HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Tastiest stop between OAK and Yountville for lunch?

  • o

Hi CA Chowhounds!

Needing your help in finding a tasty lunch between the Oakland airport in early March. Our flight gets in at 1:05pm on a Friday, not checking in luggage. Dinner will be 6pm-ish, so the earlier we each lunch, we'll have more room for dinner. We are open to any type of cuisine + cost -- whatever is tasty is of prime importance to the two of us.

We are meeting friends (6 of us) in Yountville and have dinner reservations for the following: Terra, Tre Vigne, La Toque, Bistro Jeanty, and Redd. As we will be leaving Sunday, we will need to pare that list down considerably. If you have any thoughts on which to drop, that would be great. Any nice lunch spots + breakfast pastry places (other than Bouchon -- anything comparable out there?) would also be appreciated.

Thanks much!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. These options are not scenic:

    Off the 880:
    Not my favorite, but in Oakland, and right off the freeway is Chop Bar

    Off the 80:
    Vik's in Berkeley for Indian Street Food

    In Sonoma, CA (slightly out of the way, but not much):
    El Molino Central for Mexican

    4 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      A 40 mile(round trip) detour on a 60 mile ride is scarcely slight..

      1. re: wolfe

        To be fair, it adds a total of 15-20 miles to the trip. Not 40. Plus, it would end up adding the same amount of time as some of the Berkeley/Oakland recs that would require long treks on and off the freeway.

        It is a detour, but not by a ton, and Sonoma the town and the area around there has lots of stuff to do and is quite a cute winery town.

        1. re: goldangl95

          With no traffic, El Molino is a 90-minute drive, and oez is looking to eat lunch as early as possible.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            True =) Though now they've realized and are landing at 10:55 and may try to make it all the way to Napa for lunch, so I guess the rec works better now than it did originally.

    2. Tra Vigne was last good in the 90s.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Windy

        ouch. At least that leaves us one less to consider.

      2. Here's a recent thread on lunch en route to Napa. I'd keep it quick & light. I second goldang's Vik's rec...casual place, not the usual heavy buffet stuff.

        I'd pick Redd...enjoyed Bistro Jeanty somewhat as I found food too heavy. For breakfast, Model bakery...love their "english muffin". Bouchon has yet to reopen after remodel; check facebook page. Lunch at Rutherford Grill is always good.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ceekskat

          Looks like Bouchon Bakery is reopening tomorrow.

        2. Sorry... had the wrong arrival time. We'll be getting in at 10:55 in Oakland. Would that change any of your recs? How long would it take to get to downtown Napa, if we were to try a lunch there?

          8 Replies
          1. re: oez

            The thread ceekskat linked above is very good if you ignore the In n Out discussion. The idea to do a quick on and off in Berkeley to allow decent time between lunch and dinner.

            1. re: oez

              I would just warn about getting too far from the freeway in Berkeley. It will result in a good half an hour unintended detour. From some spots in Berkeley, say Gather, there is no easy access to the freeway and fairly traffic heavy/lots of lights trying to get in and out.

              1. re: goldangl95

                True, but there are spots closer to the freeway like Vik's that was mentioned or other places on/near 4th St like Pasta Shop, Tacubaya, Brennan's

              2. re: oez

                If you're on the road around 11 and the weather's nice, going through Sonoma's not a bad idea. More interesting choices for food and it's a lot more scenic than Pinole, Rodeo, Vallejo, American Canyon, and the city of Napa, which are a mix of industrial, strip malls, and suburban sprawl.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  In at 10:55 and on the road by 11 would be a new record even with no luggage and a getaway car parked at the curb. Unless you take San Pablo Dam Road you see little of Pinole, Rodeo, Hercules and Crockett. You do, however, open up the opportunity to take my beloved scenic Trinity Road shortcut.

                2. re: oez

                  What are your plans for after lunch? Are you making winery appointments for the afternoon you arrive or just winging it? Appointments may dictate your lunch plans.

                  1. re: ceekskat

                    Forgot that as a group of 6, you will most likely require appointments for tastings, especially at some of the smaller wineries.

                    1. re: ceekskat

                      Yes, would like to fit in a tasting... but unfortunately haven't gotten to making those appointments yet. Ideally, we would have a tasty lunch, then check in at our hotel in Yountville to relax a bit before tasting though... but need to watch our time so we get one in before they close.

