In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, three old school Napa Mexican restaurants: Campadres, Frida’s and the Red Hen.
Napa Valley’s unsung casual eateries and dives, overlooked in a vast sea of bearded mixologists and expensive 5 course tasting menus. I encourage you, for a night or two, to trade in those $16 mini cocktails with 7 ingredients that take 15 minutes to make, for a sizeable, satisfying, happy hour Makers Manhattan, swimming in an old school, dad style, gigantic Martini glass, complete with sidecar for half the price. Pull up a torn leather barstool, and let me tell you about the joints I’m currently digging.
I’m proud to say that I’ve earned the badge of “regular” at Campadres on Lincoln, just east of the Wal-Mart. Proudly I can sit at the bar, and have my exact drink arrive moments later without saying a word. I love that I could actually say “I’ll have the usual” and get exactly what I want. Who wouldn’t love that? At Campadres, the “usual” is the Southwest Chicken Salad, half order, and a Top Shelf Margarita, particularly on Mondays when this ice cold, delicious gut bomb is only $5. Otherwise, the house Margarita is on a sliding scale, $3 between 3-4pm, $4 between 4-5pm and $5 thereafter. Best deal in town. The Southwest chicken salad half order is gigantic, served in a crispy tortilla, overflowing with fire roasted red peppers, fresh grilled corn and chicken, salad, chopped tomatoes, jicama, shredded jack cheese, avocado slices, refried beans and this crazy addictive garlic ranch dressing. Insane deal at $12.50. And Kaitlyn crushes it as my nomination for best Napa Valley server, clocking in nearly 11 years off and on between Napa and the former Yountville location. Don’t forget $2 Taco Tuesdays with $4 beers. Come on a Monday, say hello to Jessica behind the bar, and maybe I will buy you and Dan a margarita.
Frida’s is an unassuming little spot nudged in between a tire shop and the Sizzler. It’s been open over 5 years, but it’s easy to miss, unless your eye catches the Frida Kahlo picture on the sign outside.
The bar at Frida’s seats eight people roughly with six four top tables, and I’m fortunate to always have Martin behind the bar, smiling and friendly to both regulars and newcomers since the place opened.
You can usually find me here during happy hour from 3-6pm for a tall $4 margarita or a $3 ice cold cerveza. The happy hour discounted $4 menu items include a dish of three chicken tostadas with sour cream and fresh queso, or ceviche tostadas with avocado, or soft tacos with carnitas, spicy pastor and beef or chicken nachos with guac, sour cream, beans and cheese. You also can’t go wrong with a Michelada and a bowl of three color tortilla chips with spicy salsa. I love the super fresh ceviche tacos with a big squeeze of lime and a tall margarita no salt, $7 and I’m set.
On one occasion I did indeed hit all three places in one day, including the classic Red Hen Cantina on Solano Avenue, just off HWY 29 and Wine Country Ave. I love the Hen, not just because my son Sam works there, but I particularly love sitting outside on the huge patio with the waterfall. My drink here is the top shelf Hornitos Margarita, although I do love the Strawberry Marg on a hot day.
I’m so crazy about those killer chicken, tri-tip or prawn fajitas that come to your table popping and sizzling and throwing off so much steam you’d think the table was on fire. Happy hour features domestic beer, small margaritas, house wine or well drinks for just $2.75 between 3-6 everyday. Watch out for those birds though, as they will jump on your table and eat your chips when you’re not looking. Thank god they don’t drink alcohol.