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Napa Guide: Oxbow Public Market

Along a sharp bend in the Napa River, Oxbow Public Market has become a vibrant center for snacking, shopping, socializing and sipping wine.
Photo by: Alanna Hale
Along a sharp bend in the Napa River, Oxbow Public Market has become a vibrant center for snacking, shopping, socializing and sipping wine.

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: September 22, 2017

This airy market on First Street in downtown Napa combines restaurants, a coffee bar, a local chocolatier, a cheese shop and a produce market under one roof. The noshes range from sushi to cupcakes, and wine lovers can sharpen their skills by sniffing around the Whole Spice shop or sampling the dozens of bitters, shrubs and syrups at the Napa Valley Distillery. Here are the market's most wine-friendly spots.

Dubbed "an innovative taqueria," C Casa offers toothsome handmade white-corn tortillas, fresh salads and a unique taco menu. A spicy ground-buffalo taco is topped with goat cheese and chipotle aioli. Plump grilled garlic-citrus prawns share a taco with corn relish and avocado crema, while a roasted fingerling and new potato version has poblanos, cotija cheese and lime crema. There are also succulent chickens and ducks from the rotisserie. There's a small, rotating selection of wines such as Azur Rosé 2016 and Coho Pinot Noir 2013, and recommended wine-and-taco pairings.

Locally, sustainably grown Five Dot Ranch beef can be found in restaurants and markets all over wine country, but here, you can buy the fresh and dry-aged meat directly and even have it cooked up and served to you. Burgers, beef carnitas and beef bourguignonne are menu staples. You can also select any steak from the meat case at market price, and for $8, have it grilled to perfection. The concise, frequently changing wine offerings let you round out your order with by-the-glass options like Round Pond Cabernet 2014.

Gott's is a modern version of an old-fashioned burger joint that whips up thick milkshakes and juicy burgers on toasted egg buns. Clever combinations include the kimchi burger served with fried egg, kimchi, American cheese, bacon and spicy gochujang mayo. Chile spice-dusted sweet potato fries and ahi poke crispy tacos are local favorites. The impressive wine list features international and local choices, such as Loimer Grüner Veltliner Lois 2015 and Turley Zinfandel 2015, by the glass, and half bottles of Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon. Corkage is just $5.

Alanna Hale
Within steps of each other, Hog Island Oyster Co. and the Oxbow Cheese and Wine Merchant provide an opportunity to sample local bottlings.

Sit at the counter and slurp the fresh oysters, or enjoy them grilled in various ways. The Harissa option includes piquillo peppers, cumin and coriander, while the Margarita blends butter, tequila, lime, agave and cilantro. There are other small bites, plates and bowls too, such as a rustic seafood stew in spicy herb-tomato broth and an oyster po'boy. The wine list is tidy and seafood-friendly, focusing on crisp whites from Spain, Hungary, Portugal and France, plus California selections.

Todd Humphries made his name up-valley as chef of the former Martini House, and the Kitchen Door shows an eclectic, relaxed side of his cuisine. Thankfully, his signature cream of mushroom soup is on the menu, in addition to a range of dishes that take full advantage of the wood-burning oven, grill and rotisserie. The menu is global, with bahn mi, Armenian-spiced lamb flatbreads, chicken pho and mushroom-fried rice. The wine list comprises nearly 20 choices by the glass or carafe, and another few dozen offerings by the bottle, most of them from California and less than $50.

This little wineshop tucked in one corner of the market is full of gems, including bottlings from small, local producers, a succinct international selection and even some jaw-droppers such as an impossible-to-find Sine Qua Non Grenache. The adjacent cheese market is equally impressive, with local artisan creations and imported delicacies. Take a seat at the wine bar or venture outside to the patio and enjoy a cheese board or charcuterie assortment while sampling the vast wine menu.

Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  November 14, 2017 11:54pm ET
Don't forget the awesome happy hour at Hog Island, the organic ice cream at Three Twins, the baked goods just outside the door at Model Bakery, and the amazing beer selection at the new(er) Fieldwork outpost.

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