Stop in at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa any time of day or evening and it’ll be bustling with shoppers and diners, a draw for those looking to make an epicurean connection.
Since opening in December 2007, Oxbow is widely credited as having succeeded where its higher-profile former neighbor, Copia, failed.
The 40,000-square-foot indoor marketplace is inviting to tourists and also serves locals as a community hangout. Copia, which debuted with a high-end museum concept and never found its footing, closed within a month of Oxbow’s opening. A few vendors have come and gone since Oxbow’s debut, yet today, the venue is as vital as ever.
Anyone can wander in and enjoy the market’s range of delights, which includes a chocolate shop, butcher shops, oyster bar, wine shop, seafood purveyor, bakeries, florist, local honey, organic ice cream, a coffee roaster, tea and spice shops, a micro-distillery and many worthwhile eateries, from chef Todd Humphries’ expansive Kitchen Door to Napa Valley’s revered gourmet hamburger haven, Gott’s Roadside.
Founded by Steve Carlin, who also developed the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, Oxbow draws 1 million visitors a year. With 24 merchants, it lures residents to come again and again by hosting weekly Locals’ Nights (Tuesdays) and a seasonal farmers market (Tuesdays and Saturdays, May through October).
Locals like to sit on the back patio overlooking the Napa River and enjoy a glass of wine from the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant, which also serves draft beer, cheese and charcuterie. Hog Island Oyster Bar is nearby. Kara’s Cupcakes bakes new flavors throughout the day, tempting desirers of sweet treats from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dining options include C Casa, chef/owner Catherine Bergen’s Latin cuisine mecca, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, its menu gluten-free. Newer still is Cate & Co., Bergen’s gluten-free bake shop, which opened in December.
Ca’ Momi is both a full-service restaurant and wine bar with indoor and outdoor seating; its pizzeria is Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified. Ca’ Momi is also a traditional Italian pasticceria.
Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen high-lights Venezuelan cuisine. The Fatted Calf and Five Dot Ranch ensure well-raised meat is always available, while Kanaloa Seafood is a full-service place to buy locally caught fish and shellfish, run by a Ph.D. biologist and former Scripps Institute of Oceanography researcher.
Many Napans like to start their day at Ritual Coffee Roasters for single-drip cups of carefully picked and roasted coffee. Tillerman Tea serves the same purpose for loose-leafed teas.
Tiny Napa Valley Distillery carries micro-batch spirits, shrubs, tonics, syrups and bitters from around the world, and also sells its signature Napa Vodka Vintage Reserve made from Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, barrel-aged cocktails and seasonal liqueurs.