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Satisfying Saturdays
A Few Ideas For Napa City

By Charles Olken

Truth is that I don’t venture much into Napa City. Despite being the economic gateway to the Napa Valley, Napa City requires a detour. The main road to the Napa Valley runs west of town and directly up to that string of jewels starting with Yountville and ending twenty-plus miles later at Calistoga. Those places and Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena are wine country. Napa City, despite attempts to say otherwise, is not. It is an urbanized home to automobile dealers and hospitals and all of the urban trappings needed from a “central city” of sorts. The wine country towns have restaurants, hotels and, yes, Virginia, that most treasured possession of all, wineries. Napa City may have a tasting room or two, and it does certainly have hotels and restaurants, but it is not wine country. It is the guardian of wine country. It is the servant to wine country, but it is not wine country. And I don’t go there much.

But, anyone who goes to wine country as much as I do is going to find himself in Napa City sooner or later. I have developed a short list of favorites, and while I would need to visit them more than I do in order to write a full review, I can recommend each of them based on one very good visit and the strong recommendations of the folk who turned me on to these places. One of these days, a fuller review will appear in this space, but for now, these places are worth knowing.

92 NEELA 975 Clinton Street Napa, CA 94559 707-226-9988
I am far from an expert on Indian food. I just like it. No, I love it. Neela in Napa, Ajanta in Berkeley and Amber India in San Francisco are my “go to” places. This gem, located in a side street just off Napa’s Main Street is pleasant enough to look at. It is far better than that to eat at. Go read the website and the reviews cited. I endorse all the positives, and I can say flat out, if you like Indian food and you are looking for an alternative to the pricey, night-long eating events that await you at The French Laundry, La Toque, Auberge du Soleil and their ilk, go search out Neela.

91 UBUNTU 1140 Main St Napa, CA 94559-2639 707-251-5656
I may not be an expert in the intricacies of Indian food, but I eat it fairly regularly. Ubuntu is a vegetarian restaurant. I am a carnivore. If it had not been for a friend who directed us there because he knew it was good and I had heard amazing things about it, I would simply have not gone there. Frankly, it was an amazing experience. Our group of five ordered thirteen small plates, which was almost everything on the menu, and the worst of them was delicious while the best was mind-blowing. The menu, as befits a restaurant where everything is fresh, changes with the season. The October menu, currently on the website, is quite different from the menu that appeared in front of us last Spring. I will head back to Ubuntu again. I am in love. Who would have thunk it?

THE FATTED CALF The Oxbow Public Market 644 C First Street Napa, CA 94559 Phone (707) 256-3684
This fabulous charcuterie is an offshoot of a place in San Francisco’s increasingly chic Hayes Valley. I have never been to the San Francisco outlet, but I have stopped off when in Napa to pick up a thing or three. It is a dangerous place to my wallet and to my waistline, but that does not stop me from wandering back. I am not much of a fan of The Oxbow Market with its hodge-podge of stalls and purveyors of good cheeses and wines and cheap ethnic foods. The Fatted Calf, more than any other place in that much-ballyhooed complex, draws me back for the special sausages and salumi. My friend Tom Wark, whose blog, Fermentation ( is one of the very best, recently wrote a short story about the chicharones sold at The Fatted Calf.


my 2-cents
by John
Posted on:10/11/2010 11:51:00 AM

I too am a huge fan of Fatted Calf. Artisanal products do get my blood racing, even if eating some of those products slows said flow.

May I add for your consideration: Oenotri, Angele, Celadon and Cole's Chop House. Buttercream Bakery is worth a stop. I haven't been to Morimoto's new place yet but have heard good reviews.

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