The Downtown Napa food and dining hub
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Downtown Napa, as the Gateway to the Napa Valley, has a wide range of casual and fine dining to meet every palate and occasion. There is also a variety of specialty food purveyors, farmers’ markets, bakery/cafes and even take-out that feature what Napa Valley does best, serve up local, fresh and sustainably grown food that is vibrant with flavor.
For serious dining, you don’t need to go up-valley to experience a range of world-class cuisine from French at Michelin star La Toque in the Oxbow District to southern Italian at Oenotri on the West End. On Main Street, one can discover the ultimate vegetable cuisine at Michelin star Ubuntu to steak at Cole’s Chop House. At the Riverfront, diners can relax by the riverside on Restaurant Row with Japanese at Morimoto, American comfort food at Tyler Florence’s Rotisserie and Wine or classic seafood at Fish Story. As one approaches the quiet oasis of the Historic Napa Mill, you begin to hear the tinkle of glasses and laughter of guests dining leisurely on the patio at French-inspired Angele.
Fortunately, even the Michelin star restaurants in Downtown Napa are relatively casual, but for dropping in or having an inexpensive but tasty meal, there are a lot of options. Every town has its “locals” restaurants and Downtown Napa is no exception. Michael Gyetvan who owns Pizza Azzuro on Main Street and the new Norman Rose Tavern in the West End found the perfect formula for running successful restaurants: serving favorites prepared a cut above, relaxed ambiance and above all else, service. Around the corner from Norman Rose is Grace’s Table serving up simple, everyday food that co-owner Nancy Pando says your grandmother would make. It became an immediate hit with the locals when it opened just last year.
If Asian food is what you’re craving, go to Mini Mango for Thai, Bui Bistro for Vietnamese or Neela’s for Indian. For quick falafel or gyros, drop in at Small World Cafe off First Street. For a wider range of Mediterranean food plus wine (including Turkish wine), visit Tarla Grill in the West End.
The hotels have great restaurants too, like Chef Ken Frank’s more casual bistro Bank Cafe at the Westin Verasa. They has been serving weekly French regional dinners since the end of 2009 for $36 per person. The constantly changing menu is on their facebook page under “Upcoming Regional Dinners“. AVIA Kitchen at the AVIA Hotel offers ever-changing farm-to-table cuisine as well as a supper club for foodies that takes place every second Sunday of the month.
At Oxbow Public Market, there are 22 vendors including several distinct cafes for eating in the main hall or on the outdoor patios. While the Oxbow Public Market chefs serve up food in a casual format, there is nothing casual about the food. Michelin Guide awarded C Casa and Pica, Pica it’s “Bib Gourmand” award which denotes inspectors’ favorite spots for meals for under $40. Almost everything is sourced locally and is sustainably grown, raised or caught.
There is authentic Neopolitan pizza at Ca’ Momi, burgers at Gott’s Roadside, inventive, gourmet tacos at C Casa and Venezuelan maize sandwich at Pica Pica. One can also order steak sandwiches or hot dogs from Five Dot Ranch meats or the daily special from Fatted Calf Charcuterie. Next door at Model Bakery, one can pick-up sandwiches and great prepared salads. The biggest venue with 4,000 sq. ft. and with the largest range of international food options is the uber-casual Kitchen Door, run by Todd Humphries of the former Martini House in St. Helena.
At Oxbow Public Market, visitors can have a progressive dining experience from a glass of wine from Oxbow Wine Merchant or Kitchen Door, appetizers from Hog Island Oysters, entrée(s) from one or more of the international vendors and sweets from Kara’s Cupcakes, Anette’s Chocolates, Italian pastries from Ca’ Momi or cheeses from Oxbow Cheese Merchant. End the meal with tea from Tillerman‘s or everyone’s favorite barista Ritual Coffee Roasters. It’s a great place to pick up a little bit of everything and share!
Mobile Dining Without a Car
For a complete change of pace, consider the Napa Valley Wine Train whose depot is located in the Oxbow District. Most of their programs include an elegant lunch or dinner in a formal dining car. If you’re one of the thousands of people, including locals, who find themselves looking right and left at the ever-changing views while driving up-valley, the Napa Valley Wine Train is the only way to drink in the landscape liesurely – and sustainably.
Downtown Napa also has a small but growing food truck “pod” in the Oxbow District on First Street for take-out or eating on outdoor benches.
More Food and Dining Options
In Downtown Napa, the food scene extends to specialty food purveyors, seasonal Farmer’s Markets, great bakeries and cafes and uniquely Napa Valley cooking classes.