SAN FRANCISCO, June 16, 2012 – Napa, California. The mere mention of the name brings to mind rolling vineyards, award-winning wines, and some of the best restaurants in the country. While the city of Napa itself is not widely known for these things, the downtown is experiencing a total revival. In Part Three of “Top 10 things to do in downtown Napa”, learn about Numbers Two and Three on the list: divine dinners, hip wine bars and other late night treats.
2. Divine Dinners
Living in San Francisco and reading the already great reviews that come out of Napa, I had high expectations for the food. I was certainly not let down; every meal I ate was impressive. Whether your tastes run to Italian, sushi, Spanish, or good old American/Californian cuisine, there is something for you in Napa. A few favorites are:
Eiko’s Modern Japanese Cuisine
Eiko’s is just as its name states: modern. The architecture is hip, with towering ceilings, ultra modern décor, and light touches of traditional Japanese style. The food marries nicely with the décor: traditional Japanese with modern twists. The food, including the fish, is sustainably raised and harvested and delivered daily from local markets. Start off with the Rock Shrimp “Popcorn” and some Hamachi “Bon-Bons.” Any sushi you order will be fabulous, but I particularly liked the Eiko Roll, Spicy A-1 Tuna, Rainbow roll, and the Ricky Ricardo. For a special treat, don’t leave before ordering the “Mojito of the Future” to drink and the Nitrogen Lollipop Ice Cream for dessert.
This downtown hotspot features a daily-changing menu determined by local, fresh and in-season ingredients. This Italian eatery offers specialties from Sicily, Campania, Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia. The pasta is made fresh daily; it is deceptively excellent, simple to look at, yet intense with flavor. Absolutely try the Roasted Beets Salad to start, and consider the delicous Spaghetti Al Pomodoro. For your main course, you can’t go wrong with the Pancetta Wrapped Stuffed Jones Farm Rabbit. The desserts are simply addictive — the Ricotta Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Argrumato, as well as the Torta Caprese with Espresso Crema and Candied Almonds. I had both, in spite of my being full to bursting, and I didn’t regret it.
Tarla Mediterranean Grill
This intimate restaurant is fairly new to the downtown Napa scene. A sophisticated Greek and Turkish fusion menu promises to delight the senses. The lamb has a reputation for being out-of-this-world, and is a must-try. Tarla offers a great happy-hour cocktail, wine, and Mezes special food menu. The grill is open until 11pm for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and is also open for breakfast on the weekends for something a little different to start your morning.
Additional restaurants to try: Angele, Bistro Sabor, Celadon, Cole’s Chop House (I love sitting at the bar here), Morimoto Napa, Fish Story, Hog Island Oyster Company, La Toque, Norman Rose Tavern, and Sushi Mambo. Check the DoNapa.com website for a listing of all downtown restaurants serving dinner.
3. Hip Wine Bars & Late Night Drinking
In the past, much of Napa would shut down when the wineries closed for the evening. There wasn’t much else to do outside of grabbing dinner, until recently. Downtown Napa now has a pulse after 9pm, thanks in large part to the hip new wine bars and late-night drinking establishments that have been popping up.
This chic wine bar looks like it was plucked out of nearby San Francisco. From the lush bar inside to the feng shui outdoor patio, this is a place to sit and relax for a few hours enjoying a bottle of wine. Wines from Napa to Australia and everything in between are featured. Al, the owner, is a true oenophile; if you’re not sure what to taste, just ask him or one of his knowledgeable staff for a suggestion. The ’07 Lunar Ridge Syrah and ’09 Caroline Parent are particularly hot right now. Check out the calendar for cool events like Winemaker Wednesdays, happy hour, and the Bubbles Bar. 1313 Main is open until 10pm weekdays, and until midnight on weekend nights. This is a great place to go after dinner to digest and enjoy more wine.
Wines from Napa and from regions well beyond California can be found here. Dan, the owner, makes a point of featuring many wines that don’t have tasting rooms of their own. You can customize your own tasting and/or wine club and there are constantly interesting wine tasting events happening at the shop. Sign up for their mailing list so you will remain in the know. Tasting great now are the ’10 Kelleher Sauvignon Blanc (Napa), ’08 Mark Herold “Flux” red wine blend, and the ’08 Baldassari Syrah out of Sonoma, which I particularly liked. The shop is open until 7pm daily. Back Room would be a wonderful before-dinner drink spot.
Here they are all about rare wines, and they even produce their own Bounty Hunter wine label. The staff here has been tracking down the world’s hottest and rarest wines for 16 years and are considered insiders in the industry. This vintage wine bar also serves some of the best BBQ north of Memphis (PS: it is served until midnight on weekends). It would be difficult to even begin to offer tasting suggestions here; there are 40 wines by the glass, 400 wines by the bottle, artisan beers, and a full bar. Bounty Hunter is open until 10pm weekdays, and midnight on weekend nights.
Additional wine bars and tasting locations to check out: Carpe Diem, Oxbow Wine Merchant, and Taste at Oxbow. Check the DoNapa.com website for all tasting locations.
Number One on this top ten list is yet to come. What will it be? Stay tuned!
Columnist Sherrie Perkovich offers an insider’s perspective of the very best San Francisco has to offer. Join her weekly to experience the best the City by the Bay has to offer - from parties to parks and everything in between.
Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all. If it’s happening in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sherrie is in on it. Follow her column for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco treats.
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