Story By: Elizabeth Smith // The Q R&B Asian Chicken Salad // Photo By: Bob McClenahan


It is summer in Napa Valley, which means there is a bounty of salad-ready vegetables and fruits. When one thinks about salads, likely the most ordinary immediately come to mind. However, local restaurants have elevated the salad experience to another level. Chefs have become increasingly innovative in creating sensational salads as main courses – many with international twists – using premium, locally sourced ingredients. There is no better time than to enjoy some of the best.


C Casa, which recently expanded to the old Kitchen Door location in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market, serves what founder and president Catherine Bergin and her team call “reimagined Mexican food.” Since opening in 2011, the restaurant has offered a 100% gluten-free menu using locally sourced and house-made ingredients. In recent years, the restaurant has offered a dedicated plant-based menu. One of the most popular dishes is the C Casa Taco Salad, which is large enough for an entrée or perfect for sharing as a starter. It is made with mixed lettuces tossed with a lime cumin vinaigrette, piled high with black beans, roasted corn salsa, pico de gallo, queso fresco (or vegan cheese), and avocado, then drizzled with chipotle aioli (vegan also available) and topped with tortilla crisps and cilantro. A protein like their rotisserie chicken, prawns, or steak can be added. //



Chef Brent Pennington of Pennington Provisions founded The Dutch Door in downtown Napa, where he offers “crave-worthy hits” to go from his kitchen through a Dutch door. When he arrived in Napa nearly a decade ago, he realized the food scene was “missing the middle” – a casual gourmet experience with high quality, 100% organic food at affordable prices. The restaurant is known for its innovative plant-based meal options, like its popular vegetarian Saporito Bowl, inspired by a trip to Amalfi a few years ago. “We were always amazed at the mix of fresh and vibrant ingredients in this coastal town, especially the simple number of ingredients given their superb quality,” said Pennington. Saporito – Italian for tasty or savory – is the perfect name for his salad bowl that brings together greens, pasta, citrus, fennel, olives, cheese, and pistachios, a food experience he describes as “harmonious but different with every bite.” //


Looking for a great Cobb Salad? Look no farther than First & Franklin Marketplace and its sister restaurant, Napa Palisades Saloon. Their hearty Cobb has long been a customer and staff favorite and ideal for diners who want to eat healthily but enjoy a delicious, satisfying meal. First and Franklin’s approach to food is details matter. The team focuses on combining flavors and textures that make great sandwiches and salads. Their Cobb is a fitting example of this, with its fusion of Mary’s Free-Range chicken, applewood smoked bacon, fresh produce, signature lemon vinaigrette, bleu cheese, and fresh eggs sourced locally from Emma Rasmussen of Hen Pen Farms. The Cobb is flavorful, with a balanced ratio of toppings to lettuce. It is also modifiable, dietary restriction friendly, and low carb. “Every bite has all the taste elements that make it a great choice. It does not feel like the sad salad option,” shared the restaurant. // //


A visit to Napa Valley would not be complete without stopping at one of its two Gott’s Roadside locations at the Oxbow Public Market or in St. Helena. While most famous for its burgers and fries, the menu also offers a couple of beloved salads. The first is its Vietnamese Chicken Salad made with romaine lettuce, kale, and shredded cabbage tossed with cucumbers, carrots, mung bean sprouts, peanuts, cilantro, mint, peanut lime vinaigrette, then topped with a crispy fried chicken breast, pickled red Fresno chiles and green onions. Another is its Citrus & Avocado Chop – romaine and red leaf lettuce tossed with Asado spice-rubbed chicken, cilantro-pumpkin seed dressing, oranges, tomatoes, black beans, pickled red onions, and quinoa, then topped with avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds, and Cotija cheese. //



Voted #1 Vegetarian Menu in Napa Valley Life Magazine’s 2022 Best of Napa Valley Readers Choice Awards, Heritage Eats, a local favorite in Napa’s north end, is known for its “delicious meals inspired by homes across the globe. Made for yours.” Their menu includes chef-creation or sandwiches, wraps, and bowls, or patrons can customize their own. The salad bowls start with a base of spring mixed greens which can be topped with internationally-themed mains like Caribbean Jerk Chicken, Thai Pork, Chicken Tikka Masala, Vegan Tofu, Texas Steak, Southwest Pork, Mideast Falafel, and Coastal Shrimp. There is a delicious selection of house-made toppings and garnishes like pineapple jicama slaw, mayo-free crunchy cabbage slaw, quinoa tabbouleh, kimchi, carrots with daikon, and pico de gallo. //


Napa Valley Bistro in downtown Napa has been open since 2013. Chef-Owner Bernardo Ayala dreamed of opening a small bistro-style restaurant downtown, a charming gathering place for locals and visitors. The restaurant focuses on local, fresh, and sustainable ingredients and serves world-class entrées like its Blue Corn Tortilla Crusted Halibut and Pan Seared Pacific Sea Scallops. However, one of the favorites that has stood the test of time is the Dungeness Crab Louie Salad. The best seller includes a generous mound of fresh Dungeness crab, organic radish, cucumber, carrots, avocado, asparagus, and farm-fresh egg sourced from local farms and gardens with a like-minded philosophy. Another must-try is the classic Bistro Chopped Salad, made with broccoli, carrots, goat cheese, farm egg, bacon, avocado, cranberries, and mustard vinaigrette. //


Serving what owner Gene Tartaglia describes as “American fare with a Southern influence,” The Q Restaurant & Bar – or simply “The Q,” as locals fondly call it – is another Napa city local favorite. While the restaurant is best known for its Memphis-style barbecue ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and chicken, its Asian Fried Chicken Salad is also a crowd-pleaser. The base is made with Asian coleslaw, one of the restaurant’s four options, and includes Napa cabbage, carrots, cilantro, soy, sesame, ginger, garlic, and vinegar. The sweet and sour acidity of the slaw serves as the perfect foundation for enhancing the lean, crispy coasting of The Q’s no-buttermilk Southern fried chicken. “The dish was a serendipitous event when a cook wanted some protein on their salad. So now it is one of our most popular menu items,” said Tartaglia. //


Ristorante Allegria, a local gem located in downtown Napa in an old bank building built in 1916, describes its cuisine as “northern Italian influenced with California cuisine.” Its ambiance is “casual elegance,” and it serves a variety of appetizers, entrees, and salads. One of its most popular menu items is its renowned Napa Cabbage Salad. This is not just any cabbage salad – It’s served slightly warmed and includes crispy pepper bacon, mushrooms, house-made garlic croutons, crumbled blue cheese, and its signature red wine vinaigrette. Another salad standout is the Insalata di Arugula made with baby arugula, fresh pears, jicama, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, and papaya vinaigrette. Grilled free-range chicken or prawns can be added to both salads. //


Tarla Mediterranean Bar + Grill, whose name means “field” in Turkish, is a small and unassuming local bistro. Popular with locals, its location on First Street next door to the Andaz Hotel is often discovered by visitors passing by. The restaurant is committed to using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible and authentic international ingredients. It is known for its “culturally exciting eats” from Mediterranean countries like Turkey and Greece, including its plentiful and popular Grilled Octopus Salad, added to the menu after a discussion between the owner and chef. They tried hummus and chickpea-based pairings, deciding that chickpea was the perfect accompaniment. Most restaurants in Turkey and Greece traditionally serve octopus with Roka (arugula) salad. Tarla’s rendition is sweet and citrusy, with the addition of beets, oranges, apples, cherry tomatoes, apple-basil vinaigrette, and a pomegranate balsamic glaze. //