                3. Jeanty is great if you like classic French bistrot dishes such as lamb's tongue, pig's foot, blood sausage, and veal kidneys. Despite widespread abuse of the word, that food is very rare around here.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I was rather happy with the blood sausage at La Catalana in San Jose. Will go back for more of everything. Terrible lighting (bright!) and closes early.

                    1. I would stop at Nizza la Bella in Albany on your way up. I'm assuming you won't eat on the flight and probably be hungry. Nizza is open for lunch on Fridays and by the time you get there it should be open. They have great cocktails and pizzas and salads, plus they won't break the bank. Albany is next to Berkeley and the exit is really easy as well.

                      1. Given the time you arrive, i'd say that it would be a maxium of an hour and a half to Napa.

                        i love Sonoma, but it just isn't worth it on a day you fly in.

                        If you got to Napa, you could go over to Oxbow Market which is sort of a high class, upscale food court. My favorite is C Casa which offers upscale tacos topped with salads and things l.like truffles or lamb. Hog Island Oyster is there as well for some nice oysters and wine. There's a bunch of other places plus the very good Model Bakery. Sweetie Pies just down the street has some really great stuff too.

                        Frankly Bouchon is the bottom of my list for this category of bakery. Keller is sucking too much off his repuation and it reminds me of a Disneyesque foodie ride the way the tourist line up outside.

                        Down the road from Oxbow are a few gourmet food trucks where you can get the most fabulous duck wings and the cheesecake is great.

                        Otherwise, I wouldn't linger too much and head straight for Napa. After 3 pm the traffic can get bad on various parts of that route. You won't hit the Berkely Backup, but the roads around Napa can slow down as people head home from work. So if you are lunching around Berkeley, that could mean up the road some backup and it depeInds on flight time.

                        There's a sort of quick Oakland on and off at Grand Avenue. The closest restaurant is Brown Sugar Kitchen, a Cal-soul restaurant. This isn't Oakland's finest neihborhood, but its industrial and gritty at places. On the corner of Grand and Telegraph is a new sausage place called 'Telegraph" where you can get house made sausage by a notable bay area chef. There are sausages such as Wild Boar & Pear.

                        It has a nice outdoor patio and I've always found a parking space right outside. The reason I mention it is you could pick up a sandwich quickly and continue on. Even if you ate there, they are pretty quick with the food. here's the menu on the website

                        As I said ... easy on/off ... good food ... gritty nabe

                        Another thought about bakeries, though not as romatic is stopping by whole food napa which carries baked goods from all the major area bakeries including Bouchon. WF also has a wine bar and tastings.

                        For other breakfast ideas, Grace's Table in Napa, Fremont Diner in Sonoma (highly recommended).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rworange

                          One thing about the gritty parts of Oakland, as discussed in the topic ceekskat linked to, you don't want to leave your luggage in the car unless you can keep an eye on it or it's locked in a trunk.

                        2. I'd stop at Bud's Burger in Vallejo and get a greasy burger and fries cooked in beef tallow.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ML8000

                            i like Bud's but someone with the above dinner spots planned ... don't think it would be their thing. Its a locals thing ... locals without bucks ... not quite the visitor hidden locals gem. it is easy though. Right on the route.

                          2. Go to Chez Panisse Cafe; sit at the bar for a few bites and a glass of wine. Also the Oxbow Market in Napa is great for lots of shopping/flavors.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: soavegirl

                              Chez Panisse Cafe added bar seating? Or do you mean *in* the bar? Reservations are a good idea, particularly on a Friday.

                              1. re: soavegirl

                                Chez Panisse is one of those additions that will put 2 hours on your travel time, as discussed. Between getting over there from the freeway and back, hoping there's a table, parking...

                                I'd recommend Burma Superstar in Alameda for a quick bite. You're on the late side, it closes at 3 for lunch, you should be able to grab a quick table and a tea leaf salad and some of that tofu. Great way to ease into california, and the parking around there is always easy.

                                If BSS is packed, there are other places like the mexican joint across the street, so you won't be out in the cold.

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  He updated his arrival time to 10:55. Still, Alameda is a nice place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air between hours in a plane and hours in a car. What I particularly like is that you can take a pretty drive on surface streets and skip the particularly ugly (and currently under construction) stretch of 880 between the airport and Fruitvale. BSS is good, and there are lots of other options, everything from burgers and sandwiches to white table cloths.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Avoiding that stretch of 880 is a plus. That's my favorite of the three branches of Burma Superstar.

