Where to go for Half Time

There's no shortage of excellent restaurants spread throughout Napa that offer full lunch menus, sometimes with wine pairings. Dining at some of the more famous establishments midday can be a great way to enjoy your meal without crowds, or at gentler prices than at dinner time. You still get the great views and atmosphere. Redd, Auberge du Soleil, and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen are all good choices at the higher end of the spectrum. In the middle, Redd Wood and Tra Vigne both offer perfect pizzas and the Boon Fly Cafe will probably still let you sneak at bacon bloody mary. For something lighter, quicker or more casual, La Esperanza Taco Truck is a great choice, as is Gott's Roadside, and Addendum, the 'footnote' to Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, where you can treat yourself to delectable barbecue and perfect fried chicken on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays. Sometimes the best way to have lunch in Napa is to pick up all the delicious pieces of a picnic--bread from the Model Bakery, charcuterie from the Fatted Calf--at the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa or the Oakville Grocery and eat outside at one of the vineyards while enjoying their wine and gazing out at their vines. There are a lot of options available to suit every kind of day. Whatever experience you're in the mood for, 10Best will help you decide where to make a reservation pick up those perfect picnic provisions before you hit the tasting rooms, hiking trails or mud baths. 

10 Tra Vigne
Residents of sleepy St. Helena count themselves blessed to have this wildly original cathedral to Tuscan-inspired cuisine right at their doorstep. A lush garden surrounds the restaurant, and broad double doors lead to an impressive interior of exposed brick and charming seating areas flanked by fully stocked wine racks. Competition for al fresco dining reaches frenzied levels during warmer months, and scores of hopeless romantics clamor to secure a table on the seductive courtyard patio. Reservations are a must. (707-963-4444)

9 The Boon Fly Cafe - The Carneros Inn
The Boon Fly Cafe at the Carneros Inn is toward the southern end of Napa Valley, and one of the best places to start your Napa day if you're driving up from San Francisco. From the outside, the cafe looks like a faintly glowing barn, red and welcoming. On the inside, it looks more like a Nancy Meyers movie set, with just the right mix of rustic wood tables, sleek lines and delicious looking croissants. Start off with a breakfast martini (who knew there was such a thing?) or a bacon bloody mary (!!). Share a basket of their world famous donuts before tucking into their breakfast flatbread. No matter what's coming next in your day, you will be well fueled. (707-299-4870)

8 Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen
While perhaps more visitors know about chef Cindy Pawlcyn's Mustards Grill, a notable spot in its own right, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen is the real local favorite. Tucked away off the St. Helena highway in downtown St. Helena, the staff is warm, the room is bright, and there's a bit of an insidery, speakeasy feel to the atmosphere. In addition to the Chinatown Duck Burger, regulars also love the rabbit tostada and everyone loves the Campfire Pie, like s'mores, a little bit more grown up. If you're visiting on a Wednesday or Thursday, make a reservation for the lunch or dinner supper club, where Cindy and general manager Michael Ingellis offer a menu inspired by recent travels around the globe. (7079631200)

7 Redd Wood
Tucked inside the North Block Hotel at the northern end of Yountville's main drag, Redd Wood share's the hotel's cool, industrial-chic aesthetic. Walk inside, order a prosecco and you could be in a back alley in Rome. The meatballs are the standout dish here--meltingly tender, served with a savory tomato sauce and slices of buttery, garlicky bread. The pizzas are good, too, blistery, with vibrant toppings like pickled peppers, sausage and rapini. Sit out in the courtyard and while away the afternoon taking in sun, sipping local wine and sharing pies straight out of the oven. (7072995030)

6 Redd
Stark, minimalist Redd encourages diners to focus on the Napa Valley's exquisite flavors, brought to exuberant life in chef Richard Reddington's tasting menus. Precisely prepared and elegantly plated courses delight patrons with unique preparations: caramelized diver scallops with cauliflower pur�e, and Alaskan halibut saltimbocca with prosciutto emulsion. Wines are taken seriously, and the selection balances variety while offering nods to the region's fine labels. A popular Sunday brunch brings treats like banana beignets with whipped mango cream, and a lavish breakfast pizza topped with scrambled eggs and cr�me fra�che. (707-944-2222)

