Interesting Eats on the Drive from Oakland to Napa?


We fly in to Oakland every year and make our pilgrimage up to Napa to exercise some of our member club benefits. We usually take the first flight out of the L.A. area and arrive in Oakland at about 8:30 or so. Are there any interesting eats on the drive up to Napa? The husband will likely be hungry and will need to eat breakfast or something before we start wine tasting. We usually drive up the 80N. It’ll be a leisurely Saturday, so we may stop by the Jelly Belly factory just for the hell of it.


If you go early (and you will be there early), Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland is a great spot. Weekend breakfast/lunch waits can be horrible, but that early shouldn’t be bad. Also, Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley is a good spot (same wait issues as BSK, and by the time you get up there, the waits might be already bad).

FWIW, and you might find this very appealing, very repulsive, or neither, Jelly Belly, using corporate dough, sponsored a Rick Santorum event at the facility in the not-too-distant past. Not that I ever spent much on their products, but now I won’t be spending another dime, or even a fraction thereof.


Which day of the week?


Also, I like the brunch food at Stella Nonna in Berkeley - they open at 9 on the weekend (I thought it was later, but it isn’t, so perfect for your timing). All my recommendations are freeway-close.


This is for anyone not knowledgeable about the freeway, I-80 actually is West and East. Don’t want a newbie getting confused. Also, NorCal’ers don’t use “THE” like y’all do, i.e., The 5, The 405. LOL.


Yes, but it runs mostly due North between the Maze and the turnoff to Highway 29 (Napa).


Oh I know and you know but I’d hate for someone to drive around looking for North instead of East. With 101, 280, 380 and 80, it can get confusing.


Rutherfird Grill in Rutherford.

If you have a hankering for chicago pizza you can pick up zachary’s in Albany on Solano, Wally’s Cafe is awesome midest/mediteranian in Emeryville.

If you have the time, driving out to Tomales bay and eating oysters or a fresh crab sandwich ialong the water sn’t a bad way to spend a day.


@lmnopm Thanks for your helpful options. Brown Sugar Kitchen looks most promising (and they have biscuits! I’m a sucker for biscuits), but is it doable at around 9AM? We touch down in OAK at 8:04AM and then need to run over to pick up the rental car. We likely won’t make it to BSK by 9AM. I’m afraid between the parking and the wait…that may delay the start of our adventure in Napa. It may work out better for lunch on Monday when we head back.
We may hit up Stella Nonna instead on Saturday, And while the idea of Rick Santorum does repulse me…there are worse things to be more outraged in the world about because we really do enjoy Jelly Belly products.
@lectroid I know you’re a huge fan of Rutherford Grill. We’ll be in that part of the Valley during the day Saturday, so we’ll drop by for a late lunch. I would love to have oysters and crab by the bay…hmm…maybe on the way back to the airport on Monday afternoon.


For brunch, Fremont Diner is in a class by itself, kind of what you’d expect if Alice Waters opened a diner. About an hour from OAK that time of day.

Bartavelle opens at 7am. Only-in-Berkeley place in the former Cafe Fanny space. Unlike Cafe Fanny they keep the order line moving and get the food out efficiently.

Brittany Crepes opens at 9am. Owned by a Breton, real buckwheat galettes, tastes just like France. Ask for the French amount of butter, they cut it back a bit to suit local bad taste.

Navi Kitchen in Emeryville opens at 8am.

Zachary’s (ugh), Wally’s, and the couple of good dim sum places along that stretch of 80 don’t open until 11 or so.


We’ve been going to Fremont Diner for years for breakfast. (We’re not brunch people.)


House of Soul in Vallejo is the real thing. BrownSugar Kitchen is not. Who has ever heard of stir fried collards–like eating shoe leather.


Stella Nonna in Berkeley was a bit hit. Off the plane in OAK at 8:04AM, out of the rental car HUB at 8:40AM, and pulled into the Stella Nonna parking lot at 9:04AM. Had the place to ourselves because it had just opened.
Service was okay. The waitress was new to brunch service so had to check with others when we had questions. She needed the chef’s help in crafting our brunch cocktails. Water refills were great upfront, but tapered down as service went on.
We were welcomed with a quaint bowl of churros. These were so good…I could have eaten a bag of them. I should have asked for some to go. Warm…crisp…perfect amount of cinnamon-sugar.

He got the pancakes and bacon because biscuits and gravy is a seasonal thing here. The bacon is from Niman Ranch, so the bacon was great. Pancakes were good. I got the Mitch’s breakfast biscuit. House made pepper-cheese biscuit with scrambled eggs, cheddar, and the Niman ranch bacon…all breakfast biscuit sandwiches should taste like this. The gooey melted cheddar, perfectly scrambled eggs, crispy bacon…and a melt in your mouth biscuit. The fruit on the side was not entirely ripe…but knowing everything I’d consume this weekend, I figured fruit was safer than home fries.

Thanks for the rec! It was great and super freeway adjacent…we ended up hitting up Oxbow before going to the airport for lunch. Will definitely keep the other places in mind for future Napa trips!




He wanted biscuits and gravy…the staff told us it’s a seasonal menu item. Got pancakes and bacon instead. Should have been more clear. I thought their explanation was rather odd.


Sounds like “rotates on and off the menu” (the most likely explanation) turned into “seasonal.” And the season for B&G would be “when it is on the menu.” :wink: Anyway, glad you enjoyed.

As for those biscuits, they’re almost a meal by themselves.


Maybe their customers don’t order them except in cold weather.


@lmnopm the biscuit was indeed divine. While it was odd explanation as to why biscuits and gravey were not on the menu, we were only disappointed because that’s my husband’s favorite breakfast dish. Still a fairly decent way to start a Napa trip. The drive to the Jelly Belly factory was quick afterwards. It was an interesting tour, and we got a bunch of belly flops to take home as gifts.


Second on that. Went there for lunch today after a DMV appointment.

Perfect fried chicken. Next time I’ll tell them dark meat only. The breast was as good as fried breast gets, it’s just never as good as the other parts.

Greens were as good as I’ve ever had in a soul food place, maybe better. Black-eyed peas were the best I’ve ever had, and that includes some really good homemade ones. Pork in both, I think.

Cornbread was very good but I’m partial to my own recipe.

Overall this was the best meal I’ve had at a soul food place since Pookie’s closed.