Food-lovers who have been to San Francisco always stop by the Ferry Building, a marketplace that showcases some of the Bay Area’s most well-loved artisan food producers and home to one of the city’s most famous farmers markets. The Oxbow Public Market in Downtown Napa has the same kind of feeling as the Ferry Building, but on a smaller and even more accessible scale. The market houses artisan food producers selling something for just about everyone, whether you want goodies to take home or something to snack on while you’re out, from top-notch cuts of meat to locally produced cheeses to tacos and pastries.
The market is indoors, with about two dozen permanent vendors inside the main court. Some of my favorites include the Oxbow Cheese Merchant, where you can sample and buy all kinds of delicious cheeses, and Whole Spice, which carries more salts and spices than you could know what to do with (although they have plenty of suggestions for great ways to use them). You can pick up some bread to pair with any cheese you get at Model Bakery and some olive oil for dipping at the Olive Press.
Many of the vendors carry prepared foods, like tacos, coffee, sandwiches and ice cream that you can eat right at the market. This is the best option if you’re visiting because if you’re staying in a hotel it is going to be difficult to find a place to grill some of the amazing steaks from Five Dot Ranch or sausages from The Fatted Calf. At the Fatted Calf, which is well known in the Bay Area for its charcuterie, you can pick up some cured meats that you can eat right away, even if you’re a tourist just passing through. During the summer months, Oxbow also hosts a farmers market in its parking lot twice a week.
The market is not inexpensive, but this is a place where you are getting high quality goodies for your money and will enjoy everything that you eat. The vendors are friendly and happy to explain anything that looks good or that you might not have seen before. Be prepared to spend at least an hour or so wandering around and picking up a few treats for a lunch that gives you a great sampling of local goodies. And try to make friends with some of the locals that shop there – next time you’re in town, you’ll have someone to visit where you can have a cookout with some of many goodies from the market.
Oxbow Public Market
644 1st Street
Napa, CA 94559