Magazine article Sunset

River Rising: With a Swirl of New Restaurants, Bars, and Cultural Attractions, Downtown Napa Finally Lives Up to Its Name

Magazine article Sunset

River Rising: With a Swirl of New Restaurants, Bars, and Cultural Attractions, Downtown Napa Finally Lives Up to Its Name

Article excerpt

ON A BALMY EVENING along the revived banks of the Napa River, a couple pauses to contemplate a menu composed by an Iron Chef. Just up the block, glasses clink in wine bars, conversation swells in bistros, and shoppers fill the aisles of tony boutiques. Everywhere you look: signs of effervescence on streets that used to be as still as flat Champagne.

It was a long time coming, this renaissance of downtown Napa, which for decades stood as a sleepy sentinel at the entrance of its namesake valley. New life began with a multimillion-dollar flood-abatement project completed in 2009, which helped restrain a river famed for overflowing into the empty streets. Development followed, and now the only floods come in the form of bright-eyed visitors drawn to culinary and cultural attractions worthy of their wine country surrounds.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The pulse beats strongest along Main Street, the commercial heart of the new downtown. Here, you find the high-end Riverfront complex, a hybrid of residences, retail shops, and restaurants, including the first West Coast outpost by the original Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto. True to his reputation for border bending, Morimoto Napa offers such inventive dishes as foie gras chawan-mushi, a French incarnation of a savory Japanese custard, and tuna pizza, with pink fish and jalapeno chiles layered on a thin and crispy crust.

The dining room overlooks the river and a walkway that leads to another big-name haunt. Rotisserie & Wine, from celeb chef Tyler Florence, is a sophisticated tribute to a Southern meat-and-three, where the deviled eggs come studded with anchovy crisps and the grilled steaks are garnished with shallot confit. Though the cooking owes a debt to the Low Country (braised collards with ham hocks; gooey mac 'n' cheese), the look of the place is distinctly wine country, with copper pots dangling in the open kitchen. If you can't Live without the porcelain plates your fried pork chops were served on, they're available for purchase, along with a myriad of kitchen accessories and cookware, at the Tyler Florence Shop next door.

Unlike the rest of the valley, downtown Napa can be covered on foot. Its lo blocks by 10 blocks allows for something like, say, the Napa Artwalk, a self-guided tour of contemporary sculptures by such West Coast artists as Terrence Martin, whose arresting steelFish On stands at Third and Main Streets.

From anywhere along the tour, it's an easy amble to the recently restored Uptown Theatre, an art deco former movie palace that brings in acts as varied as Esperanza Spalding, Lindsey Buckingham, and Steven Wright. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.