Napa Valley, CA City Guide (Update)

by Grace Bonney

Today’s Napa Valley City Guide Update comes to us from Franny Merkley. Franny grew up in the city of Napa and developed an early love of the food and wine culture. When not working in hospitality, she can be found upcycling furniture for sale and blogging at The Frugal Materialist. Today she takes us on a tour of her hometown with a guide full of eateries, shops and activities (outside of your traditional wine tastings). Thank you for sharing a bit of Napa with us today, Franny! —Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

Napa Valley City Guide photo courtesy of Goose & Gander Official Facebook page

I take pride in being from the Napa Valley because it is one of the most beautiful places to live. I love having been raised in a culture where food and wine are celebrated and I am grateful to live that everyday.

Be sure to check out the Google Map with all of the below listings!


Sweetie Pies: Cute little bakery located in the Riverfront area of downtown. Delicious cookies (their Anzac is my favorite!), cakes and pastries fill the case and tempt tourists and locals alike. Great spot to grab a cappuccino and sweet treat in the morning before starting your day in the valley.

Oxbow Public Market: This marketplace truly has something for everybody in your group. Super casual spot for people looking for good food, wine and shops, all contained in a laid-back environment. Options include Ritual Coffee – the Napa location of an exciting SF third-wave coffee shop – wine and cheese at the Oxbow Cheese and Wine Merchant, fresh and interesting tacos from C Casa or cupcakes from Bay Area favorite Cara’s Cupcakes. Also worth checking out: Hog Island Oyster Co. for a beer and fresh, local oysters when your palette needs a break from wine tasting.

Melted: Grilled cheese, on a waffle: not much more you need to say about this amazing new lunch spot in town. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with both sweet and savory options are served on deliciously crisp waffles. Each savory option also comes with a tiny cup of tomato soup for dipping, which makes it that much better. The rotating menu also has gluten free and vegan options for those with special diets.

Mini Mango Thai Bistro: With a big pool of Thai places to chose from in Napa, Mini Mango is the most interesting option by far. It offers the classics like Pad Thai and curries, but also features less traditional options like the Mango Baby Rib appetizer or the Season of the Sea curry.

Oenotri: Chef and owner Tyler Rodde’s farm-to-table Italian restaurant takes inspiration from the abundance of the Napa Valley. Supporting local vendors and intriguing ingredients, the ever-changing menu brings the best of the area to you in a delicious and sustainable way. Stop in to sample from the menu of over 20-plus types of house-made salumi, fresh pastas, locally sourced olive oils and more.

Frati Gelato Cafe : Having spent many years in Italy, first as a doctor-turned-chef, then as a food critic, Dr. Gelato (as he calls himself) and his brother-in-law Ron moved Frati Gelato to Napa in September 2012. Using fresh ingredients like mascarpone and aged balsamic to create unique flavors, this charming gelato shop offers delicious options for satisfying that sweet tooth.

The Thomas & Fagiani’s Bar: California representation of NYC based hospitality group AvroKO, the Thomas has a fantastic cocktail list, as well as great options for dining. Locals love to grab a signature cocktail on the roof of this historic building and take in the views.

1313 Main: Opened in 2011, this wine bar has, unsurprisingly, a very impressive wine list. Offering wines both by the glass and bottle, they have also curated a large list of interesting wine flights to suit everyone’s taste. The restaurant, Lulu’s kitchen, has a fun menu of small bites and shareable snacks to enjoy while working your way through the wine list.

The Roost Napa: Home to all things cute and antique, Roost is a great store for unique items for the home. Collections of quirky brass bottle openers line a shelf, while heart-shaped barrel hoops hang from the walls. Proprietress Patricia Trimble carefully curates a fun collection of new and vintage wares for every style and price point.

