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Mar 24, 2008 12:38 AM

Ubuntu in Napa

Yes, I've heard raves in the NY times, so for the local hounds how is it?

And when I'm back in SF for a couple days, do you happen to know how long the commute from say the Civic Center of SF is to Napa where Ubuntu is located?

very stupid question: Does the BART take you from SF to Napa, or an impossibilty, or will it take you most of the way and then you can take a cheap cab ride from there?

I never have a rent car in SF so that's were I seem to run into trouble.


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  1. I take public transit everywhere. Taking transit from SF to Napa is totally unrealistic.

    1. The El Cerrito del Norte BART station is 31 miles away, or about an $88 cab ride each way.

      Ubuntu is great, but not that great.

      3 Replies
      1. re: bradluen

        Come on guys unrealistic perhaps but not impossible. SF to Berkeley by our marvelous BART system. A short cab ride to the beautiful Berkeley Amtrak station, Amtrak to Vallejo and then a 14+ mile cab ride to Napa. It was probably easier on the Interurban System.

        1. re: wolfe

          If you traveled there for lunch, there is a better option than BART and Amtrack. The Vallejo Ferry from the Ferry Building will get you within a 15-mile cab ride(~$35) of Ubuntu. However, dinner by Ferry won't work, as the ferry stops running at 6:30.

          1. re: Paul H

            Thank you Paul H. I forget the ferry, something about Dramamine. Bradluen , how can you say that when Frank Bruni and Jason Coulston think Ubuntu is one of the top 2 new restaurants in the country with a few other qualifiers.

      2. You can take BART to Vallejo and then VINE (bus, google it) directly to Napa. Not too bad, but wouldn't work for a late dinner.

        6 Replies
        1. re: xanadude

          You cannot take BART to Vallejo.

          1. re: Paul H

            Thans hounds. Yes, it would be a pilgrimmage to say the least BART, plus a ten buck ferry ride and 50 cab ride just wouldn't work, unless I'd be going to French Laundy, Ad Hoc, and a couple other joints and spent the better part of a week in Napa Valley area.

            1. re: kevin

              Yeah, as much as I like Ubuntu, I agree it would be too much of a pilgrimage that it couldn't possibly live up to ... just as for some French Laundry disappoints some due to the reservation difficulty, price and hype.

              One thought ... if you really wanted to go ... next time you are in town see if you can organize a chowdown with SF hounds and maybe catch a ride with one of them.

              1. re: rworange

                At one point there was a chowdown scheduled for late 2007. Does anyone know if it is to be revived now that holidays are past?

            2. re: Paul H

              You're right. Ferry, then, I suppose.

              1. re: xanadude

                Err, no. Napa town is out in the country, not along any of the major public transportation hubs. Public transit isn't the forte there.

          2. maybe you just don't drive. but if you do, it seems a $35-$50 per day rental car (free mileage) would be your easiest transit. there are rental car spots in sf downtown etc.
            about 2 or 2 1/2 hrs to napa by car.

            2 Replies
            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Is it 2 hours or more from downtown SF to Napa? thanks again. I may have to drive then.

              1. re: kevin

                downtown sf to downtown sf generally takes me an hour. Two hours would only be during 5:30 pm traffic. Not that I am suggesting public transit but 21/2 hours is ridiculous.

            2. I will be posting my Ubuntu write-up later today, but in brief, I though it was very good, and I will definitely go back, but I did not find it revelatory. I had the tasting menu - one dish (radish salad with goat cheese and nori, banyul vinaigrette) was brilliant and totally different from anything I've ever had before. The rest did not push much past Chez Panisse territory (top-notch produce, classic flavor combinations). I'm not sure I would strongly recommend going to Napa just to eat there to someone without a car. If you're planning to rent a car and make a day of it, with wine tasting, etc, I think it would be worth it.

              11 Replies
              1. re: daveena

                I have to concur with Daveena -- there is enough revolutionary eats in San Francisco proper without the extra effort of *just* going to Napa for Ubuntu. Alternately, I would consider Coi or Amé.

                1. re: Carrie 218

                  The only comment I want to make is that while Ubunto is in the same club as many top of the line restaurants ... it is in that club WITHOUT MEAT.

                  That in itself is pretty revolutionary.

                  Also, like Chez Panise (for those who might or might not like that particular restaurant), not every dish on the menu will be mind-blowing but I'l bet that there is one dish that IS like nothing you've ever had before ... is burned in memory ... and that makes it rise above.

                  I have for the most part stopped eating at upscale restaurants because of the boring sameness. Everytime I do go somewhere, yes, it is delicious ... but it is the same. Nothing I've read on any food board or blog reveals anything that makes me think differently or make me want to rush there.

                  Even places like Coi or Orson ... well, they seem to strain at what they are doing. I'm sure I'd like them a lot ... they would be fun ... but ... I'm feeling like Gaston in the movie "Gigi" singing "It's a bore".

                  Ubuntu has that different take that jolts me out of my restaurant enuii.

                  That being said, I still wouldn't make the extreme effort to get up there unless one was planning to anyway. Then again, I feel the same way about French Laundry.

                  1. re: rworange

                    So is dinner much better than lunch at Ubuntu? Trying to decide whether to do Ubuntu for lunch and Ad Hoc for dinner while we are there this Friday or whether to skip Ad Hoc and do the tasting menu at Ubuntu - checking out Oxbow for lunch. I wish we had more than one day - maybe we will try priceline again!

                    1. re: jsaimd

                      JSaimd, I believe for dinner they have finally instigated a tasting menu which does not exist yet for lunch.

                      1. re: jsaimd

                        I'd stick with your plan. You can get a good feel for Ubuntu without having to go to dinner and doing the tasting menu. Actually I'm interested in daveena's upcoming report about the tasting menu. I have reservations soon and am sort of undecided about it. It seems like rather than the two of us having the same thing, it might be a better strategy to order a la carte for a larger selection.

                        1. re: rworange

                          from the NY times review, it sounds like a la carte is the better way even though they ordered tasting menus.

                          If you go to the Ubuntu website, the menu does look tasty, but the tasting menu listed on the menu isn't as interesting as the other menu items.

                          The best thing would be to order a la carte and then order dishes off the tasting menu (if possible) that sound interesting/tasty.

                          1. re: kevin

                            Well, yes ... but I'm interested in the amuse that comes with the tasting menu too ... and a lot of stuff that sounds boring is great ... the artichokes and burrata I had sounded boring and even wrong on paper but I was interested in the cheese so I got it anyway and it was memorable.

                        2. re: jsaimd

                          jsaimd - Morton the Mousse wrote on this thread "anything with egg". That said, did you see priyapet's lunch review? There was no egg at lunch time and apparently the dinner menu is much more extensive.


                          1. re: ceekskat

                            We went for lunch on Friday and it was wonderful. The menu looked almost as extensive as the posted dinner menu on-line, just a few less items. They also have portion options, which is nice - not sure they have that for dinner. We took our two kids and I will post on a separate post details, since I know Napa with kids comes up occasionally on this board...

                            1. re: jsaimd

                              Thanks for responding. Looking forward to the details...

                        3. re: rworange

                          RW, I honestly believe you could go to Coi or Dining Room at the Ritz or Manresa and request a NON-MEAT menu and get something just as revolutionary as you do at Ubuntu. It is simply that an entire restaurant has devoted itself to this cuisine that it makes it so unusual.