Photos: Nicolette Skidmore

A Local Sommelier’s Guide to Napa

Napa is not just about celebrity chefs and high wine scores anymore, it’s becoming more and more about niche spots and “industry” joints. So when hospitality pros, chefs, sommeliers and winemakers get the night off, where do they go to geek out? Here is a starter guide on how to experience Napa like a local.


Start at Minimashi, they deserve 100% of your pre-“lit” attention. This Japanese izakaya-style restaurant opened in May of last year and has been booming ever since. It’s understandable why; they serve amazing cocktails, sake from magnums, and enough German Riesling to drown a Somm. Sausage Yakisoba Noodles and Chicken Oysters are a few highlights from their ever-changing, always delicious menu. Finish the meal with a cone of their endlessly creative soft serve ice cream. Their Cinnamon Toast Crunch topped with honeycomb sesame crisp was a healthy dose of nostalgia; best washed down with Japanese whiskey, because: duh.

INSIDER TIP: If Andrew is working the bar, tell him you want to make the “Eye Deal”.

821 Coombs Street, Napa, CA 94558
Current hours: Lunch 11:30-2:30 Mon-Fri | Dinner 5:30pm-10pm Mon-Thurs, 5:30pm-11pm Fri, 5pm-11pm Sat and 5pm-9:30pm Sun.

Expect discounted ramen & yakitori 9pm-10pm Mon-Thurs, 10pm-11pm Fri & Sat.
Stroll up to their soft serve window 12pm-10pm Mon-Fri, 4pm-11pm Sat & Sun.


Next, head to La Taberna for some txakoli and pintxos. La Taberna is a traditional Spanish tapas spot with heavy Basque influences. The new chef de cuisine Shawn Phillips (of Saison, Atelier Crenn, and Alinea fame) brings a touch of sophistication and color to their authentic menu. Don’t miss the Squid a la Plancha with piquillo pepper relish, Lamb Tartare or the Fish Conserva Board. With cider on tap, vermouth on the rocks, and sherry abounding, La Taberna is an Iberica aficionado’s go-to.

INSIDER TIP: Ask for a Porron with your bottle of wine to really get the party started.

La Taberna
815 Main Street Napa, California 94559
Current hours: 4pm-11pm Tue-Fri & 2pm-11pm Sat & Sun


Finish the night at Cadet. This back alley joint is a cellar hand’s wet dream. Their list is filled with allocated juice from around the world and craft beer galore but the heirloom cherry on top is their vinyl collection. Buy a bottle and you can even contribute to the soundtrack for the evening. Don’t be surprised when you spend hours on their patio chugging bubbles or Cru Beaujolais.

INSIDER TIP: If you have devil-may-care posture and the endurance to stay ‘til closing, on the right night, you may experience a dance party.

Cadet Beer and Wine Bar
(Located in a charming alley off Franklin Street)
930 Franklin Street Napa, CA 94559
Current hours: Monday – Thursday 6pm-1am, Fri- Sat 6pm- 2am

Check them out on Wednesdays for their “guest bartender” series. You’ll get a taste of the hottest winemakers, brewers and chefs around town.

As a younger generation of wine and culinary professionals take over, Napa Valley is rapidly changing. The Farm to Table movement along with craft beer and wine are on the rise, and restaurants like these are showing the world that authentic doesn’t have to mean stuffy.