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Because Sometimes it's Time for a Pick Me Up



It's hard to say what makes a great cafe--is it comfortable seating? Friendly service? Exquisitely brewed coffee? All of these things certainly help, and they're not so hard to find among the vineyards in California wine country. Pretty much anything that passes your lips in Napa Valley is carefully considered, and the coffee is no exception. It may not be locally grown or seasonal, but you can bet that it's fair trade, meticulously sourced or lovingly roasted, with water that's just the right temperature. In terms of atmosphere, the valley's cafes run the gamut from cozy, like at the Model Bakery, to bustling, like Ritual Coffee Roasters, to more restaurant-like at Boon Fly. The newcomers Molinari Caffe in Napa and Sogni di Dolci in St. Helena are the cool cats of the bunch, while the Yountville Coffee Caboose is a quirky, beloved local spot. They all have their niche--whether its a Ferrari-like espresso machine, pour over cones, or the more classic French press. Nearly all of these cafes offer sweet treats baked by pastry wizards in the area, and many of them have more substantial fare like sandwiches and salads. They are all good choices if you're looking for a breakfast at the start of your day, a place to stop in for a caffeine fix or cozy up during the afternoon, or a light bite when your energy starts to wane. 


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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.


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Yountville


It's not uncommon for people's eyes to go wide when they walk into Bouchon Bakery. It's a little cozier and sunnier than Parisian bakeries, but still transportive. Behind glass cases are rows of tarts where bright fruits sit like jewels, and perfectly pastel macaroons are lined up, waiting to be devoured. Like every Thomas Keller restaurant, each delectable bite and croissant flake is held to the highest standard and crafted with exacting care. Come for breakfast when the lines are shorter and order a cafe latte and an almond croissant, buried under a flurry of powdered sugar and slivered nuts. The brioche is buttery and perfect, too, and it might not be a bad idea to pick up some snacks for later as well.




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.


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St. Helena
Velo Vino


Velo Vino opened in 2011 with the intention of combining great cycling with great wines. Started by Gary and Kit, the founders of Clif Bar, they offer a full experience that combines two of their passions. They will create custom bike tours through their gardens and vineyards with personalized tastings. Or if you'd rather cycle through Napa on your own, stop by Vino Velo before your ride for some route suggestions, to grab a bike map, a cool high performance jersey, an espresso drink or to sample the latest Clif and Luna bar flavors. Alternatively, arrange a tasting of Clif Family wines for after your ride.


Alexis Baking Company


ABC, as locals know it, is a friendly, streetside cafe and bakery in downtown Napa where chef and namesake Alexis Handelman regularly wows patrons with baked goods and hearty breakfasts. Of course, the true menu stars are sweets, and few could argue against the virtues of a homemade French tart, German torte or even a traditional American fave like carrot cake or a chocolate-fudge brownie.


Ritual Coffee Roasters


San Francisco-based Ritual Coffee Roasters notes that they source their coffee from farms where the farmers care for their coffee trees as they would their children. The company is careful to get to know the soil and the pruning. And that is only the first step. They take the utmost care in roasting the beans, tasting the coffee more than twenty times before it's available to customers at their shops. To say that coffee is a ritual for them is kind of an understatement; it's more of a religion. Their Napa Valley branch is right smack in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.


Molinari Caffe
Photo courtesy of Nicole Marino


The brand new Molinari Caffe (it opened in March 2012) in downtown Napa calls itself "a place to start and end your day." Indeed it is. Sleek and stylish, this European-style cafe has boasts some strong brews. Along with the usual lattes and cappuccinos, they offer a few twists like the Hammerhead (espresso and caffe) and Nutella Da bere (Nutella, steamed milk, espresso). They have paninis, breads and cheeses, pastries from Sweetie Pies and Sarah Lindenbaum as well as a limited selection of salads. Like any good Napa establishment, nearly everything from the milk to the architect that designed the store to the flooring is locally sourced.


Model Bakery


With two locations, one on the main drag in St. Helena and one in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, there are no excuses not to stop by the Model Bakery for breakfast (or an afternoon snack). Their English muffins are extraordinary--even Michael Chiarello says they are one of his favorite things to eat. Light and airy, their buttery goodness makes up for a lack of nooks and crannies. Don't worry, they sell them mail order for when you fall in love and want to have them at home. If you're visiting the Oxbow Public Market location, pair their perfect breads with some unbelievably delicious charcuterie from the Fatted Calf or a coffee from Ritual Coffee Roasters.


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Meet Brooke Lewy

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...  More About Brooke

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