                              2. Thank you all for your suggestions and lively discussions! After the discussions about car theft, etc. I think we will either opt to go to the Oxbow Market in Napa or perhaps stop by Chez Panisse Cafe (is it safe to assume that our car won't be tampered with in their parking lot?). I have made a reservation @ CP Cafe for noon. Is the Oxbow Market sort of like the Ferry Building in SF? Lots of purveyors and we can pick and choose and sit down somewhere and nosh?

                                Someone in this thread mentioned that the drive from OAK to Napa would be 1.5 hrs. If we eat @ CP Cafe, will that cause us to get stuck in traffic to Napa? If so, how much longer do you think it would take?

                                Thanks again!

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: oez

                                  Parking lot at Chez Panisse, dream on. If you park on a busy street it'll be fine, side residential street, well, petty theft is so endemic around here I would never leave anything worth stealing visible. Northbound traffic should not get bad until after 3.

                                  1. re: oez

                                    I have to agree that I prefer Nizza la Bella - wood burning oven makes a terrific seafood pizza - over CP Cafe. Albany is just past Berkeley, very safe area. We're around there all the time, you won't have any problems with your car/luggage. Freeway access is a breeze, take the Albany/Buchanan St. exit off Hwy 80 and turn left to hit San Pablo Ave. Get back on the freeway the same way but be careful - the entrance is split between two freeways. DON'T take the 580 West lane or you will wind up heading towards San Quentin Prison in Marin County!

                                    I'd suggest Riva Cucina if they're still serving lunch, right off Hwy 80 at Ashby Ave. exit, but parking can be tight in daytime, it's a crowded small business district.

                                    Traffic on Hwy 80 North depends on time of day. I drive 75-80 mph all the time and it's a stretch to think you could get to OAK to Napa in exactly 1.5 hrs. More like 1.45, assuming the traffic gods are on your side.

                                    You want to be already past the Berkeley part of Hwy 80 by no later than 2:30p. Then you'll be just on the leading edge of beginning rush hour traffic.

                                    1. re: tre2012

                                      I would limit your stress (traffic later in the day, luggage in the car etc) and head straight to Napa. At Oxbow Market and within a few blocks you have more than a dozen choices of places to have lunch. If your flight is on time you should be in Napa by !2:30 or so nice casual light lunch and plenty of time in between for your 6:00pm dinner res

                                      1. re: mick

                                        Yeah, I agree. And yes, Oxbow is a little mini Ferry Plaza. Lots of purveyors and we can pick and choose and sit down somewhere and nosh?

                                        You can always pick up these great cheesecake cupcakes down the street at the Crossroads Chicken truck down the street from Oxbow. I had a really great banana cream pie cheesecake there this week.

                                    2. re: oez

                                      1.5 hours is very conservative -- I'd say an hour would be more typical. But that doesn't include the time between taxiing up to the gate and driving out of the rental car lot, which could add up. If you're coming from an earlier time zone, you'll probably want to eat first. Don't listen to these paranoid posters. Put your bags in the trunk and don't worry about it!

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        +1ish. While I agree that the best thing to do is to head straight up to Oxbow unless you will be starving, I agree because of traffic reasons - not because of safety of car reasons. If you are starving I would suggest a drop in place like Vik's over an off freeway excursion + parking + sit down for an hour and a half meal.

                                        Frankly, and I'm sorry if this is too morbid, but the odds of your car getting broken into, in broad daylight, in Berkeley are the same odds as getting into a car accident or getting a ticket for a moving violation during you trip. It's very, very small - but everyone has bad luck a few times in their lives.

                                        A parking ticket in Berkeley on the other hand . . .

                                        1. re: goldangl95

                                          Exactly! I've been driving around Oakland and Berkeley with all kinds of stuff in my car for decades and it's been broken into twice -- both in what could be considered high risk areas (on the street near the Oakland Coliseum, and in an auxiliary parking lot at Fruitvale BART). Your chances of getting your car broken into in a commercial district during the day are close to nil.

                                          I strongly suggest you consider the Alameda suggestions. Nice, relaxing small town feel, perfect for decompressing from the rigors of flying. If it's a nice day you can even take a few minutes to stroll on the shoreline and enjoy the views of the Bay. You can pick up stuff for a picnic at Alameda Marketplace, or one of the great pizzas there at East End Pizza, or maybe upscale burgers, etc, from Scolari's or ....

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            I got a parking ticket in Berkley the other day so I'm bitter and paranoid about the entire East Bay, at least for now. So, I would head to Napa and check out the Oxbow or one of the other downtown spots. Now if your starving when you get off the plane, then of course take the advice of whomever and head to one of the East Bay spots that sounds good to you and your group>

                                            1. re: mick

                                              They only ticket those that drop the middle "e".

