When most people think about Napa, they think vineyards and wine tours. But there’s another part that’s not to be missed, and that’s Downtown Napa. Here you will find a progressive food scene driven by local ingredients.
The Downtown Napa food community is made up of locals as well as international chefs, owners, and wine specialists. This eclectic group has developed a community of food that is not only engaged with each other, but challenges each other. This is what sets Downtown Napa above the norm for great food.
If you find yourself in the area, here are some favorite restaurants not to be missed.
Angèle Restaurant & Bar
This lovely restaurant is located by the Napa River Inn along the River Walk. The space is designed like a French bistro and fits in perfectly to the setting, where you can sit inside or out. It is a true local hangout, so you know it has to be good! The owners are stars themselves; one built Auberge du Soleil and the other managed The French Laundry, both first class restaurants in the area (The French Laundry was named our No. 7 restaurant in America for 2015).
Beyond the space and people, the food is wonderful. There were so many items I wanted to try, but I ended up asking the waiter to make my decisions and he happily obliged — with great success! From my coho salmon crudo to my fruit tart with house-made ice cream, each bite was savored with delight. My waiter also paired each course with a local wine.
Hands down, the whole smoked chicken at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ was the best chicken I have eaten; it was unbelievably moist and delicious. You can pick your sides and I highly recommend the coleslaw, kale chips, and half-sour pickles. If you can't decide what to share, the Bounty Hunter’s Smokin' BBQ platter makes the decision easy. Just don’t leave without tasting the beans and bacon and, of course, dessert.
Dinner at Ca’ Momi is like stepping into a restaurant in Italy, and the pizza oven on the first floor is definitely the highlight. It’s a truly beautiful pizza Napoletana oven; one of only a few in the country where pizza is cooked the classic way, at 900 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 seconds.
Each dish on the menu stays true to the owners’ Italian heritage, while using local, fresh, organic ingredients. I was particularly thrilled to find one of my favorite — but very hard to find — dishes on the menu: cuttlefish.
While Carpe Diem is a busy restaurant, it always feels cozy, as the dining rooms are divided up into a beautiful space. The menu is sophisticated and changes seasonally. We enjoyed shared plates ranging from truffle fries and charcuterie to brick oven flatbreads.
The highlight of the menu was the “sweet finish.” Two additional favorites were the Carpe Diem Twix bar, which included all you would expect plus salted caramel ice cream, and the peanut butter crème brûlée, an indulgent take on the classic dessert.
Oxbow Public Market
Okay, it may not officially be a restaurant, but the Oxbow Public Market is a collection of many of Napa's best. (We also named in the No. 48 best food hall in America for 2016.) Open from breakfast to dinner, there is something for everyone to eat. There are so many great spots in the market that I can’t wait to get back to try them all, like Hog Island Oyster Bar and Ca' Momi's other restaurant, Enoteca. Some friends had their pastry box and it looked amazing.
Of what I did try, I would say that C Casa is a must-stop. The breakfast plates and tacos are a great way to start the day. Since my time in Oxbow was not long enough, I bought a few items to take home, including a bag full of Cate & Co. goodies, including caramels, salami, and cookies!
I also suggest purchasing the Taste Card to enjoy while in Downtown Napa. It allows you to experience wine tastings from some of the areas finest wineries, without leaving downtown. You can read more about it and more things to do in Napa at Traveling Mom.
Although these are five favorites, there are many, many more to choose from! That’s what makes Downtown Napa such a great dining spot.