It wasn’t long ago that a Napa Valley itinerary might omit the town of Napa entirely. But the city that was once seen as the down-and-out, down-valley neighbor of Yountville and St. Helena has experienced a revival in recent years. Now, with blocks and blocks of restaurants, shops and tasting rooms (not to mention the headline-making BottleRock Napa Valley festival), it’s fair to say that downtown Napa’s revitalization — fueled in part by a riverfront overhaul and the arrival of celebrity chefs like Masaharu Morimoto of Morimoto Napa and Ken Frank of La Toque — is complete. Here are the latest and hottest additions to the dynamic downtown scene.
When in Napa, you’d be wise to follow the locals to the two-year-old 1313 Main tasting lounge. The already-inventive food menu (check out the “urban picnic” charcuterie that includes local cheeses, organic prosciutto, pâté and more) will expand with the opening of a new kitchen, slated for the end of June. Called Lulu’s Kitchen at 1313 Main, it will serve seasonal, sustainable California cuisine in the lounge and on the patio.
Another local (and newly expanded) favorite, Tarla Mediterranean Grill, will welcome a sister restaurant in July. Located in the heart of downtown, Napkins will focus on farm-fresh, globally influenced American cuisine — think venison-and-eight-pepper chili with Napa Stout, aged white cheddar and pickled onion. In true Napa community fashion, Napkins’ name was chosen by area residents.
The team behind New York’s Public restaurant could be considered Napa’s newest locals. They opened The Thomas and Fagiani’s Bar last summer in a Main Street building that had been shuttered for four decades. The trendy eatery just added lunch to its repertoire, so now you can nosh on The Thomas’ Angus-Kobe burger and fries, complete with bacon-onion jam, before noon. Request a rooftop table.
If you’d prefer lunch to be a moveable feast, hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train’s new trip to Castello di Amorosa. The journey, which launched in April, embarks from Napa and includes a three-course lunch of rich dishes like roasted beef tenderloin on a black-truffle potato cake with cambozola cheese, plus a two-hour tour of the unique castle winery. There are suggested wine pairings with lunch and tastings at the castle, too.
Oxbow Public Market, meanwhile, offers the ultimate tasting tour with its deep lineup of mouth-watering treats — don’t miss Model Bakery’s famous English muffins or Five Dot Ranch’s 48-hour-braised short rib sliders. Starting in June, wash it all down with “vintage vodka” from Napa Valley Distillery’s new store at Oxbow. The speakeasy-style space will feature that signature vodka, distilled from Napa Valley sauvignon blanc.
Wellness is one of the bedrocks of Napa tourism, and the newest spa in town is at Napa River Inn; the riverfront boutique hotel officially welcomes The Spa at the Napa River Inn with a May 19 grand opening. Magnolia Polley, a spa veteran and healing-arts specialist who was on the opening team at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Spa at the Carneros Inn, helmed the spa’s development and created its unique, sense-based treatments (yogi ohm, aloha flow). Look for the same grapeseed-oil-based NV Organics spa products found in Napa River Inn’s guest rooms, along with other natural products like locally hand-milled makeup.
With its trail starting just outside Napa River Inn, Napa ARTwalk is getting ready to change for the first time since fall 2011. The outdoor art initiative launches its 2013-2015 exhibit on June 13 with 15 sculptures, each displaying a QR code that links to audio commentary. The theme of this cycle is “metamorphosis” — an apt motif for Napa this year.
Andaz Napa came to downtown’s West End last fall, bringing with it the “Napa-to-table” Farmers Table restaurant and an inviting outdoor terrace where you can sip cocktails on porch swings. Andaz also brings a touch of urbanity to laid-back Napa — at five stories, it’s the city’s tallest building — with 141 contemporary guest rooms in a vineyard palette of greens and browns. Check-in happens in the lobby lounge with an iPad and a glass of wine.
Napa’s more residential streets are where you’ll find a host of Victorian-era bed-and-breakfasts, including one revamped inn that stands out with its decidedly lace-and-doily-free aesthetic. New owner Karen Lynch reopened Inn on Randolph last year after a massive renovation that preserved the historic home’s architectural integrity but banished every last teddy bear. The result is a thoroughly modern property with 10 next-generation guest rooms boasting luxuries like heated bathroom floors. Proof positive that this isn’t your grandma’s B-and-B? The gourmet kitchen just so happens to be gluten-free.
Photos Courtesy of Inn on Randolph, The Thomas, Fagianis Bar, 1313 Main and Hyatt Hotels