Where the Locals Eat in Napa Valley

Hidden in plain sight, these under-the-radar restaurants are what Napa locals look for when dining out. Casual, comfortable and affordable are key when you live in one of the most-visited wine regions in the world. A burrito to go, a burger at the bar; boozy brunch, house-made pasta and killer cocktails are a few of the local favorites. Stop chasing the stars and trust the locals, they do know a bit about the food and wine scene of Napa Valley.

540 Main St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
When Angéle opened on the banks of the Napa River more than 10 years ago, it was a brave move, considering there was very little in the way of foot traffic in Downtown at that time. (The river even still flooded from time to time.) Napa has completely changed, but the relaxing local vibe and the quality of the rustic, French country-inspired cuisine has not. Hunker down in the former boat house for roasted quail or duck confit and a negroni on a rainy winter night — or, in sunnier weather, grab a table on the deck and a enjoy a bottle of Provence-style rosé and a dozen oysters while overlooking the river (which, thankfully, no longer floods).
1153 Rutherford Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573, USA
A favorite among vineyard and cellar workers of all nationalities, La Luna keeps the Napa Valley workforce fed. It’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s the best burrito around. There are picnic tables out back with vineyard views, real Mexican Coca-Cola, and not a limo or pair of stilettos in sight. In Rutherford, off Highway 29, it makes for a convenient pit stop whether you’re wine tasting or shoot thinning. Also, if you need a hat, a harvest hook knife, or a giant bag of chicharones, La Luna has it.
1245 Spring St, St Helena, CA 94574, USA
In St. Helena, what was once Martini House is now a fun new restaurant called Goose & Gander. Go on a warm Friday night, ask for a table outside under the big oak tree, and order this Coastal Pimm’s Cup cocktail, made with St. George Terroir gin, Bay Laurel leaves, and edible flowers. Pair it with the pork belly wedge or the G&G burger, and you will leave happy and satisfied.
1310 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574, USA
It’s easy to miss this unassuming restaurant on St. Helena’s Main Street. And, as far as the locals are concerned, that’s okay. The tiny, always bustling italian-inspired restaurant is a favorite amongst the people who live here for the friendly staff and the fresh, ever-changing menu. The pasta, made in house, is definitely “the thing to get — not that there are many any other options. They also have a small but delightful wine list and specialty cocktails and as of October, 2013, they will start serving brunch on Sundays. Photo via Flickr
1400 2nd St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
Napa Valley is home to some fantastic restaurants, several of which are located in the few square blocks of downtown Napa. My favorite among these is Grace’s Table. The owner and chef combines a global awareness of flavors with a commitment to local, sustainable sources of fine ingredients. Seasonal vegetables are often those he has just picked from his garden earlier in the day. Besides the vibrant flavors of the lunch and dinner menus, Grace’s Table serves an excellent breakfast, with European-style offerings of fresh baguette, seasonal fruit, and homemade yogurt—though the flavorful egg dishes are not to be missed either. Tip: Head to the late-afternoon happy hour for a chance to sample small plates from the dinner menu.
1140 Main St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
The ingredients may seem familiar, but the flavors and preparation are inspiring and innovative at Torc. Serving fresh, local, and seasonal food should be a given in Napa Valley, but that’s not enough to win the culinary warfare of one of the world’s most celebrated dining destinations these days. Fortunately, Chef O’Toole doesn’t depend solely on freshly unearthed radishes. Well-honed technique and internationally inspired ingredients (serrano ham, Maryland soft-shell crab, mangos, and chile sambal) bring a next-level treatment to the locally foraged mushrooms and just-sprouted pea shoots. The menu always feels fresh and lively and the room—stone walls, dark bar, and warm wood floors—is masculine and welcoming.
610 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
Oxbow Public Market gives an excellent introduction to the food and atmosphere of Northern California. The market supports sustainable, local agriculture and production. There are many shops and food purveyors, mostly casual offerings where you pick up your food and find a table, but there are also some sit-down restaurants. The choices all highlight food from the region and include multi-ethnic California cuisine, fresh oysters, organic gourmet ice cream, artisan cheeses, Napa Valley wines, and local olive oil. When the weather is nice, sit on the back terrace that overlooks the Napa River. Oxbow also makes a great place to buy gifts—try Anette’s Chocolates and the Olive Press for distinctive local products that you can take home to friends and family. A wonderful farmers market takes place next to Oxbow on Saturdays from May 1-Oct. 31 from 7:30 a.m. to noon.
4048 Sonoma Hwy, Napa, CA 94559, USA
When you tell your friends that you’re headed here, everyone will chime in about the dish that you have to get. ‘Make sure you try the smoked salmon flatbread!’ ‘The burger, be sure to get the burger’.’ ‘The donuts! You have to get the donuts!’ It’s good to know that with breakfast, brunch or lunch, they don’t take reservations. Be prepared to possibly wait and hang out on the porch swings or hang out at the bocce courts and play a while (they’re about a 10-minute walk from Boon Fly). With dinner, they do take reservations and I’d encourage you to get those well-ahead. If you’ve had a big bike ride in nearby Napa Valley or are headed in to downtown Napa for a concert or event, Boon Fly Cafe is just 5 miles away and will leave you with your belly full and happy.
975 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
This is one of my favorite places to meet friends that are in California and visiting wine country. It has everything to do with the delicious BBQ, excellent collection about wine, and the casual and convivial atmosphere.

Bounty Hunter is in the town of Napa, and it can be a great place to eat dinner if you’re in town to catch a show at the intimate Uptown Theater.

A few of my favorites include the Beer Can Chicken and the St. Louis Ribs. The bird is smoked with a full Tecate beer tucked inside; the ribs will fall apart and just melt in your mouth.

They have 40 wines by the glass and 400 other highly sought-after bottles that the Bounty Hunter himself has sniffed out on your behalf.

Dig in and have a smoking good time.
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