Breakfast tacos at C Casa. Kim Westerman
Breakfast tacos at C Casa. (Kim Westerman)

More Than a Wine Destination: A Guide to Oxbow Public Market and Weekend Eating in Downtown Napa

More Than a Wine Destination: A Guide to Oxbow Public Market and Weekend Eating in Downtown Napa

Most visitors to Napa have the county in mind, not the town. They’re headed to the valley’s famed vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms, knowing they’ll have some good food along the way. But the wines themselves, most notably big Cabernet Sauvignons, aren’t the only attraction. The city of Napa’s small downtown area is a culinary paradise, from the collection of purveyors at Oxbow Public Market, a veritable foodie epicenter, to several destination restaurants within walking distance from there, including a Michelin-starred gem.

If you’re just driving up for the day, be sure to arrive in time for breakfast, and park near Oxbow. (Street parking is usually remarkably hassle-free, unless there’s a special event going on.) While there are multiple breakfast options, the three best are C Casa for Mexican breakfast tacos (and an entirely gluten-free menu), The Model Bakery for decadent pastries and Blue Bottle coffee, and Five Dot Ranch for homemade biscuits and beef sausage made from the ranch’s own pastured cows. And don’t forget the Ritual coffee. The stand at Oxbow offers Ritual’s full line of pour-over coffees and espresso drinks.

The busy breakfast service at The Model Bakery.
The busy breakfast service at The Model Bakery. (Kim Westerman)
Homemade biscuit with pastured beef sausage.
Homemade biscuit with pastured beef sausage. (Kim Westerman)
A latte and a Kenya pour-over at Ritual Coffee.
A latte and a Kenya pour-over at Ritual Coffee. (Kim Westerman)

The great thing about Oxbow is that a family or group can choose multiple dining options simultaneously at any meal, as seating is all central to the market, rather than being associated with each restaurant (with the exception of The Kitchen Door, a separate sit-down restaurant featuring chef Todd Humphries’ locally inspired cooking, and Hog Island Oyster Co., whose raw-bar seating extends on to the back patio.)

The Kitchen Door, a separate sit-down restaurant featuring chef Todd Humphries’ locally inspired cooking.
The Kitchen Door, a separate sit-down restaurant featuring chef Todd Humphries’ locally inspired cooking. (Kim Westerman)
The oyster bar at Hog Island Oyster Co.
The oyster bar at Hog Island Oyster Co. (Kim Westerman)

Lunch is another opportunity to experience’s the market’s bounty. The aforementioned Hog Island Oyster Co. is a seafood-lover’s dream come true, with platters of mostly West-Coast bi-valves and a few from the east, along with clams, fresh halibut, seafood stew and a well-priced wine list.

Two dozen oysters at Hog Island.
Two dozen oysters at Hog Island. (Kim Westerman)
Clams with sausage and lemongrass at Hog Island.
Clams with sausage and lemongrass at Hog Island. (Kim Westerman)

Alternatively, gather some picnic food and lounge on the banks of the Napa River and watch the little fishing boats float by. The Fatted Calf has all manner of charcuterie, as well as a selection of pastas, heirloom beans, vinegars and other kitchen staples to take home with you. Salumi from The Fatted Calf, a baguette from The Model Bakery and fruit from Hudson Greens and Goods (or fresh-pressed juice or avocado toast) make for a complete outdoor meal. Except for dessert, of course, which can be readily fulfilled by cupcakes from Kara’s Cupcakes or ice cream at Three Twins.

Fishing on the Napa River.
Fishing on the Napa River. (Kim Westerman)
Charcuterie at The Fatted Calf.
Charcuterie at The Fatted Calf. (Kim Westerman)
The Fatted Calf’s extensive menu.
The Fatted Calf’s extensive menu. (Kim Westerman)
Fruit at Hudson Greens and Goods.
Fruit at Hudson Greens and Goods. (Kim Westerman)
Enjoying fresh-pressed juice from Hudson.
Enjoying fresh-pressed juice from Hudson. (Kim Westerman)
Avocado toast at Hudson.
Avocado toast at Hudson. (Kim Westerman)
Cupcakes from Kara’s
Cupcakes from Kara’s (Kim Westerman)
Lining up at Three Twins Ice Cream.
Lining up at Three Twins Ice Cream. (Kim Westerman)

Another option altogether is to leave the culinary wonderland of Oxbow and walk into downtown Napa for pizza or pasta at Ca’ Momi Osteria, the restaurant version of the wood-burning pizza place at Oxbow (which has a smaller enoteca menu). At the osteria, you can make a reservation and enjoy the full experience of the brewery and the homemade pastas.