The Grand Hand Gallery: Opened in Napa in June 2012 as the second location owned by Ann Ruhr Pifer. The original Grand Hand Gallery started in 2004 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Pifer is drawn to pieces that convey a strong sense of authenticity and show “the hand of the artist” at work. Stop in to the gallery for unique jewelry and a broad range of pieces made of materials like metal, copper and fiber.

Napa Book Mine : This classic, comfortable used bookstore is a recent addition to the downtown Napa scene. Boasting a huge collection of books and a friendly staff, this bookstore makes you feel like you are part of the community. My favorite corner of the store features a Lost & Found of items discovered in the donated books. Take a look at the corkboard for fun pictures, notes and letters for a peek into the books’ pasts.

Betty’s Girl Napa : Napa’s best and favorite vintage clothing store. After years of managing her retail space while designing custom pieces, owner Kim Northrup has decided to redefine her space and focus more of her energy on creating custom pieces for girls in search of the perfect vintage dress. With a sudden boom in wedding clients, she looks forward to being able to work with brides to reimagine their wedding gowns and work with them to make their day magical.

Cake Plate Fashion: Sisters Lindsay Kroll and Paige Smith were tired of always having to leave Napa for their favorite labels, so when they opened Cake Plate, they were able to be the place to find all the best brands. Describing themselves as “Anthropologie meets Nordstrom,” today Cake Plate has evolved to include brands like Trina Turk and Velvet, plus lifestyle and accessories lines for visitors to Napa looking for a cute little treat to take home with them.

Uptown Theatre Napa : This theater has been a local landmark since 1937. Originally a movie theater, the Uptown underwent a major renovation and reopened recently as a music venue.

BottleRock Napa : In its second year in town, BottleRock draws major headliners to the valley for this 3-day festival. With tons of fun, gourmet food options at the food truck rodeo and some of the valley’s best wineries represented, it can be a really great way to spend a weekend in Napa.

Napa Valley City Guide photo by Dan Graham


R+D Kitchen: This restaurant bar has a nice selection of cocktails, wines and beers, plus a fantastic outdoor patio in Yountville. The R+D patio has massive fire pits that are lit at night and surrounded by cute adirondack chairs. Check out the restaurant as well for a really great menu of mixed tastes and influences.

Bouchon Bakery: The world famous bakery, owned by chef Thomas Keller, has a line down the street in Yountville on the weekends. With cases full of beautiful pastel macarons and desserts, it’s hard to narrow down your choice to just one. If you are stopping by for breakfast, make sure to get the warm ham and cheese croissant!

Redd Wood: The second restaurant from famed chef Richard Reddington, this casual Italian-inspired restaurant is located in the modern North Block Hotel. Definitely a local favorite for pizza, try the Prosciutto Crudo and make sure you add the farm egg to make it that much better.

Kelly’s Filling Station & Wine Shop: Only in Napa Valley do you find a gas station, coffee counter and wine shop under one roof! Pull in for a quick fill-up and browse the small selection of local wines and boutique hotel-worthy snacks.

Kollar Chocolates: Chris Kollar, artisan chocolatier, has introduced flavors like fennel pollen to the adventurous palates that stop in. Even if you aren’t a chocolate lover, the beautiful store, glass-paned kitchen and amazingly detailed chocolates are worth the stop. The aptly named Kollar Krack is a must while passing through town.

Finesse The Store: If you ever visited any of Thomas Keller’s famed restaurants and wished you could own a little piece of the magic, this is the store for you. In the store you can find French Laundry aprons, branded stemware and kits for making a few of Keller’s signature dishes.

Bardessono: This is a beautiful hotel in Yountville that focuses on exceptional service and good environmental practice. With beautifully designed rooms and grounds and a delicious bar and restaurant, Bardessono is one of the best places to stay in the valley. In the summer, make sure you are in town for the Dive Bar @ Bardessono, with drinks and nibbles on the last Thursday of every month from June to August.