                                              1. re: wolfe

                                                Thanks for noticing, I used live worms.

                                    3. Thanks all for your input! I think we are going to kabosh plans for CP cafe and just head up to Oxbow Market for some tasty eats.

                                      For dinners, I think we've finalized and the group has opted for Terra on Friday evening and Oenotri for Saturday evening. Do you have any thoughts on either?

                                      Lastly, we might try and pick up more eats @ Oxbow on Saturday for a picnic lunch @ a winery... do any of you have a rec for a place not far from Oxbow that has a tasty pinot and won't mind us eating there?

                                      Thanks again!

                                      20 Replies
                                      1. re: oez

                                        Where are you staying? If Yountville or north, I wouldn't head back down to Napa until the trip home.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Agree with Robert, if staying in Yountville or north have your Saturday luck around there.
                                          Terra and Onetri are great choices, again not sure where your staying.
                                          If you do end up picking up picnic type lunch in Napa there are a number of tasting rooms to get a bottle of Pinot, not sure you'd want toot could eat at any of them.
                                          Is that your question?

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            We will be in Yountville. Maps estimate the drive to downtown Napa as ~15min from Yountville... Did you make that comment about not heading down to Napa because you feel it's too far? Was it referring to our dinner plans @ Oenotri, or the lunch pick up @ Oxbow (or both)?

                                            1. re: oez

                                              It's not that Napa's far, it's just heading out of wine country you're spending time and money to visit. St. Helena and Yountville are little towns of a few thousand people, Napa's the county seat with over 75,000. Just south of Oak Knoll you're out of the vineyards and into suburban sprawl and strip malls.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Excuse me but I thought Sterling was north valley. Do mean the urban sprawl of Calistoga?

                                              2. re: oez

                                                No, it's not to far to drive to Napa for lunch or dinner from Yountville. Correct it is about a 15 minute drive. The reference I think was referring to why go back to Napa for a picnic lunch if your staying in Yountville or north such as St Helena.if your doing so as your on your way to the airport afterwards, then understood.
                                                As far as wineries in the Immediate Napa area that allow for bringing in picnic lunches, I'm not sure. Many options further north in Yountville, St Helena etc.

                                                1. re: mick

                                                  Only reason we wanted to go back down to pick up supplies was because of the offerings @ Oxbow (never been there so can't comment). I'm sure we could pick up some bread and chacuterie closer to where we are, but the desciptions of Oxbow made it sound like THE place to go. If you all don't think the drive back down is worth it, where can we pick up comparable eats near Yountville?

                                                  1. re: oez


                                                    Oxbow is a redevelopment project, basically an attempt to knock off the Ferry Plaza. There's some good food there (especially Fatted Calf, next door). Worth a detour if you're driving through Napa.

                                                    edit: My bad, Oakville's closed.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      Has Oakville Grocery reopened yet? When I was there in early February the entire interior was under destruction (construction to follow, presumably). Dean and Deluca is a good suggestion for picnic stuff.

                                                      Also, I would ignore the Oakland haters and eat at Boca Nova or someplace else at or near Jack London Square rather than trying to make it all the way to Napa for lunch.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Dean and Deluca kinda sucks. It is ok, if you MUST find a place. Don't expect anything as good as the NY store;. Otherwise, pay $$$$ for adequate. I'd rather shop at Whole Foods Napa .... no,seriously ... they have the same selection but a lot more, the turnover is greater and the prices are less ... so that's saying a lot for a store to be more expensive than WF.

                                                        The Cheese Store in Oxbow has really great cheese, much better than what is offered at Cowgirl in the Ferry Plaza. They supply many of the better wine country name restaurants.

                                                        Have you been to Oxbow recently, Robert? It seems to have really caught on and blossomed from its early days and all the put downs by Chowhounds at that time. It seems the people in Wine Country recognized the quality and there's a good crowd there these days.

                                                        Breadwise, in Yountville, bread is Bouchon's best bet out of a medicore selection of over-priced baked goods. Can't think of anything cheese worthy in Yountville.

