Variations of plant-based diets such as vegetarian and vegan have rapidly grown in popularity in recent years for ethical and wellness reasons. Farmers, food purveyors, chefs, and restaurants throughout the world have responded to the increased demand. Gone are the days of bland and boring dishes like plain salads and pasta. Instead, chefs and cooks are developing colorful, flavorful, and healthful dishes that satisfy the most discerning palates. Napa Valley’s chefs and restaurants are especially fortunate to have access to the freshest ingredients from local farms to create one-of-a-kind dishes to accompany the area’s world-class wines. Below are a few of the best to whet one’s appetite.


C Casa, located in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market, serves “reimagined Mexican food.” Since its opening in 2011, the restaurant has offered a 100% gluten-free menu comprised of locally sourced and house-made ingredients. Founder and president Catherine Bergen and her team also created several plant-based dishes for guests who chose to live a vegetarian lifestyle or wanted lighter fare, many of which remain on the menu today. The most popular include tacos, nachos, and a taco salad made with the restaurant’s organic white corn tortillas or chips, plus fillings and garnishments such as white or black beans, avocado, sweet or white potatoes, pico de gallo, grilled corn salsa, mixed greens, a variety of cheeses, roasted poblanos, and chipotle or garlic aioli. As time passed, more guests began special ordering vegan versions of these dishes. In 2019, C Casa developed a vegan-only menu that features a “build your own” salsa bar, seven-layer dip with chips, “Nachos Not!”, and a power green, grilled corn and edamame salad. “It is our pleasure to offer many choices no matter what lifestyle you choose,” said Bergin. C Casa will be moving to a larger space with an expanded menu in the Oxbow Market in Fall 2021. //


Ben and Ali Koenig, owners of Heritage Eats, prioritize offering a diverse menu that will satisfy various customer preferences and diets, including plant-based options. Since the restaurant’s inception, the menu has included vegetarian and vegan rice and salad bowls, wraps, falafel, grilled tofu, and sides such as waffle fries, sweet potato fries, and Brussels sprouts. Two of the restaurant’s staff members, Maria Diaz and Lilly Bracco, follow a vegan diet and provide their guidance and opinions regarding creative and exciting menu items like the popular San Diego Dirty Fries and avocado fries. Both are available at the restaurant and on The Best Food Truck Ever by Heritage Eats at the weekly Farmers Market and private events. Haven Napa, their sister chicken wing ‘ghost kitchen’, offers cauliflower wings in lieu of meat. Also, most of the restaurant’s proteins, toppings, and sauces are glutenfree, and some are dairy-free as well. //


When Chef Todd Humphries opened Kitchen Door at Napa’s Oxbow Public Market in 2011, his goal was to offer globally inspired, comfort food with locally sourced ingredients of excellent quality and value. He has always been an advocate of vegetarian and vegan dishes because of the availability and variety of local ingredients. Even at the former Martini House in St. Helena, he served a four-course mushroom and vegetable menu. That tradition continues at Kitchen Door, where Humphries developed innovative vegetarian menu items with mushrooms instead of meat, such as the Banh Mi sandwich, cream of mushroom soup, and mushroom fried rice Donburi, a dish with spring peas, asparagus, furikake, scallions, and pickled ginger. The restaurant also serves fresh-baked herb flatbread (vegan), made with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Vegetable side dishes include California asparagus and seasonal vegetables. After ten years at the current location, Kitchen Door will close in June 2021 and reopen in late 2021 at a new downtown location at 1300 First Street, Suite 272, off the Clay Street Promenade. //


Chef and owner Anchalee Chitamnauyothin and her husband, Mee Pengchareon, founded the original Mini Mango Thai Bistro location on Clay Street in 2009 to bring affordable and delectable Bangkokstyle Thai food to Napa Valley. In 2013, they opened their larger restaurant, Mango on Main by Mini Mango Thai Bistro, on Main Street near Pearl Street. At this current location, Chitamnauyothin prepares dishes from recipes passed down from her mother and grandmother, which she describes as “Thai comfort food with California accents.” Popular vegetarian and vegan menu items include the Bangkok pot stickers, Buddha bowl with spinach and soft tofu, coconut and tom kha soups with a choice of vegetables or soft tofu, double drunken wide noodles with tofu, vegan Kabocha red and “Massamun” curries, oven-roasted shitake spring rolls, ramen noodles, sweet potato and chickpea samosa, and a tofu bar. Gluten-free options, including noodles, are also available. //


In 2016, Chef Valentín Atayde founded Mercadito Food Truck to offer authentic Mexican dishes inspired by the farm-fresh market ingredients and street food in Mexico City, where he lived before moving to California. His menu is continually evolving and is not always Mexican, recently offering his take on Italian pasta. Regardless of the cuisine, every dish is hand-made with what Atayde describes as “love and creativity,” incorporating the finest ingredients sourced from local farmers. “We’re especially looking forward to having fresh summer produce like tomatoes, peppers, and squash to play with,” he shared. Having experienced tasteless plant-based meals himself, he is committed to offering appetizing vegan dishes such as chile relleno, mole enchiladas, potato flautas, Earth Day tacos, and weekly dinner meal kits. Every Friday is Vegan Day, and specials vary. Atayde passionately embodies his business slogan, “Food for everyone,” including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other dietary accommodations. Mercadito Food Truck is usually located adjacent to St. Clair Brown Winery and Brewery. Atayde offers event catering and partners with local wineries. //


Established in 1995, Napa’s Small World Restaurant brings to the valley a tradition of “good food and a smile,” which means Mediterranean-style family recipes from the heart of The Holy Land, “Lil’ Nazareth.” The menu features breakfast, fruit smoothies, gyros, kebabs, pitas, platters, salads, sides, and snacks. Many of the dishes are vegetarian to satisfy the desire for delicious and healthy meat alternatives. Popular dishes include the vegetarian pitas – baba ghanoush, original falafel, and grilled eggplant, mushroom, and zucchini – as well as the falafel and hummus platters, garden burger, and baklava. Small World will also prepare gluten-free dishes by advance request and offers catering for events of all sizes. //


The brainchild of Chef Brent Pennington of Pennington Provisions, The Dutch Door, as its name indicates, is Pennington’s way of offering “crave-worthy hits” from his kitchen through a Dutch door to customers desiring delicious food to go. When arriving in Napa eight years ago, he saw the Napa Valley food scene has a plethora of incredible Michelin star rated and fast-food restaurants, but it was “missing the middle.” The Dutch Door fills that void by offering what Pennington describes as “casual gourmet.” He took it a step further by recognizing the growing need for plant-based meal options. Customer favorites include the vegan Kickin’ Queso Plant Burger and two menu originals, the vegan Buddha and Kale Yeah! bowls. Pennington launches a new vegan bowl every two months and is planning new sandwich specials, including the vegan Reuben and Plant Parmesan return. All bowls are gluten-free, and sandwiches and burgers can be made without bread. Another plus is that the entire menu is 100% organic, and the takeout containers are compostable. The Dutch Door menu is available for both takeout and delivery. //


Story By: Elizabeth Smith // Photos By: Laura Larson and Courtesy of Mercadito Food Truck, Heritage Eats, C Casa, The Dutch Door and Small World Restaurant