Looking for a fantasy-land of dining, drinking, and shopping? Head over to the Oxbow Public Market in Napa! The Oxbow Public Market is all kinds of fun for foodies, families, and shoppers. And it’s not just for tourists either (locals love this place)! Really, this spot needs to be on everyone’s Napa Valley itinerary and is not to be missed.
Located in the Oxbow District of Napa, the Oxbow Public Market has become the melting pot for all things gastronomic–home to some of the best food, wine, and local goods Napa Valley has to offer. Within seconds of stepping into the market, you’ll notice that the Oxbow Public Market offers a diverse eating and shopping experience, featuring the freshest locally produced foods from restaurants and one-of-a-kind products from unique shops.
Whatever culinary delight you’re looking for, there’s a high chance it’ll be there! I’m talking fresh meats, cheeses, charcuterie, organic produce, fresh-baked bread, spices, olive oil and much more. Come hungry and with an open mind, because where else can you enjoy tacos one minute, fresh oysters the next, and ice cream to top it all off? Interested in finding out more? Well, let’s get into it and take a tour of the market!
OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET – EATING AND DRINKING
From the outside, you’re likely going to find people munching on seafood, burritos, and ice cream, or sipping on coffee, frosé, wine, or beer on the scenic outdoor deck overlooking the Napa River. On a warm sunny day, there’s really nothing better than grabbing a meal with friends and eating at one of the many picnic tables outdoors (food, drinks, scenery, and sunbathing = the perfect day).
As you head inside, you’ll notice a world of curiosities, especially if you’re a foodie or love to cook! You’ll begin to notice that Oxbow Public Market resembles a high-end shopping mall for all things food and wine. In total, there are 22 unique and independent merchants that call the Oxbow Public Market home. Let’s start with the food here.
With just a quick loop around the market once, you’ll likely notice some big-name establishments from the Bay area, including Gott’s Roadside, Hog Island Oysters, Ritual Coffee Roasters, and Kara’s Cupcakes. Before settling on a choice, be sure to take the loop around the market and explore all your options!
Here are some of our favorite food joints to check out at the Oxbow Public Market:
- Hog Island Oysters – Hog Island Oysters is a classic choice that you can’t go wrong with. Definitely a must-eat if you’re in the mood for oysters.
- Gott’s Roadside – If you like burgers, this is a Bay Area staple that you can’t miss. This St. Helena drive-in first became famous under the name Taylor’s Refresher–now it’s Gott’s, and you gotta have Gott’s. Think juicy cheeseburgers, yummy hot dogs, crispy onion rings, and hand-spun shakes.
- Model Bakery – Get the buttery, crispy English muffins. Or a sandwich on one of those bad boys. Trust me, it’s what they’re known for.
- C Casa – Their made-to-order tortillas are topped with really unique ingredients, like seasoned buffalo, rotisserie lamb, grilled prawns, fresh crab, microgreens, goat cheese, chipotle aioli, and more. We had breakfast here and really enjoyed the breakfast tacos.
- Ritual Coffee – What a joy it was to stumble upon one of the best coffee shops in the nation right here in Napa! Ritual has been our go-to whenever we’re wine tasting in the area–sipping on their coffee is a fantastic way to start any Napa Valley morning.
Other options include a little pizzeria called Live Fire Pizza, where you place your order, then find a seat (there is a nice large outdoor patio with heaters). Once your buzzer goes off, you’ll grab your pizza and enjoy. There’s also a sushi option, a great burger/steak place, and Kitchen Door, a seated restaurant that features an ingredient-driven menu of American comfort food, created with local and seasonal products, selected to complement wine regions, and meant for sharing.
If you’re with a group of people who always struggle to decide on what to eat, Oxbow Public Market is really the perfect place to go. You can all disperse upon arrival, order something different, and still dine together at one of the many tables both indoors and outdoors. My recommendation is to not rush to make a decision on what to eat or what to buy until you’ve done a full loop around the market. Take your time to check all the stores, restaurants, and food vendors before committing to one, because there are so many good choices here.
And don’t forget about Gott’s, Model Bakery, and The Fatted Calf when you’re faced with all the indoor options! These are located outside of the market at the annex.
Outside, you’ll find a group of three shops next to the main market building. You’ll find gourmet charcuterie at The Fatted Calf, yummy baked goods at Model Bakery (they have multiple locations across Napa Valley), and an incredible assortment of wines to try at CRU’s tasting room. Lastly, there’s Gott’s Roadside which is very hard to miss.
For dessert, head to Kara’s Cupcakes or Anette’s Chocolates, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Both options are extremely popular among locals and tourists alike.
And if you’re looking to get started on wine tasting or beer tasting after you’ve had your fill of food? No problem, Oxbow’s got you covered.
- For Beer: Fieldwork Brewing Co – Based in Berkeley, CA, Fieldwork Brewing is a local favorite (I would know, I live in Berkeley now!). Visitors to the Napa Taproom can expect an ever-changing tap list of fresh releases to enjoy by sampler flight or by the glass.
- For Wine: Bar Lucia – Enjoy rosé, frosé (frozen rosé), sparkling wines and a menu of seasonal light bites designed to pair perfectly with the best local wines. The menu will include salads, Panini sandwiches and small bites. On a warm day, grab your drink and head to the outdoor patio right by their stand, such a nice and relaxing experience.