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          RwOrange: Are you serious, Whole Foods over D&D, c'mon. I shop at w
                                                          Whole Foods almost entirely but if your from an area that doesn't have D&D why would you try and direct them away. There foods are not the same. Besides as far as price D&D may be higher bur they also call it Whole Pay Check for a reason.
                                                          Yountville doesn't really have anywhere for a good selection of cheese but D&D and Sunshine do. And of course when there at the oxbow they can buy cheese there at the Wine Merchant. Oh and I strongly disagree with you about Bouchon bakery, I see your a hater, but there baked goods are very good if not priced high like everything from Yountville on north. Yes there are throngs of tourist and long lines and a bit chaotic even with the new design but get SERIOUS

                                                          1. re: mick

                                                            D & D is like old gourmet shops ... there's a dustiness about it. I just thouroughly dislike the shop and there is not one thing they carry that you can't find at Whole Foods Napa.

                                                            We just have different tastes. I gave Bouchon Bakery another try because I was curious if the closure resulted in any changes. for the better. Unfortunately, no.

                                                            I'd stop by there if there were no lines and maybe buy a donut or that bacon scone, and maybe a loaf of bread, but otherwise I just can't reommend it. Then again, I'm not a fan of Keller's ooking either. Didn't like FL. Didn't like Bouchon.

                                                            For me Keller is all about show and not about taste.

                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              Taste is one thing, too bad for you that you dont enjoy any of Keller's cooking/restaurants: TFL,Bouchon rest and bakery,Ad Hoc and Addendum. Makes it a little easier for anyone who does like his style to try and get in or have less of a wait. I won't stand in the long lines for example at the bakery but it doesn't take away that the baked good are pretty outstanding.

                                                              As far as D&D, if that's dusty, I like there cleanliness. Oh and BTW there are many many things that D&D carries that Whole Foods does not. List is lengthy, it's a wee bit more of a specialty store than a supermarket.

                                                          2. re: rworange

                                                            I go to the wine country to get away from my normal urban / suburban environment. I hate it when I've forgotten to pack everything and have to drive into Napa or Santa Rosa or the like.

                                                            The only reason I go to Napa is for chicken fried in lard at BarbersQ, which is in a with a Target, Orchard Supply, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              Agreed, that is where the Whole Foods in Napa is so why send someone there as opposed to Dean &. Deluca unless the person is familiar with D&Dand doesn't like it. I too like ghettoes chicken at BarbersQ and I think we've disagreed in the past re:there BBQ ribs. BTW they now have a full bar for whatever that's worth. Coastwise quite a bit to them.

                                                      2. re: mick

                                                        Again, not sure what town your staying in but downtown Napa is a little more pleasing to the eye as well as having dining options than it was a few years ago. So don't buy in that your going to be surrounded by strip malls and suburbs unless you want to visit that.
                                                        Not sure what the talk about "south of sterling vineyards is all about" Sterling has a winery just south of the town of Calistoga and vineyards in a number of locations thru out the valley?

                                                  2. re: oez

                                                    I agree with Ruth about lunch in Alameda. Alameda is incredibly safe - I joke with my coworkers who live here that the whole town is in a bubble. Plus downtown Alameda is only about two miles (surface streets) from the rental car lots.
                                                    I would eat early rather than be famished later and eat too much (that's just me) too close to dinnertime.
                                                    Burma Superstar is great. There is also DragonRouge at their new location near the Park Street Bridge, but I think they open for lunch again on the 10th after their move to this new location. It's Vietnamese, but a really cool place with great food.

                                                    1. re: pcdarnell

                                                      Wow, you will continue to get post from people trying to direct you to some place in Oakland Alameda, Berkeley, or wherever in the East Bay. I think your doing yourselves a favor by heading directly to Napa and enjoying Oxbow or one of the other surrounding restaurants mentioned earlier.
                                                      I assume you are not staying in Napa and since your leaving on Sunday, I would not make another trip to the Oxbow or Napa. You will be there the day you arrive and at Onetri on one of the nights. Oxbow/downtown Napa is perfect for one day, the day you arrive. Just north of Yountville in St Helena there is a Dean&Delucca where you can get all your picnic supplies and there are wineries around there that you can take your lunch to enjoy Pinot Noir.
                                                      The Oakville Grocer is not open now and IMO has not been very good for a number of years ever since Rudd took over, mainly there service went to you know where.
                                                      You can also visit Sunshine market in St Helena for picnic supplies.

                                                      1. re: mick

                                                        By the time you park and arrive at Jack London Square to eat, what have you shaved off from driving to Napa 30-45 minutes depending. If your stopping because your that famished as suggested by some I'd just go thru Jack in the Box.

                                                        1. re: mick

                                                          If I was famished coming off the plane I might hit the burrito 360 in OAK, if that's available for incoming flights.The thai peanut wrap is a guilty pleasure, but much less guilty than a jack in the box.