The wood-burning oven at Ca’ Momi Osteria in downtown Napa.
The wood-burning oven at Ca’ Momi Osteria in downtown Napa. (Kim Westerman)
The bar and dining room at Ca’ Momi Osteria.
The bar and dining room at Ca’ Momi Osteria. (Kim Westerman)

If you’re able to stay overnight, the Westin Verasa Napa is perfectly situated within walking distance of everything in the downtown area and moderately priced. The big, comfortable rooms overlook the year-round heated pool and the Napa River beyond. And there are also bocce courts for use by guests. For families, one- and two-bedroom suites with full kitchens are ideal. Service is both informal and expert, and the hotel offers free wine tastings every night, along with free chair massages on the weekends. If you have time, get a treatment at the inviting and tranquil Gloria Curry Day Spa housed on the property. A hot stone massage and a deep-cleansing facial will set you right as you continue your culinary extravaganza.

The heated pool at the Westin Verasa Napa
The heated pool at the Westin Verasa Napa (Courtesy of Westin Verasa Napa)
Chef Ken Frank in the kitchen of his Michelin-starred restaurant at the Westin Verasa Napa.
Chef Ken Frank in the kitchen of his Michelin-starred restaurant at the Westin Verasa Napa. (Courtesy of Westin Verasa Napa)

Besides its prime location, another reason to choose this particular hotel is that it is home to chef Ken Franks’ legendary restaurant, La Toque. Originally founded on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles when Frank was just 23, La Toque became a culinary institution in Wine Country, first in Rutherford from 1998 to 2008, and then at the Westin Verasa Napa, where Frank continues to cook contemporary-classic French food, beautifully plated and graciously served. The restaurant’s Michelin-star is visibly earned in Frank’s careful tasting menus that allow you to create your own three-, four-, or five-course meals. The world-class wine list, which holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award, has one of the best collections of highly allocated local wines available anywhere, not to mention the French stuff.

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Our two favorite dishes were the beef carpaccio — meltingly fatty, perfectly sliced and topped with sauteed trumpet mushrooms — and the crisp rosti potato with creme fraiche and caviar.

Beef Carpaccio — meltingly fatty, perfectly sliced and topped with sauteed trumpet mushrooms.
Beef Carpaccio — meltingly fatty, perfectly sliced and topped with sauteed trumpet mushrooms. (Courtesy of Westin Verasa Napa)
Crisp Rosti Potato with creme fraiche and caviar.
Crisp Rosti Potato with creme fraiche and caviar. (Courtesy of Westin Verasa Napa)

After a good sleep, head back to Oxbow to buy some local products to take home. Whole Spice is a one-stop shop for all things aromatic and flavorful for your own home-cooking. Napastäk is a beautifully curated shop of prepared foods where you never know what you’ll find, but there are always local honeys, jams and shrubs, as well as imported condiments and sauces. End your spree at Napa Valley Distillery with a sampler of locally made spirits.

Rows and rows of spices at Whole Spice.
Rows and rows of spices at Whole Spice. (Kim Westerman)
Prepared foods galore at Napastäk.
Prepared foods galore at Napastäk. (Kim Westerman)
Local spirits at Napa Valley Distillery.
Local spirits at Napa Valley Distillery. (Kim Westerman)

If there’s time for one last meal—and there always is—head for Oenotri, a southern Italian restaurant where everything, including the salumi and pastas are homemade. The wood-burning oven turns out crisp pizzas that make you fee like you’re in Rome.

Pizza at Oenotri.
Pizza at Oenotri. (Kim Westerman)

I can’t think of a place in northern California that offers as much in a half-mile radius as downtown Napa. And there’s lots of good wine to drink if you get thirsty.

Oxbow Public Market
610 and 644 First St. [Map]
Napa, CA 94559
Ph: (707) 226-6529
Hours: 7:30am-9:30pm (check individual vendors for specific hours)
Facebook: Oxbow Public Market
Twitter: @OxbowPubMarket
Instagram: @oxbowpublicmarket
Price Range: $-$$$$

Westin Napa Verasa Hotel
1314 McKinstry St. [Map]
Napa, CA 94559
Ph: (707) 257-1800
Facebook: The Westin Verasa - Napa
Twitter: @westinnapa
Instagram: @westinnapa
Price Range: $$

Ca’ Momi Osteria
1141 First St. [Map]
Napa, CA 94559
Ph: (707) 224-6664
Hours: Daily, 11:30am-10pm
Facebook: Ca' Momi
Twitter: @camominapa
Instagram: @camominapavalley
Price range: $$-$$$ ($14-$32 entrees)

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Oenotri
1425 First St. [Map]
Napa, CA 94559
Ph: (707) 252-1022
Hours: Mon-Fri, 5:30-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-3pm and 5:30-10pm
Instagram: @oenotri
Price Range: $$-$$$ ($17-$34 entrees)

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