One of my favorite road trips is going to Napa Valley. When I go there I am usually spending a lot of time driving from winery to winery. This time I decided to stay in Downtown Napa to slow down and enjoy my short time there. I hadn’t been to Downtown Napa in several years and let me tell you it has grown significantly. It’s now a destination before it was a great place to spend the day. They have so many cool new restaurants, shopping, hotels, and tasting rooms to explore. I spent three days there and I didn’t even cover everything. I also love that going up to Downtown Napa is such an easy drive from Southern California that there is no reason I shouldn’t visit more. I love Downtown Napa because there is so much to do and we didn’t get to see everything which is great because I want to go back and try new things.
There are hotels located in the heart of downtown Napa but I wanted to try something different. I stayed at a cute luxury inn a couple of blocks away from the main streets of downtown. The George is a brand new inn that opened in March. It is an old Victorian house that is tucked away in a lovely neighborhood. The inn has gorgeous rooms with several suites that are stunning. It is pretty small, they only have 9 rooms so if you want to stay you need to book ahead of time because they do sell out.
I also think this would be a great place to rent the entire inn, they have options of having private wine tastings, chefs and curated experiences. I would love to rent it out one day for my birthday. During the week they have a continental breakfast and during the weekend they have a chef come in offer a brunch. They also offer afternoon wine during happy hour. The George is in a great location and is run by a Greek family who are all warm and welcoming.
The first night we stayed in Downtown Napa we wanted a full Napa experience for dinner. We went to Angèle, it’s walking distance from where we stayed. It’s located in the historical Hatt Building that is along side the Napa River. The food and service is great. Napa is known for great restaurants and Angèle won’t disappoint. You’ll be transported to the French countryside when you try every thing. We started with warm olives, fresh homemade bread, oysters and Mousse De Poulet. Please order all of that because you will thank me later.
For the main course I ordered the Whole Roasted Branzino with fava “pistou”, shishito peppers, watercress and finished with marcona almonds. This was one of the best Branzino’s of my life. When I go back to Napa this will become a tradition to go an have every visit. We also ordered fries to accompany dinner. We finished our meal with a beautiful bread pudding, it’s not too sweet and was the perfect way to end dinner.
I love that in Downtown Napa you can walk everywhere so you can just leave your car at your hotel and explore. It really makes you feel free. The next day for lunch we walked to Hog Island Oysters, which is a 10-15 minute walk from The George. Hog Island Oysters is so good, I have been once before in San Francisco so when I saw they had a location in Downtown Napa I was excited. It’s a must when visiting, they have so many things to try. There was a wait so while we waited we went and did a wine tasting across from them because they are located in a gourmet food hall called Oxbow Public Market.
While you are waiting for your table at Hog Island Oyster, they are so popular that there is almost always a line. You can shop around the market or do what we did and have a glass of wine at Oxbow Cheese Merchant. They have a small wine bar, wine shop and amazing cheese selection. Next time I visit I will buy some cheeses to take back with me.
This is a great place to buy some cheeses for your room, if you do a picnic or to take home. They also have a great selection of wines. They are all knowledgeable and can help you choose the perfect wine as well. You can also buy a bottle of wine and drink it out on the patio at Oxbow Public Market there are a lot of places to sit and enjoy the day.
At Hog Island Oysters there are so many things to order besides oysters which we did have. They are known for their clam chowder. It is so hearty that you can have this as your meal which is what I did. We also had the muscles which are some of the best muscles we have ever tired. The broth they come in is very flavorful and light.
In Oxbow Public Market do not miss going to El Porteño. When I tell you I walked there every day to get an empanada, I’m not kidding. I was addicted to the banana empanada. The other favorite was the cherry empanada in Merlot. I’m glad they are not located near by because I would probably eat one of these every day. I didn’t try the savory ones but now I have something to look forward to when I go back.
I dream of these empanadas and when I go back to visit Downtown Napa, I am going eat so many of them. I bought a box for friends and ate all of them and my friends never got them. I can only imagine how good the savory ones are.
In the heart of Downtown Napa there are several tasting rooms. I would suggest making a reservation on weekends because they do sell out. We went into John Anthony. It’s a tasting room that is on the more luxury end of the tastings. The wines are incredible. They have only small batch production. Every wine is single vineyard so you won’t find any blends here.
Pro tip when you visit this tasting room, order the wine chips. I didn’t get a photo of them because we finished them before I could snap a photo. They are kettle chips with shaved cheese and lavender. It sounds like an odd combination but I promise you they are amazing. In the tasting lounge they had several tastings to choose from we did a flight of red. The reds are complex, bold and structured. I highly recommend you coming in here if you love great wines. They also own the tasting room next door called JaM Cellars. It is located right next door to the Andaz Hotel.
One tasting room I didn’t get to visit is the Ackerman Heritage House. I walked by it everyday but couldn’t get a reservation for it. I love that the tasting room is in a historic Queen Anne Victorian home. It is from 1888 and looked so beautiful from the outside. It gives me something to look forward to when I return.
I mentioned Oxbow Public Market, it’s one of the best food halls I have ever been to because it’s an elevated one. It has all gourmet food. You can shop, eat and drink there. The first day I went I saw a huge line that wrapped around the building and it was for Gott’s Roadside. I had no idea what that was, when I yelped it and saw so many amazing reviews I had to try it. If you have been following me for a long time you know that I generally don’t eat burgers or red meat. But seeing this line grow everyday I knew I had to give it a shot.
It was so good. We ate there twice for lunch. I got the cheese burger (twice) with fries to share and a Frozè (frozen rosè). The next day when we went to Gott’s there was a line before they even opened. They use 100% Niman Ranch, vegetarian fed angus beef that has no hormones or antibiotics in it. Their bread is also locally made and delivered daily. I wish they would open one up in LA because I want to try everything on the menu.
You can taste how fresh the food is, even the ketchup is homemade. There is a line for a reason because it’s the best burger. They also have a great wine and beer selection. A cute outdoor patio and even though the food is casual it’s doesn’t skip on the quality or taste. It’s so good.
If you are looking for the best cup of coffee in Downtown Napa, it’s at Ritual Coffee. Their coffees are single origin and they change seasonally. I’m very picky with my coffee and drink it black so I am always looking for the perfect cup and they have it. I also love this brands values, you can read more about it on their site. They are beyond fair trade and make sure they are sustainable.
Bar Lucia is a small little bar where you can do some tastings at. They have frozé, rosé and a array of sparkling wines. They are only open Thursday-Sunday. It’s a cute place to sit and relax and enjoy a glass of something cold.
They also have lite bites such as salads and sandwiches. It’s very girly! You can also pick up a cupcake to go while you are there.
When Oprah says something is her favorite it’s for a reason. Never in my life have I liked an english muffin until today. Model Bakery has amazing baked goods but their english muffin is incredible. I ate one every morning because The George serves them but I also took a bag home to give to friends and they also never got these because I ate them all. These are going to be my Christmas gifts to people this year because they are so good they should be illegal. I love them so much that I’m tempted to drive up and buy bags and bags of them.
I can’t wait to go back to Downtown Napa and there is so much do try and do. I would recommend planning out your trip before going since everyone is excited for summer and more people are going out. You can find out all about Downtown Napa by visiting their site. DoNapa.com. It’s a great resource before you go!