- For Spirits: Napa Valley Distillery – Calling all aspiring mixologists and craft spirits lovers! Napa Valley Distillery features a unique variety of fruit-based distilled spirits that you can taste on site (you can taste up to six quarter-ounce pours). Not only do they have tastings, but they also have a huge collection of bitters, shrubs, tonics and syrups to keep your eyes wandering for at least 10 minutes (especially if you’ve got your own bar collection at home). Their flagship product is Napa Vodka Vintage Reserve, made entirely from Single Vintage Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. They also make pre-prohibition era barrel-aged cocktails, like the Negroni and East India and seasonal liqueurs like their platinum medal-winning Meyer lemon liqueur.
OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET – SHOPPING
Not only is Oxbow Public Market a great place to grab a meal, but it’s also home to one of the most fun shopping experiences in all of Napa Valley! After your meal, save enough time to peruse the little stalls of wine, oils, spices, cheeses, chocolates, coffee, even books! By far, Whole Spice and Oxbow Cheese and Wine Merchant were our favorites for browsing. More details on some of the shopping highlights below:
The Oxbow Cheese and Wine Merchant is where you’ll find a huge assortment of wines from producers from both Napa and around the world, along with an expansive selection of the world’s best cheeses. Take a seat at their wine bar and enjoy a pairing, or pick up your food and drink supplies for your picnic elsewhere in the valley!
At Whole Spice, you can marvel at all the colorful spice options that you may or may not heard of before. They offer over 300 different spices, and do custom grinds and blends, ensuring you end up with the best product to suit your needs.
If you’re a fan of olive oil, don’t miss The Olive Press. They have the distinction of being the very first olive mill in Sonoma and is now known as the most highly awarded olive oil producer in the nation! Definitely worth tasting and buying.
If you’re looking for non-food souvenirs, don’t miss the rest of the small shops selling books, stationery and cards, oven mitts, and other gifts!
Lastly, if you’re looking for groceries, Oxbow has that too! Hudson Greens and Goods is a specialty grocery store that is akin to gourmet food shops. But better, because there are all kinds of other knick-knacks here that make for great gifts. It’s a great place to find harder-to-find sauces, tapenades, nuts, jams, chocolate brands, etc.
OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET – OTHER THINGS TO DO
There’s always something happening here, from live music to cooking demos, wine and beer tastings, and more. Even the farmer’s market is held here on Saturday mornings.
The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has a location here as well, offering quintessential Napa food experiences for people who love to eat and drink! Along with the range of culinary classes and foodie experiences they offer, there are also two restaurants, a rare-book library, and an outdoor garden to enjoy. Both The CIA at Copia and the Oxbow Public Market share a large parking lot so you can easily walk between both buildings.
Pro Tip: Swing by the Oxbow on Tuesday nights, when nearly every vendor remains open late for “Locals’ Night.” There’s also a rotating happy hour throughout the week featuring food and drink specials at a variety of vendors. (Happy Hour discounts may include: $3 beers at C Casa, half-priced oysters on the shell at Hog Island, and more.)
All in all, the Oxbow Public Market is definitely worth stopping into, even if you’re not hungry or don’t think you need anything. The shared collective space is magical, to say the least. And who knows, you might find yourself leaving the market a little tighter in the waistband…
When you’re done exploring the Oxbow Public Market, simply leave your car here in the parking lot and take a 3-4 block walk to Downtown Napa for more exploration, drinking, eating, and shopping! Just a short walk across the bridge will be the heart of Napa, featuring many other restaurants, hotels, and shops, and art galleries.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR NAPA VALLEY, CA
- July is usually the hottest month, with an average high of 83°F (28°C). January is the coldest month, with an average high of 57°F (14°C).
- Traffic can clog up Napa Valley’s highways pretty quickly during peak season. If you don’t want to waste time sitting in traffic, get an early start or go during the low season.
- Wine tasting in Napa Valley can be expensive, and you can expect most wineries to charge at least $35 per flight. However, there are ways to taste wine and stick to your budget. Go wine tasting in Downtown Napa for cheaper tastings (get the Downtown Napa Wine Tasting Card at the Welcome Center for $15, get 50% off at tasting rooms), get the Priority Wine Pass ($40-60 for 400+ wine tasting deals, the best deal here in my opinion), or travel in the winter and opt for the Winter in the Wineries Passport ($60, free tastings at 15+ Calistoga wineries). Tastings are also much cheaper in Sonoma.
- Consider sharing a tasting to save money. Many wineries will offer for you to share a tasting or won’t mind if you ask to do so.
- While most wineries take walk-ins, many are by appointment only. Always check a winery’s website before you actually head there.
- Missed the chance to lock in lunch or dinner reservations? Eat at Gott’s or at Oxbow Public Market. The Oxbow Market is my favorite place to get reasonably-priced food, dessert, and beer.
- Oxbow Public Market also has Happy Hour specials Monday-Thursday evenings and “Locals’ Night” every Tuesday, where merchants offer special items for locals to enjoy.
- On a nice sunny day, consider bringing a picnic lunch with you on your exploration. You’ll be able to save money and enjoy it among the vineyards around you.
- Dressing up for your Napa trip? Make sure you wear the right shoes. Leave the stilettos at home. If you still want to look cute, consider stacked heels or wedges, and be mindful of open-toed shoes (there could be lots of gravel you’ll walk on throughout the valley).
- Bring a packable, lightweight jacket. The temperature cools down quickly, even on warm, sunny days. This Columbia jacket is a light and packable windbreaker and rain jacket, all in one!
Wondering what other fun things there is to do in Napa Valley besides drinking wine? Check out my Napa Valley travel guide here.
Happy eating, happy exploring!