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.
2297 Jefferson St Napa, CA
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.
644 1st St, Napa, CA
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.
2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA
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.
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.
6476 Washington Street, Yountville, CA
Corkage: None. Bring your own glasses and corkscrew.
Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet
644 1st St Napa, CA
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.
1202 1st St Napa, CA
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.
2007 Redwood Road, Napa, CA
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.
3824 Bel Aire Plaza Napa, CA
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
932 Coombs Street, Napa, CA
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!