Full disclosure – I am not a vegetarian. I only eat vegetarian about 95% of the time. I don’t have any moral aversion to eating meat, nor do I dislike the taste. Every so often I get a craving for braised short ribs or a beautiful medium-rare fillet. When I do, there’s nothing that comes between me and my red meat. However, I recognize the health benefits in eating a veggie diet and there’s no reason to live in a place like the Napa Valley and not be able to eat like the best of ‘em. For you strict vegetarians out there – some of these dishes may not suit you. I never ask if it has animal product in the ingredients [my chef friends would come out and throw their ladles at me, or whatever they happen to be wielding at the time, although I’m sure they’d be very helpful to YOU]. So, you may want to check that out before ordering.
Part 1 includes all of my budget-friendly favorites. Hey, I’d love to eat at Bouchon every night, but not only would I be broke, I’d gain about 100 pounds. Part 2 will list all my favorites to splurge on.
Celadon, Historic Napa Mill, 500 Main Street , Downtown Napa
Grilled Polenta, $12 (lunch only, dinner is a similar but different dish)
If you haven’t had grilled polenta, try it for the first time at Celadon. And even if you have, this one will be your new favorite. These are polenta cakes, grilled and laid on top of a bed of mushrooms, tomatoes, wilted greens and balsamic. The crab cakes & pan roasted mussels are equally delicious and best of all, you can sit outside on the patio year round.
Taylor’s Refresher – Oxbow Public Market, Downtown Napa
Ahi Tuna Sandwich, $14.99
Basically, this is sushi on a bun. It’s a huge piece of fish (seared rare ahi tuna) on their delicious toasted egg bun with ginger wasabi mayo and dressed up asian slaw. I’m at Taylor’s at least once a week and every so often, I’ll talk myself into changing it up and ordering the fish tacos (which are also excellent), but the tuna burger will always be my favorite. If you find yourself in St. Helena, you can always visit the Taylor’s on Main Street.
Whole Foods, Bel Aire Shopping Center, North Napa
Veggie Sandwich, $6.25
Serve Yourself Salad Bar, varies
I know, I know, you can make this at home. But sometimes we’re on the run and we really need to swing in somewhere and grab a quick bite. I don’t care for the tofu option (tofu on a sammy just doesn’t taste right to me), and even though Napa has the grilled Portobello on the sandwich sign they don’t actually carry it. However, the wide variety of cheeses, breads, condiments and toppings make this sandwich exactly to your liking. Give me extra cheese and avocado and I’m in heaven. Whole Foods also has the only good serve-yourself salad bar in town.
Villa Corona – Bel Aire Shopping Center, North Napa
‘Special’ Veggie Burrito, $6.50
A local favorite Mexican restaurant, it’s located in a strip mall on the North-end of town. There are a lot of great options, and they have a good variety of classic mexican dishes and a variety of beer options. The Veggie Burrito is loaded with fajita style veggies, pinto beans and rice. Make it ‘special’ to add cheese, sour cream and lettuce. You can also make it ‘super’ to add cheese and sauce heaped on top (a wet burrito). A word of caution- to me there is nothing worse than taking a work of burrito art and putting something as repulsive as melted processed cheese on top. So, if you want to substitute, ask for jack cheese instead of the artificial mumbo jumbo.
Pica Pica Maize Kitchen – Oxbow Public Market, Downtown Napa
Cachapas are 100% sweet corn pancake, gluten and wheat free. They have several pre-conceived options to choose from, but I like to create my own and try something new each time. My favorite combination so far is black beans, cheese and avocado. They have many different options for the meat eaters and veggie’s alike. Also, there are many other eateries available in the Oxbow Public Market so while one of you picks up some raw oysters at Hog Island, the other can run over to Pica Pica, grab a bottle of wine at Folio and you’ve got your very own Napa Valley meal.
Andies Café – 1042 Freeway Drive, Napa
Veggie Tacos or Portobello Burger, $9
What other city can you say has fantastic food at a car wash? Andie’s Café is about the size of a large SUV (OK, a bit larger than that but not by much) and is well known around town for their breakfast sandwiches and burgers. I’m not a fan of the veggie burger, but the new veggie tacos that have the crumbled up veggie burger for the ‘meat’ of the tacos is a must try. The portabello burger is a hearty sandwich in which the cheese and the aioli make it special.