Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Frugal eats in Napa

Whether you live in the Napa Valley or are planning a visit, it is possible to enjoy some of the best eats that Napa has to offer on a budget. My fellow frugal-minded folk will know I'm not talking about stretching your dollar at The French Laundry (though read on for an affordable way that even a penny pincher like me can enjoy Thomas Keller's food). I'm talking about family and budget-friendly restaurants that will excite your tastebuds and your wallet.

In my recent post about how to spend $50 or less a month on restaurants, I write about how to make the most of your money while eating out. For locals and visitors, here I write about where. Below are some of our favorite spots to dine out in and around Napa.


Buttercream Bakery
(707) 255-6700
2297 Jefferson St  Napa, CA
Table Service
Corkage: N/A
From it's pink and white striped exterior to its tasty cakes and I-can-die-now-that-I've-inhaled-this chicken fried steak, it's not hard to see why this local favorite has stood the test of time. Buttercream Bakery opened in Napa in 1948 and has been whipping up baked goods and delicious classic diner breakfasts ever since. 
Model Bakery
(707) 259-1128
644 1st St, Napa, CA
Counter Service
Corkage: N/A
We're on a mission to steal the secrets of the Model Bakery bakers. While certainly not the cheapest place in town to buy your bread, there are two great deals at Model that make it deserving of a place on this list: 1) each day the bakery has a 'Bread of the Day' for 50% off and 2) you can buy day-old pizza, breads and croissants for 50% off while they last.

Fremont Diner 
(707) 938-7370
2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA
Table Service
Corkage: N/A
Though a little bit outside of town and the most pricey of these three breakfast options (you'll be in good shape if you spend about $40-$50 with tip on breakfast for two), Fremont Diner is on this list because it is just so darn good. Period. The chefs source most ingredients from the restaurant's farm and do cool things like make their own sausage.


Oxbow Public Market
644 1st St  Napa, CA
Corkage: Bring your own bottle and glasses - you can enjoy your own wine at any of the public tables.
'The Oxbow,' as locals call it, is hands-down our favorite place to go for dinner in Napa. Set up like a public market, it is kid and budget friendly. Local purveyors include the Cheese & Wine Merchant, Ca' Momi Pizzeria (which, while not cheap - pizzas are $15 and up - is delicious), Three Twins Ice Cream (try the Cardemon), Kara's Cupcakes and, my personal favorite, C Casa, a unique taqueria that offers kick-ass tacos, nachos, and sides unlike any Mexican food you've ever had before.
(707) 944-2487
6476 Washington Street, Yountville, CA
Counter Service
Corkage: None. Bring your own glasses and corkscrew.
You too can enjoy Thomas Keller's five-star food without mortgaging your house. Known primarily for his restaurant The French Laundry, Mr. Keller makes his crispy, juicy - dare I say perfect - buttermilk fried chicken available to all walks of life via Addendum, a small 'shack' in Yountville which offers fried chicken and BBQ lunches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (which include three pieces of chicken or BBQ, cornbread and a side) for $16.50. While that may sound pricey, consider that dinner at The French Laundry for two, with wine and tip, will set you back nearly $1,000. Call ahead with your order. If it's a nice day, enjoy your tasty meal at the quiet picnic tables and garden.

Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet
(707) 224-6900
644 1st St  Napa, CA
Counter Service
Corkage: None
I have never been to Gott's (which is next to the Oxbow Public Market - they also have a location in St. Helena) and been disappointed. I have, however, been surprised by the bill (when did $8-$10 burgers become the norm?). When we go, it's almost always on Local's Night (Tuesdays) when cheeseburgers and pints are half price. For less than $20, you can get two burgers, two beers, and fries. That, in this town, is a steal.

Sushi Mambo
(707) 257-6604
1202 1st St  Napa, CA
Table Service
Corkage: No fee on the first bottle; $10 on each additional
Craving sushi? Sushi Mambo has an awesome happy hour - from 4-6pm sushi rolls (and beers) are buy one get one half off. Make sure you mention to your waiter that you're there for happy hour pricing. 

La Taquiza
(707) 224-2320
2007 Redwood Road, Napa, CA
Counter Service
Corkage: None
You haven't had fish tacos until you've been to LaTaquiza. My favorites are the shrimp tacos - the shrimp are plump and juicy and the sauce the perfect blend of spicy and sweet with a hint of lime. My husband loves the pulpo (octopus) tacos. It's the only place I've ever had pulpo and not only did I eat it, I liked it.

Heritage Eats
(707) 226-3287
3824 Bel Aire Plaza  Napa, CA
Counter Service
Corkage: None
Tucked away in the Bel Aire shopping center next to Whole Foods, Heritage Eats is one of those gems where meals are consistently good. Owned by locals, the restaurant offers Chipotle-style counter service with a wide array of ethic foods - from Vietnamese to Indian to Mexican and beyond. Try the Thai Boa, though you won't be disappointed with anything on the menu.

Small World Cafe
(707) 224-7743
932 Coombs Street, Napa, CA
Counter Service

We recently discovered this gem when we were in the mood for some budget-friendly vegetarian food (though rest assured that Small World Cafe offers plenty of carnivore-inspired dishes as well). After feasting on the Falafel & Baba Ganoush platters, with a little and Baklava for desert (how could we not at only $1.40 a piece?), we were back within the week to introduce a friend to some of the best, freshest fare that we've found in the Napa Valley.

Did I miss your favorite "cheap eat" in Napa? We are always looking for new spots to try - please share your recommendations!




  1. I must try Addendum next time I'm up there, and the Biscuits place! Fried chicken outside with a chilled bottle on a hot day sound delish!

    Thanks Jules!


    1. So great to hear from you Wendy! Both Biscuits and Addendum are fantastic - I dare say you would not be disappointed with either. Addendum is definitely a spot where you could make an afternoon of it lingering at the picnic tables with wine and friends. It's pretty tucked away and I've never seen it to busy - perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Napa!


  2. Nice job Julie! I agree with your list 100% except I would add Taqueria Rosita. Been a favorite of locals for a long, long time

    Cheers, Ryan

    1. Thank you Ryan! It actually took quite some time to cull it together - when I got to thinking about it, there are so many great places to get a cheap bite to eat here in town. While Napa might have a reputation for pricey food, as we locals know you just have to dig a little beneath the surface to find some affordable culinary gems.

      I have not yet tried Taqueria Rosita, though I have heard great things! We often walk by there when heading into town and will have to get lunch there the next time we're out and about. Thank you for the recommendation!


  3. You forgot Rutherford Grill! No corkage there...which is awesome And makes eating there a little more affordable lol. Me and my gf always get the grilled artichoke and cornbread for apps and the seared Ahi salad which is excellent and get out of there for around $60 with tip included. Not bad for dining up valley btw...Cheers!

  4. Matt,

    I looove Rutherford Grill! Every time I've been there I've had a fantastic meal. I usually stick to the chicken sandwich (heavenly!) to keep the meal on the frugal side, but will have you try your suggestions the next time I am there. The seared Ahi salad sounds delish.

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and for the tip!