I’ve got this weird distinction between “Napa” restaurants and “Napa Valley” restaurants. It actually has nothing to do with city limits or the valley’s geography, and everything to do with tourism. “Napa Valley” restaurants tend to be more expensive, more well-publicized, and probably geared more towards the overall wine country aesthetic. Any restaurant with a Michelin star is certainly a “Napa Valley” restaurant, but even places like Gott’s Roadside or the Bounty Hunter would still fit into my “Napa Valley” criteria. These are simply restaurants that remain on the tourist radar, places that either have the location or the reputation to become destinations for out-of-towners. “Napa” restaurants, which don’t necessarily have to be within city limits, are more for the local set.
It’s not that tourists don’t ever frequent “Napa” restaurants, such as Buster’s BBQ in Calistoga or the Soscol Cafe in Napa. But these places just don’t seem to get as much shine, even if they’re still perfectly good. My theory is that vacationers simply aren’t enticed by meals that they can just as easily get at home. The Butter Cream Bakery is a great example: The menu is classic diner fare, much like you might find almost anywhere in America. Tourists who crave more of a “wine country” experience will likely pass over the Butter Cream Bakery, but for those of us who live in Napa, the Butter Cream fills an important role: It’s our local diner, and it’s good. If I ever crave a classic, no-nonsense version of chicken fried steak, like the one pictured above, the Butter Cream Bakery is the obvious choice