Wine Country Weekly: Review of Downtown Napa (part 1)

The city of Napa, California is experiencing a revival. Here is your guide to the best restaurants and wine bars the city has to offer. Photo: 1313 Main, Napa CA

SONOMA, CA, January 17, 2013 - 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 One, learn about divine dinners, and hip wine bars.

Napa, CA, Tarla Mediterranean Grill. Image: Tarla.

Divine Dinners

Napa Valley is well known for it’s fine cuisine and downtown Napa is no exception. Every meal you eat will leave you impressed, 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, 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 check out 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.

Oenotri (Italian)

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. 

Tarla Mediterranean Grill

An intimate, sophisticated Greek and Turkish fusion restaurant with a menu 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.

1313 Main, Napa, CA. Image: 1313 Main

Additional restaurants to try: Bistro SaborCarpe Diem Wine BarCeladon,Grace’s Table,Molinari CaffeNapa General Store, and Zuzu.

Check website for a listing of all downtown restaurants serving dinner.

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. 

1313 Main

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. Check out the calendar for cool events like Winemaker Wednesdays, happy hours, and the Bubbles Bar. 1313 Main is open until 10pm weekdays, and until midnight or later on weekends.   

Napa, CA, Back Room Wines. Image: Daniel Dawson, Back Room Wines.

Back Room Wines

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. The shop is open until 7pm daily. Back Room would be a wonderful before-dinner drink spot.

Additional wine bars and late night treats: Carpe Diem, Bounty Hunter, Oxbow Wine Merchant, and Silo’s.  Check the website for all tasting locations.

In Part 2 of the Downtown Napa series, learn about Napa’s urban wine tasting rooms where you can stroll and taste throughout town while leaving your car out of the equation.


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Sherrie Perkovich

Sherrie is a perky, music and wine-loving, Northern California local that seeks out and spreads the word about San Francisco experiences as well as unforgettable wine-related travel experiences.  She is CMO of The Grape Hunter USA, where they focus on helping artisan wineries and developing unique wine travel for consumers. Follow her on Twitter @BigNoseWino

Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all.  If it’s happening near SF, Sherrie is in on it.  Follow her columns,  for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco ~ San Jose treats and Wine Country Weekly.  


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