One of Napa’s most anticipated restaurant openings in 2021 came last fall in the form of a tiki bar downtown. Overlooking the Napa River (it even has a rooftop terrace), Wilfred’s Lounge offers something completely new in Wine Country. Sip Wilfred’s version of a Mai Tai or other tropical drinks, like the Blue Hawaii, Pagan Ritual, or On Island Thyme (get it?). For food, the salmon candy rangoons, spam sliders, and chicken skewers will transport you right to a virtual island paradise.
Last summer, Chef Thomas Keller unveiled yet another eatery, his sixth in the tiny town of Yountville. Outside of The French Laundry, this is the fanciest dining experience yet, celebrating two of life’s greatest gifts: Champagne and caviar. Swing by the Regiis Ova Caviar & Champagne Lounge for just that and some fun bites like deviled eggs or Wagyu tartare (both topped with caviar), snow crab legs, and truffle grilled cheese.
In early 2022, Loveski, a “Jew-ish” deli concept from Chef Christopher Kostow (of the three Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood and The Charter Oak) and his wife Martina Kostow will open at the Oxbow Public Market, serving up bagels and schmear and killer pastrami on rye. Also slated to open in Napa Valley later this year is The Slanted Door, a Wine Country outpost from the famed San Francisco Vietnamese restaurant, and a new St. Helena restaurant from two volunteer firefighter friends, one of which is a 10-year French Laundry alum, called Charlies’.
Napa obviously has its share of wine bars and while you likely have your favorites, there are three new spots worth checking out, like Ox and the Fox, located right in the heart of downtown on First St. and inside the First & Franklin Marketplace, which also happens to make a mean deli sandwich. Ox and the Fox is small, super casual, and a great alternative when the line at Cadet (just around the corner) is too long on the weekends. Don’t miss the snacks, like a goat cheese fondue.
Feast it Forward, a wine tasting collective, TV studio, and design showroom in one, expanded at the end of 2021 at its eclectic Oxbow District location to include The Yard, a music festival-inspired outdoor space with a huge stage, picnic tables, lawn games, and double-decker wine lounges made out of repurposed storage containers. The Yard frequently hosts concerts, pop-ups, and other fun events, so keep an eye on their website calendar.
Bay Grape is technically a wine shop, but since opening last year, it’s become a sort of best-kept secret of Napa’s local wine industry, known as the spot to procure obscure wines that go beyond Napa and California and you won’t find anywhere else in town. Bay Grape offers a weekly wine flight by a featured producer and any bottle you purchase can be enjoyed on their patio for a $10 corkage fee. On Sundays, that corkage is waived on all Champagne (huzzah!).
Though not a wine bar, a new cocktail bar called The Fink should be on your radar for 2022. Set to open inside The Napa River Inn, this project comes from Napa’s unofficial mayor and vintner Judd Finklestein of Judd’s Hill Winery. Finklestein founded a Napa Valley cocktail appreciation guild back in 2004, just in case anyone was doubting his credentials.
Hop to It
The sister outpost of Big Stump Brewing Company in Sacramento, Napa Barrel Project is a new brew pub in downtown Napa that’s focused on aging beers in barrels sourced from Napa Valley wineries (they even have a wine list featuring bottles and glasses from those same wineries). Pair either with a pizza from their menu, like the Spanish Pizza topped with chorizo, olives, and onions.
Berkeley-based Fieldwork Brewing recently moved its Napa taproom from the Oxbow Public Market to a new standalone space around the corner that’s much bigger, has a large beer garden, and for the first time, serves food.
Try Your Luck
Napa isn’t exactly known for its nightlife, but a new cardroom called Ace & Vine opened last year, providing a new form of late-night entertainment in Wine Country. Open 24/7 — yes, really — pick your poison between Blackjack, Texas Holdem, Baccarat, Three Card Poker, and Pai Gow Poker. Ace & Vine doubles as a restaurant, serving a mash-up of American and Asian dishes indoors or on a big, riverside deck.