5 Gott's Roadside
Selling hearty burgers, crisp fries, and creamy milkshakes for over half a century, Taylor's has continuously pleased patrons by clinging fiercely to the basics. Though the menu has expanded in recent years to include upscale eats like fried calamari and mahi mahi fish-and-chips, the simple hamburger on a toasted egg bun remains the most frequently ordered item. A secret special sauce adds zing to the affair. Brightly painted picnic tables, each topped with an enormous white umbrella, offer customers the opportunity for alfresco communal dining. (707-963-3486)

4 La Esperanza Taco Truck
This is about as real as Mexican food outside of Mexico gets. Owner Anastacio Guerra got on a bus in 1974 from Jalisco and got off in Fresno, planning simple to earn enough money to buy a motorbike and go back. His plans changed and almost forty years later, he has parked his gleaming blue and silver taco truck in downtown Napa. Some say his tacos, like the other taco trucks in the area fuel the wine business. The tacos are $2 each and simple, flaky white fish, sweet shrimp, slow simmered caren asada punched up with raw onion, cilantro and salsa and cooled off with crema and generous slices of avocado. He also sells delicious, filling tortas, burritos and puposas. ((707) 246-4908)

3 Ad Hoc
Just down the road from the French Laundry, Thomas Keller initially intended Ad Hoc to be a temporary place, just something he was trying out. It was meant to be a casual spot to serve neighbors and the staff itself. It's take on comfort food was so popular that it stuck and there was no way that they could close. The menu changes daily, and Keller's almost maniacal adherence to perfect technique carries through the preparation of food at Ad Hoc. However, when the menu here says shrimp and grits, or fried chicken, that's exactly what you'll find on your plate--just the most perfectly executed, delicious version of it. (7079442487)

2 Hog Island Oyster Company
There's nothing more luxurious than ordering a huge plate of freshly shucked oysters. At the Hog Island Oyster Company in the Oxbow Public Market, most of the oysters are from close by in Northern California's Tomales, Morro and Humboldt Bays (with some Duxbury, MA Island Creek's thrown in). Order them on ice by the half, full or two-dozen, or barbecued and Rockefeller style. They also have other zippy flavors like harissa (a local favorite) and bagna cauda. For those who prefer their mollusks cooked, there are steamers, chowder and an oyster po'boy. Seafood not your thing? Their grilled cheese is pretty awesome, too. (707.251.8113)

1 Oakville Grocery
The Napa standards for carefully sourced ingredients are in full effect at the Oakville Grocery. Open since 1881, they have refined the art of picnicking for over a century. Their shelves are filled with excellent products that skew toward the local, and their sandwiches--Fatted Calf BLT, fried chicken, citrus-cured salmon--are thoughtful and delicious. They have plenty of salads and spreads as well. The Oakville Grocery has picnic tables right there, but the store's location on the St. Helena Highway makes it not the most relaxing option. Instead, head to one of the public parks in Napa, Yountville or Calistoga, or visit one of the wineries that has a picnic permit and complement your picnic basket with a bottle of wine. Check the Napa Valley Vinters website for the most updated list. (707-944-8802)


Brooke moved to California for the food. After spending the last two years getting her masters in international affairs, she realized that there’s nothing she loves better than bringing people together around food, and there’s no place more delicious than Napa Valley. Prior to grad school, Brooke spent a year in Brazil studying Portuguese, urban agriculture, and remote beaches. She was a travel editor at Cookie magazine, has worked for a few nonprofits, and lived in Hanoi for a year, editing at Vietnam's English-language newspaper. Her writing assignments have led her to some unexpected places including hidden snake restaurants and Mike Tyson’s pigeon coop in Jersey City.

Read more about Brooke Lewy here.

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Maps and Directions

1
Tra Vigne 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Disabled Accessible, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms
Cuisine: European, Italian
COST: $$
2
The Boon Fly Cafe - The Carneros Inn 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, California
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Counter Seating, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Neighborhood: Airport - Apc
COST: $$$
3
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, California
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Counter Seating, Parties / Private Rooms, Take Out
Neighborhood: St. Helena
COST: $$$
4
Redd Wood 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Yountville
5
Redd 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, California
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Disabled Accessible, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms
Neighborhood: Yountville
COST: $$
6
Gott's Roadside 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Burger
Dining Options: Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Neighborhood: St. Helena
COST: $
7
La Esperanza Taco Truck 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Latin, Mexican
Neighborhood: Napa
8
Ad Hoc 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Bar Dining, Non-Smoking
Neighborhood: Yountville
COST: $$$$
9
Hog Island Oyster Company 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Seafood
Neighborhood: Napa
10
Oakville Grocery 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Bakery, Deli
Dining Options: Catering, Take Out