Napa Valley Aloft: This hot air balloon company lifts off from V Marketplace in the heart of Yountville. Balloon views above the valley are indescribable and something I would recommend to anyone coming to Northern California. Napa Valley Aloft also provides the option to join a champagne brunch after the tour.

Napa Valley City Guide photo by Franny Merkley

St. Helena:

Cook St. Helena: Yet another delicious Italian restaurant in the valley to choose from. In this elegantly simple and consistently delicious restaurant, chef/owner Jude Wilmoth brings locals and tourists seasonally appropriate menus while using locally sourced ingredients.

Goose & Gander: This is a must for anyone coming to Napa, which explains why locals love to take visitors to eat at this delicious restaurant or to grab a drink at the bar. Make sure you spend time downstairs in the Basement Bar and sample “retro fresh libations” from famed bartender Scott Beattie.

La Boheme: Essentially a great flea market in a traditional storefront, La Boheme has a great selection of found treasures. Check in frequently because merchandise changes fairly often.

Olive Oil Mfg. Company: Stop by this hidden Italian grocery for delicious picnic fare. Stay and enjoy a quick picnic outside off a back road in St. Helena. Also make sure to buy their olive oil and support a local, family-owned business, regularly touted as the best in the valley.

Napa Soap Company : Great place to pick up gifts for yourself and loved ones. Each soap is handmade with fragrant and fresh ingredients to produce very special products. Napa local Sheila Rockwood started this business in her kitchen, using the lavender bushes in her backyard. Today you can still notice the level of care and love that goes into each soap in her shop.


Buster’s Southern BBQ & Bakery: Authentic and mouth-watering Southern BBQ in Calistoga. A favorite spot for locals, this is becoming more and more for out-of-towners. Outdoor and indoor seating is available if you stop for lunch or dinner. Buster’s is definitely one of the least fussy places to eat in the valley and is a great casual, local spot to stop.

Palisades Deli: Palisades is just a great place to pick up sandwiches and salads after a day of wine tasting. Sandwiches like the Club or the Palisades Turkey are standouts from this local trademark deli.

Calistoga Country Antiques: Shop owner Patricia Samoun has been inspired by country French antiques since the 1970’s. She opened her shop in Calistoga in 2013 and her antiques have been featured in multiple publications such as Pottery Barn and House Beautiful.

Maxine’s Relics : This amazing thrift store is full of really interesting finds. The owner has a great eye and I will definitely be checking this place out regularly for cool jewelry and antiques.

Solage Calistoga Resort & Spa: : Aside from being a fantastic resort and having an amazing spa, the Solage is also home to the Michelin-star rated Solbar. Check in here for a luxurious Napa Valley experience. If staying there, take advantage of the bicycles included with the suites and take a spin around the quaint town of Calistoga. Stop in for dinner and drinks at Solbar and you might never want to leave.

Indian Springs Resort & Spa: : There are a couple of different options for mud baths in Calistoga, and they are definitely a huge draw to the town. Indian Springs happens to be my personal favorite due to the quality of treatment and the nostalgic feel of the grounds. Everything makes you feel like you are on vacation and a million miles away. Aside from the mud baths and massages, spending the day by the pool adds to the overall feeling of complete relaxation.

Old Faithful Geyser of Calistoga: Nothing about this tourist attraction is new or exciting, but it is a fun place to stop while in town. It might be a little silly but it is definitely a point of pride for the people of Napa. Fun Fact: Old Faithful Geyser is one of only three in the world with the distinction of “Old Faithful,” due to its consistent performance.

Notable Locals:
We have lots of people with roots here now but very few people who are actually from here. I included a list of notable residents who were all born elsewhere but are now very much a part of Napa’s community.
– Thomas Keller: chef
– Michael Chiarello: chef (also Food Network star)
– Francis Ford Coppola (also notable for his winery Inglenook)
– Mario Andretti (Andretti Winery)
– Diane Miller (daughter of Walt Disney, owns Silverado Vineyards Winery)
– Scott Beattie: Mixologist

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