El Porteño will be the newest addition to Napa's Oxbow Public Market. The Argentinian-inspired spot that's been popular at San Francisco's Ferry Building will feature sweet and savory empanadas as well as alfajores starting October 2.
The concept, from Joseph Ahearne, represents two generations of family recipes with local Napa ingredients. Ahearne, who grew up in Carneros, said that the expansion into Napa made sense for their current demographic. His mother had a restaurant in St. Helena on Railroad Avenue in the early 1970s. "She wanted to do Argentinian food, but she didn't think people would have heard about it," said Ahearne. She'd put Argentinian recipes on the menu along with Mexican mainstays.
As far as the menu goes, favorites like the carne empanadas and champiñones, will be available at the Oxbow location as well as grab-and-go frozen empanada options in 2- and 8-packs. The carne empanada is stuffed with beef, onions, green olives, raisins and eggs, and the Champiñones empanada is a vegetarian version with mushrooms, shallots, aged parmesan and crème fraîche. They started these options after seeing sales drop 80% at the start of the pandemic.
The pandemic and fires have been difficult for Ahearne, who had originally planned to open the restaurant in March. His space will take up some of the seating that was reserved for the Napa Bookmine. But he did say that his restaurant model of grab-and-go has been lucky throughout everything. "We never really had a roof and certainly not dining tables," Ahearne said. "But we figured if we tried to wait this out we would have already been [permanently] closed."
The brand was also previously in the hot bar at Whole Foods, which got shut down after the start of shelter-in-place. Last week, Ahearne was able to start selling retail with them.