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Day Trip: Oxbow Public Market

I don’t generally assign myself any weekend goals—I figure it’s enough to get my laundry done—but this last beautiful weekend I was hot on two projects: To get myself outside, on a hike, in the countryside, and to check out the not-so-new Oxbow Public Market in Napa. I’m happy to report that both were accomplished in one fell swoop. After an 8-mile up-hill midday hike in Santa Rosa, my companion and I, hungry and thirsty to the point of silence, drove the 30-odd miles from the state park to Napa, arriving around 5 p.m.


Taylor Boetticher of the Fatted Calf at home in his
new retail space at Oxbow market.
Photograph by Frankie Frankeny

I’ve been hearing Oxbow called “Napa’s Ferry Building” so I was steeled for throngs, competitive parking and lots of self-righteous shoppers. What a nice thrill is was to arrive, easily park in the free spaces and browse through the not-too-busy halls. Yes, it’s very much like the Ferry Building, with a few San Francisco exports having taken up residence. There’s a branch of Ritual coffee (which soon, I predict, will be sold at every rest stop from here to L.A.) and an outpost of the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, but there are also some local businesses, like the Fatted Calf and Model Bakery, that help to give this market a sense of place. It was nice to see the full compliment of the offerings from Fatted Calf, for example (as well as the very cool space—check out the bas-relief tiles of bones and knives overhead), and to pick up a loaf of (non-Acme) bread at Model next door. The biggest hit of the trip, however, were the burgers at Taylor’s Refresher.

Now, I’ve been to the Taylor’s in St. Helena and the Taylor’s here in San Francisco and always really enjoyed myself (maybe more so at the country outposts, since it’s usually warmer there) but I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed one of those burgers as much as I did on Saturday afternoon—the sweet, soft bun, secret sauce, pickles—everything in perfect balance, out on the shady, warm patio. Heaven, I tell you. I’m not sure that Oxbow warrants its own trip, but should you find yourself in Napa some warm day this summer, it’s most definitely worth a stop.