Today, restaurants abound in the Napa Valley. It seems like a new one opens every week.
Have you been to Yountville lately? What was once home to migrant workers and the Veterans Home is now a mecca of world-class restaurants and first-class hotels. Yountville’s The French Laundry restaurant has, on several occasions, been selected as the best restaurant in the entire United States.
People from all over the world are now coming to our valley to not only taste world-famous wines but also enjoy food in famous restaurants.
The current hullabaloo over places to eat caused me to reflect back to a valley of a few decades ago and some of the eateries that were then local favorites.
First on the list was the Tucker Bag, a very popular watering hole for the local business community of the 1970s. It was on Trancas, across from Queen of the Valley hospital. Today, Trancas Steakhouse occupies the building.
River City Restaurant was a great place for cocktails, lunch and dinner. It was on Lincoln Avenue, beside the Napa River. It closed a few years ago, and the building is now home to Compadres Rio Grille.
Prior to its move to Napa, Compadres was in Yountville and a great favorite of locals. It was fun to sit outside, order a pitcher of margaritas and have chips and salsa. You can still do that at their new riverside location.
Jonesy’s Steak House at the Napa County Airport was a local favorite from the time Hugh Jones Sr. opened a hamburger grill at the airport right after World War II until a few years ago. The restaurant prospered and expanded under Jonesy and then the Tuthill family expanded and improved it even more. After about 60 years at its airport location, Jonesy’s was sold and the successor restaurant lasted just a few months.
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Napa’s old-timers will certainly remember the Napa Valley Inn on the corner of Jefferson and Trancas.
With partners Bill Giovanini behind the bar and Felix Zerba in the kitchen, it was the place to be on a Friday night. In the 1970s, they moved to a location on Solano Avenue, and their former building was razed and replaced by a new Lyon’s Restaurant. The former Lyon’s location is now a medical building.
Besides the previously mentioned Compadres, Yountville had a couple of other popular restaurants back perhaps three decades ago. The first was the Magnolia Hotel, owned by my good friends Ray and Nancy Monte. They converted a 19th century deserted stone building into a very nice eating establishment. They operated the restaurant for a few years and then closed the doors.
The second popular Yountville restaurant was Frankie, Johnny and Luigi Too. They had great pizza, authentic Italian food and wonderful pizza bread. The restaurant closed perhaps 10 years ago.
Remember Rainbow Bridge? It was on the corner of Jefferson and Pueblo in a small shopping center that was once also home to Baskin-Robbins. Their space is now occupied by a Mexican market.
How about Chanterelle, on First Street squeezed between the railroad tracks and Soscol Avenue? The building is still there but is now the office of the Flood Control District.
Oliver’s in the Robert Louis Stevenson Building on Second Street corner of Seminary, remember that? When it closed, First American Title Co. expanded into the space.
All of those were popular local restaurants of a few decades ago. Now they are all gone — like a lot of other things in my hometown.