire a chef.
Someone I can talk to. It's tough in a kitchen, and you don't want defensiveness. I'm not necessarily looking for someone right out of chef school; I'm looking for someone that loves food. We're always experimenting in the kitchen.
Stagecoach customers obviously love the legacy items on the menu.
We'll sell 300-500 giant prawns a day. That's crazy. We devein and hand-bread each one. Prime rib is huge. Salmon sells [Marinat snaps her finger] just like that.
I can't get over the fact that it's not even noon on a Wednesday, and this place is full.
We have all of our regular Stagecoach customers who have returned. Then the crowd gets a bit younger into the evening. We stay open until 11 [p.m.] and we'll get a lot of young adults who stop here before heading downtown.
The menu is familiar, but there's definitely a different vibe here than the old Stagecoach.
We included a lot of lighter-colored woods with the build-out. Plus, we extended the booths for a bit more privacy—and we brought in new lighting and carpeting too.
What time does your day start?
What days do you take off?
I don't. I'm committed to it. I knew from the day that I took over that I would love it every minute of every day.