Things are different in downtown Napa this spring.
The Riverfront development is bustling with a bike shop, lifestyle retail and three new restaurants. Long-empty storefronts on First Street have become an outdoor gallery with the project.
And with more people on the streets, restaurants are responding with extended hours and new menus. Many places have opened up their outdoor seating areas and most offer local seasonal fare.
Michele Farhat at says it is much busier these days, and they are now open seven days a week again after having been closed on Tuesdays during the winter months. Serving a mostly locally-sourced spring menu until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant also has Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Around the block on First Street, chef-owners Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde at closed for a couple ofweeks in January to visit Italy for ideas and inspiration. They took along some of the staff including Kendyll Duncan from the front of the house, who said they were about to open the outdoor patio and start serving lunch in May. Serving their regular menu until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, they also keep the pizza oven just around 800 degrees until midnight to satisfy that late-night pizza/Barolo hankering. You cannot make pizza like this at home.
Guy Barstad, manager at , also said things are definitely getting busier and that their chef is making seasonal additions to their menu. They now have two patio areas open on Dwight Murray Plaza. Open seven days a week, Zins also offers a late night menu from 9:30pm to midnight, and wins the late-brunch award by serving brunch until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Nearby, also has outdoor seating on the plaza.
Manager Dave Palagi at , which is always busy, said the restaurant is seeing more large groups from all over, and weekdays are getting busier. The Napa Creek project has their patio closed for the spring – the bare limbless trees along that part of the creek more appropriate for a Tim Burton-themed restaurant than for one of California’s top steak houses.
Down Main street at , Manager Adam Hanks has been busy helping with the restaurant's garden plot across the street from Copia as well as a new organic community and restaurant garden at Boca Farms on Golden Gate Drive (, Oenotri, and are also involved in the Boca Farm project).
Hanks sees the limos and people with maps cruising by on Main Street out front as a sign that Napa is getting busier as a tourist destination all its own. Not surprisingly, their winery catering business is busier--a big plate of Zuzu paella being just about the most perfect dish for a lot of people to pair with almost any Napa wine. The hot and cold tapas menu changes with new seasonal offerings and the staff can guide you through the extensive list of Spanish wines.
In the Napa Mill complex, is bustling and the tables at Angele’s outdoor plaza along the Napa River are filling up with people and wine bottles every afternoon and evening. Along the Riverfront building the new big three, , Morimoto Napa and , are all pulling in crowds.
And with gas prices what they are, tourists may find that they don't need to drive Upvalley for their Napa food and wine experience: , , , , , , , , , and are all within walking distance of the city's parking garages.