Anyone visiting San Francisco who likes their wine should make a trip to the Napa Valley, but it’s not just the Zinfandels and the posh winery restaurants that will get your taste buds moving, the region also boasts some of the best casual dining spots in the whole of the United States.
If you are looking for fine dining in the Napa Valley then you have to plan your trip two or three months in advance just to stand a chance of getting a booking at some of the most illustrious and famous restaurant in the region, like the multi star, award winning French Laundry.
But if your budget is a bit more restrained and you are visiting wine country on more of a whim than a pre-planned assault then here is our list of Napa’s affordable, but delicious spots to eat if you find yourself hungry in between wine visits.
Oxbow Public Market
The Oxbow Public Market is pretty much what it describes. A large indoor market with several stalls and outlets that all offer amazing places to eat and drink. Seating is available both inside and outdoor and have the added attraction of overlooking the Napa River. These were some of our favourites inside the market. Hog Island Oysters: This is a great place to go for some of the best fresh oysters to come out of Tamlas Bay. If you are seafood lover look no further. The wine and beer selection include many local California producers and all pair deliciously with the food.
C Casa: When in California you can’t miss out on hitting a proper Mexican food joint and this place will blow your mind. The menu does change seasonally but the seasoning used on the meats and fish as well as the homemade corn tortillas never disappoints.
Gotts: If you love a burger this place is for you.The American style-diner does upscale burgers right and is popular with locals and tourists alike. This is one of three locations around the bay area and although a bit on the pricey side it’s worth it.
This Portuguese tapas place in the Old Town of downtown Napa is always packed, which is no surprise. The dishes reflect some of the best cuisine that Portugal has to offer. Try starters like ceviche and the artichoke and portobello salad. The beet root salad is also fantastic. Mains including Paella, grilled cutups and the lamb T-bone is also worth giving a go.
The restaurant uses local and organic producers from across Northern California and they shine through in the freshness and quality of the dishes. If you re looking for a cozy and warm retreat with equally comforting dishes that are great for sharing definitely drop in here. You won’t be disappointed.
If you are craving Japanese food and sushi then is the go to place in Napa. It is also celebrity Iron Chef winner, Masaharu Morimoto, flagship restaurant and you can expect quite a culinary journey. The tasting menu will set you back $120 per person, but is worth it as it gives you a really good impression of the overall menu and is an excellent way to try a number of different dishes if you aren’t sure what to order.
There are hot and cold starters along with mains like wagyu or ribeye steaks or whole crispy fish.
There is an extensive sushi and sashimi menu that offer only the very best selections of fish.
It is expensive, but still exceptional value for the quality of the food that you get and is an experience all in itself.
If you are going beyond the city of Napa and find yourself in one of the smaller town’s heading up the valley here are some great place to stop while you explore wine country.
This popular spot is right off of Highway 29 on the way from Napa into St Helena, the heart of the Napa Valley. It is always busy and it easy to see why. The casual dining atmosphere, great food, nice service and enormous wine and cocktail list is a draw for both locals and tourists.
This is classic American BBQ comfort food done well. The French dip sandwich is a staple on the menu and a big favourite. The cornbread is no longer on the menu but sometimes the kitchen will still do it if you ask and is unbelievably delicious.
The wine list is extensive and has the best of Napa on it, but they also have a no corkage fee policy so many visitors and winemakers come with their own wine. An ideal place to enjoy that bottle you might have bought at a winery along the way.
The food is not overly complex, but just great food done well.
Tip: While there is often a wait sometimes you can get lucky by sitting at the bar.
Goose and Gander
Goose and Gander is country pub done wine country style in St Helena. The venue looks like a country cottage with a beautifull wood interior and great outdoor garden space. It used be the site of the Martini House, one of the Napa Valley institutions, for decades.
The food focus here is on rustic American dishes and small bar plates that can be shared. They are famous for their burger which can be topped off with bone marrow or foie gras. It is not cheap, but it again uses quality season ingredients in both its food and rink menu that showcase the best of what Napa has to offer. The wine list and bar menu are extensive and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable. The place is great for an afternoon drink and a snack or you could lose yourself on the patio with a long dinner alfresco on a warm night in the heart of Napa.
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
Famed restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn, who is behind some of the Bay Area’s most successful eateries, also backs this restaurant.
The spot is great for lunch or dinner and like many of Pawlcyn’s places, the focus is on quality ingredients. This is not a modern cuisine place, just great quality seasonal food that is simple, but executed fantastically well.
There is a bar area with a beautiful zinc copper top and comfortable seating as well as plenty of tables outdoors. The wine also showcases the best of what Napa does well and the cocktails are twists on some the great classics. You have to try a Bloody Mary or a Margarita.
If you are looking for great quality food from a food lover, then get yourself to Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.