By Stacey Bressler
Welcome to the Diner’s Journal. Let me set the stage. I am not a professional chef, nor a cookbook author, but I really enjoy a good meal. I’ve been eating in restaurants all of my life. My parents ate out several times a week and took us kids along whenever it was appropriate. Now that I’m grown up and my husband and I live in Napa Valley, the lure of restaurant dining is overwhelming and we succumb on a regular basis. This journal reflects my opinions and preferences. It is neither scholarly nor rigidly objective, but rather the kind of information I would pass on to a friend who asked me about a restaurant I had visited. For my first journal entry, I’ve picked one of our local favorites, Market.
Market is a restaurant where I am a regular. It is within walking distance of my home (when the weather is good) and we tend to eat there about once a week. As a result, the staff knows us and goes out of their way to make us feel welcome. This is the kind of neighborhood place we hoped for when we moved to St. Helena. The décor is warmly appealing with exposed brick walls and a bustling bar. The food is reasonably priced and varied enough to keep my interest after numerous visits. The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner.
Appetizers run in the $7 - $10 range with soup at the low end and crab cakes at the high end. My favorite appetizer is the chopped salad with crumbled blue cheese and bacon. Some folks complain that it can be too finely chopped and a bit “mushy,” but I always love it and lick my plate clean. The ingredients may vary with the season, but you can count on lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and the afore-mentioned blue cheese and bacon. I could live on this dish. On those rare occasions when I can pull my attention away from the chopped salad, I have enjoyed the soups and the Thai marinated rock shrimp with avocado and mango. The chili is good on a cold night, but I prefer my chili with ground meat rather than the “pulled” meat found here. I do, however, compliment the kitchen on a good level of spiciness in the chili. The crab cakes are good (in season), but I prefer my crab without all the other stuff that detracts from it in a crab cake.
I am less constrained in my choice of main dishes (which are priced in the $15 - $25 range). The salmon is always good and the crispy skin chicken breast is usually outstanding. The staff knows that I try to avoid excessive carbohydrates and so they are great about substituting greens for potatoes on any dish I order. Daily specials are often my choice. I’m a sucker for prime rib and well-seasoned rib eye steak. My husband sometimes finds these meats too fatty, but he’s a filet mignon kind of guy. Since he is not a carb counter, he waxes poetic about the macaroni and cheese. The mussels can vary greatly. At times they are wonderful, but not always. Unless I see them served at another table and they smell especially good, I’ll usually stick to the fish, chicken, or beef dishes. Dining companions also give the fish and chips rave reviews.
The wine list is very well-priced. The menu claims that all wines less than $14 over their retail price. In the spirit of fairness, I must confess that Market is one of the few restaurants in Napa Valley where you will find our Bressler Vineyards Cabernet on the wine list. Therefore I can vouch for the fact that the mark-up here is amazingly low and there are some very good buys on this list. Market also has a full bar and serves some very nice-looking cocktails. Though I tend to be a wine drinker, one summer afternoon I yielded to temptation and enjoyed a Lemon Drop; I plan to do so again one of these days.
Eschewing carbs means I cannot tell you much about the desserts. My husband says Market has the best butterscotch pudding. I do sneak bites when no one is looking and I concur. The “house specialty” is s’mores served at your table with a miniature hibachi. It smells heavenly but I’ve always found toasted marshmallow to be more appealing on the nose than on the palate.
Market is also a great place for specials. There are prix fixe lunches and dinners which vary daily. The regular corkage charge of $15 is waived on Tuesday evenings. Market is a good family dining place. It is very popular with the locals, so reservations are recommended.
1347 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574