Grilled turkey sandwich, or beef cheek tacos?
Drive along California's Route 29, through the heart of Napa Valley, and you'll pass by any number of superb restaurants—fertile soil, world-class wine, and the people who love said wine create an excellent climate for fine dining. But when you're looking for a quick lunch, not a Michelin adventure, options can seem a bit slim. Here are two of my favorite, under-$10 eats in wine country, after the jump.
Mid-Priced and Traditional: Oakville Grocery
Right on St. Helena Highway, Oakville Grocery is the wine country version of a corner store—a little rustic, sure, but stocked with fine oils, wines, and pricey confections—plus a pretty impressive lunch spread, perfect for a picnic lunch or a sandwich to enjoy on Oakville's front porch.
Of their very appealing sandwich list, the House Roast Turkey with Pesto Mayo ($8.95) may seem like one of the least exciting options. But I can say with confidence that it's my favorite turkey sandwich in California. Fresh, moist turkey on fluffy focaccia, with provolone and a generous spread of tangy, herby mayonnaise; my family has spent years trying to figure out just what's in that pesto, but we've never quite figured it out. Whatever it is, it's addictive. Order it grilled (it'll come cold otherwise); a few minutes in the panini press will melt that cheese, give the focaccia an extra crunch, and help the mayo soak into its spongy innards. There are plenty of other sandwiches worth ordering (the Chicken Gruyere is my second favorite), plus salads and the like, but the turkey-pesto sandwich is the one worth a detour.
Cheap and Awesome: Tacos Garcia
Less than a hundred paces from the French Laundry, arguably America's finest restaurant, is Tacos Garcia, a rare affordable lunch option in the Michelin magnet of Yountville. Just this July, the town gave the popular Napa taco truck a permit to set up in the parking lot of dive bar Pancha's, giving Washington Street its first licensed taco truck.
And, thankfully, Tacos Garcia didn't just bring Mexican eats to Yountville—they brought good Mexican eats to Yountville. While there's an extensive menu, the cheapest lunch might be the best: tacos, all served in a double wrap of soft, fresh corn tortillas with just enough onion and cilantro, are $1.50. A perfect showcase for every one of the dozen meats on offer.
I went back for seconds of the bright red chorizo-like longaniza, with crispy, salty browned edges, its particular spice makeup so elusive I just wanted to eat more—and while I was there, ordered another lengua, tongue so tender it seemed to dissolve on my own. But the cabeza was pretty memorable, too... and the fried carnitas, and the super-seasoned pastor, and the tender beef suadero and—well, you get the idea. Grab three tacos, perch on the rickety table setup behind Pancha's, and you'll be well-fed and on your way for less than $5.
6764 Washington Street, Yountville CA 94599 (map)