In an area known for its cuisine, the Oxbow Public Market is the place where small, gourmet food shops can take root and flourish. It's one of many great reasons to get yourself off the highway and visit the town of Napa instead of just speeding by on your way north to those fancier places in Yountville and St. Helena.
Oxbow Public Market is the perfect spot for a serious cup of morning coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters. Later in the day, you can get a casual meal or snack. It's also fantastic for a bit of serious food shopping at the cheese vendor and butcher shop or a stop to buy yellow curry powder from Whole Spice.
If you're part of a hungry group who can't agree on what kind of food they want, Oxbow Market is the place to go. Everyone can make their own choices, and the convene at a table to enjoy their meals together. If the weather allows, choose a table on the scenic outdoor deck, with seating overlooking the Napa River.
The market also makes a perfect place for morning coffee or a casual ice cream or cupcake dessert after a meal downtown.
People who go to the Oxbow Market praise its cleanliness and the quality of the food. They call it super cute — and of course, they take pictures of their food to post on social media. After all, the camera has to eat first, doesn't it? To see some of what they like, search for the hashtag #oxbowpublicmarket on Instagram.
Here's a sampling of what you could eat at Oxbow Market in just one visit: fresh Pacific oysters, a duck, spinach, and goat cheese taco, a "Ricky Ricardo" sushi roll, and finish with ice cream.
Oxbow Public Market Vendors
Oxbow Public Market tenants include satellite locations of many Bay Area favorites such as Gott's Roadside (formerly called Taylor's Refresher), Hog Island Oysters, and Kara's Cupcakes, along with other artisan food shops. The list of names at the Oxbow Market continually evolves, with new and interesting places moving in all the time. You'll find a current directory on the Oxbow Market website.
Tips For the Oxbow Public Market
- Browse the entire market before settling on a place to order. Otherwise, you may end up eating a carnitas taco when you really wanted the Japenese noodles.
- Don't miss The Annex, which is a group of three shops next to the big market building facing McKinstry Street. It's worth going there for gourmet charcuterie at The Fatted Calf, baked goods at Model Bakery, and most of all, for a sample of wines from CRU or highly-rated (and nearly impossible to visit) Vineyard 29.
- Bring a cooler or insulated bag for shopping. With items like cheeses, meats, and chocolate to buy, it will help you keep that yummy purchase fresh on your drive home.
- Go for Happy Hour. Most days, one or more vendors offer Happy Hour prices, with specials on drinks and food. Check for current events.
- Avoid the crowds. Weekends are a particularly busy time. If you can, go during the week.
- Assistance animals are always welcome, but pets are not allowed inside the market, but they can sit with you at the outdoor tables.
What You Need to Know About Oxbow Public Market
Just in case you were wondering, this exciting downtown Napa food spot takes its name from the big loop the Napa River makes nearby. It's called the "oxbow" because it's shaped like an old-fashioned, U-shaped yoke for a team of oxen.
The market is open seven days a week, but their hours vary. Entrance is free.
Oxbow Public Market is at 610 and 644 First Street, Napa, CA 94559. You can get their current hours and a list of the businesses there on the Oxbow Public Market Website.
The Oxbow Public Market is just across the river from downtown Napa. It's a short walk or drive, and you can take the First Street bridge to get there. There's a small parking lot next to the market and parking is free.
Other California Public Markets You May Like
The Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco is very similar to Oxbow Market and even has a few of the same eateries, including Gott's Roadside and Hog Island Oysters.
The Los Angeles Farmers Market is a long-time favorite stop, full of small eateries and souvenir shops, but the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA is making all the buzz these days, with lots of innovative food stands in a historic building.