Restaurant Review – April 2009

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review April 2009


Kelley’s No Bad Days Café
It’s What’s For Dinner Tonight!
By Dorothy and John Salmon

Much to our delight, Rush Limbaugh pulled up in his yellow Hummer and parked in front of Kelley’s No Bad Days Café just as we arrived. We were looking for a quiet conservative restaurant with no frills, understated décor, quiet colors and an ambiance that would make folks like Rush feel comfortable and, lo and behold, there he was! What better endorsement could we have!

Kelley Novak, the owner, is a quiet and unassuming chef who follows her conservative heart as she prepares Plain Jane food and serves it with few comments to her guests. We usually try to sit at the bar and chat quietly with her as she does her thing at the stove so that we can discuss the latest panel of guests on Fox News; how enlightened the comments of the conservative talking heads have been of late; or how especially proud we are of the way the Republicans in Congress have welcomed our new President.

Okay, so we are just joking. It is April of course. We know that you are laughing by now if you have ever had the incredible adult pleasure of dining at Kelly’s No Bad Days Café.  Kelley is one of the funniest people we know, full of life, opinions, whacky décor, (most of it off color) and vibrant colors mixed with a lot of “treasures/stuff” on every wall and shelf. As you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by two colorful outdoor tables, one of them hoisting a large penis shaped gourd wrapped in Christmas lights. That should give you a clue that this is not your standard restaurant that just tries to offend no one.

Kelley serves amazing food at reasonable prices and you get to top that off by watching Kelley perform her magic in the kitchen. All of this makes for a rollicking good evening. Kelley’s No Bad Days Café is located at 976 Pearl Street in Napa, near the Cinedome Theater, about a block from the Opera House and close to everything great in downtown Napa. Give Kelley a call at (707) 258-9666 and you can even get a reservation!

Kelley is an icon in the Napa Valley and will be nice to you as long as you DO NOT drive a Hummer! She HAS a bullhorn and knows how to use it if you drive by! She entertains you as she feeds you fabulous food. We had dinner at Kelley’s No Bad Days Café with Kristine and Jeff Schechtman from KVON before going to the Opera House to laugh our socks off watching Capitol Steps perform their offbeat political humor. We think that laughing is the best thing that we can to do in this economic climate, especially as we all participate in TAX DAY! Before walking over to the Opera House, we had a delightful dinner with Kelley in her brightly colored environment filled with life and laughter and amidst her collection of kitschy salt and pepper shakers and a counter full of toys.

Kelley has a very interesting wine list, just right for the size of her café, unique, priced well and perfect for the setting. Since Kelley is the daughter of Mary Novak and the sister of Beth Novak Milliken (respectively owner and president of Spottswoode Vineyard and Winery) this is to be expected. Corkage is $15. She has two rooms for dining. If you want to chat with Kelley, sit at the bar or in the front dining room. She cooks just about every dish. If you want to chat with your friends, then try the new room which is more refined even when Jimmy Buffett is singing through your dinner.

The Salmon’s and the Schechtman’s felt very much at home at Kelley’s and ordered a bottle of Frank Family Chardonnay ($40), which is a great price and an even better chardonnay since our son is the National Sales Manager for Frank Family! Our favorite server, Kaila, brought us the wine in a flash and took our orders with a smile. Jeff’s first comment as we sat down was “If the people you are with are boring, you have something else to do when you eat at Kelley’s.” We hope that was not directed at us!

For starters we ordered the fabulous Crispy Calamari with spicy chili aioli ($10). Jeff had the Chicken Caesar Salad ($15.50) and Christine went for the Cobb Salad with grilled Rosie Chicken breast ($18). John ordered his usual Caesar Salad ($10) and the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with hoisin glaze and Thai Peanut Sauce ($19). Dorothy ordered four Cilantro and Lime Marinated Prawns wrapped in Pancetta and Grilled with Asian Salad and Kelley’s famous Peanut Sauce ($14) and an amazing Beet Salad with Goat cheese, green beans, pine nuts and greens ($12). We all enjoyed our dinners, watching Kelly in the kitchen, listening to the music and embracing the funky ambiance. Since we were rushing to get to the Opera House only a few blocks away, we left without ordering any of Kelley’s well known desserts.

Kelley’s is great for families as long as your little kids don’t ask tough “what is that, Mom” questions. If restaurants were ever rated like movies, Kelley’s would be PG13. The restaurant is wheelchair accessible, has outdoor seating when it is warm and accepts credit cards. Kelley’s food is typically local, fresh and prepared with great style and care. On Thursday night’s the place is jumping with live music. Kelley’s is for dinner Tuesday – Saturday. It’s one of our favorite places to hang out, dine and remember how lucky we are to live here….  If you haven’t been to Kelley’s No Bad Days Café, you have not seen the REAL Napa!


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