Model Bakery, St. Helena and Napa
Dating back to the 1920s, the St. Helena location of Model Bakery is a great bet for just about any kind of baked good, but it's these English muffins you should really be going for. Have you ever seen a breakfast sandwich this gorgeous? When you're sure to be drinking, it's good to know where you can get a hangover-killer the next day.
644 1st Street, Napa CA 94559 (map); 707-259-1128
La Condesa, St. Helena
We love the St. Helena offshoot of Rene Ortiz's highly acclaimed upscale Mexican spot in Austin, Texas. Expect tacos, tortas, and huaraches of all sorts, with compelling toppings like huitlacoche or "panza de puerco" (pork belly with blue cheese, caramel, and an apple brown butter puree). It's a great bet for a culinarily exciting, but not insanely pricey meal—plus drinks that run from the adventurous (habanero-infused Zapopan Blanco, fresh corn, Mexican honey and anise liqueur) to the just awesome (the margarita pictured here).
We loved the wood-fired, creatively topped pizzas at Robert Reddington's Yountville pizzeria, but the rest of the menu—they're open breakfast, lunch, and dinner—seems worth a look, too. It's in a lofty, modern space with a pleasant patio, suited to casual dining either indoors or out.
Tacos Garcia, Yountville and Napa
Less than a hundred paces from the French Laundry, arguably America's finest restaurant, sits Tacos Garcia, a truck in the parking lot of dive bar Pancha's. 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. Lengua is a great bet.
Tacos Garcia: 6764 Washington Street, Yountville CA 94599 (map)
Oxbow Market, Napa
Restaurants, pizzerias, coffee bars, cheese shops, and a produce market all share a roof—an airy, open space that lets you walk between one stall and another, glass of wine in hand. Between The Fatted Calf shop (the charcuterie maker's first brick-and-mortar location), Model Bakery, Oxbow Produce and Grocery, and Oxbow Cheese Merchant—not to mention the twice-weekly farmers' market in the parking lot outisde—it's a fine place for food shopping. But it's an equally fine place to have a meal, whether at one stall or many. Local favorites like Hog Island Oyster and Gott's Roadside (the hamburger stand formerly known as Taylor's Automatic Refresher) share space with other restaurants and stands exclusive to the market.
More Oxbow Market
Some of our favorites: pizza and crazy cream puffs from Ca' Momi, arepas from Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, brunch and flatbreads at The Kitchen Door (we'd bet the rest of the menu is great, too), ice cream from Three Twins, and anything at The Fatted Calf.
There's not a bad pastry in the bunch at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, from Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. So, whether you stick with classic favorites like a pain au chocolat, or branch out with an in-season, strawberry cheesecake croissant ($3.75), you're bound to leave happy. (We loved that croissant on a recent visit; the pastry's exterior flakes apart delicately, cradling an interior of light cheesecake studded with fresh berries.)
Your best best at Sunshine Foods, a grocery store simply bursting with picnic-ready goodies, is to pilfer their selection of cheeses and cured meats, preferably with the guidance of one of their knowledgeable staff members ('sideburns guy,' in particular, knows his stuff). But there's a serious sandwich menu available, as well, if you prefer your picnics ready-made. We liked The Grenade ($6.99), a blend of grilled tri tip, blue cheese mayonnaise, bacon and avocado, on a soft sour roll.
To Drink: Goose & Gander
Scott Beattie, the lauded cocktail maestro behind Healdsburg's Cyrus and, more recently, Spoonbar, brings his seasonally-influenced style of mixology to the Goose & Gander basement bar. It's all about fresh herbs, bottle-aging, and handmade ingredients. Perfect for cocktails when you're tired of wine. (We haven't eaten there, but we'd be curious to check out the food menu, too.)