Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review March 2010
The Norman Rose Tavern In The Napa Square
By Dorothy and John Salmon
On a chilly and wet evening, we took our two granddaughters, Gracie and Arden, and Veronica, their favorite babysitter, to the Norman Rose Tavern in downtown Napa. We love CDI, the developer and owner of the property and we are delighted that they have a big success right out of the gate. When we arrived, there was a lineup of customers waiting to get in. It was proof positive that even in this serious recession, you can be successful if you serve great food in a wonderful environment.
Since the Norman Rose opened, they have had non-stop lines of people waiting to get in to eat Napa-style comfort food in a lovely setting. We chose to dine at the Norman Rose the night of the Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints game. So, the place was full of energetic footballs fans. The two large flat screen TV’s were a big hit with the girls, although they said they preferred watching Hanna Montana. Gracie and Arden are 8 and 5 and consider themselves pithy restaurant critics, but we agreed with them that the décor was warm and welcoming, with recycled barn board walls and green and brown antique glassware that decorates the top shelves of the restaurant. The metal looking ceiling tiles were a big hit with the girls, who stared up at them trying to figure out what they were made of. They also liked the light fixtures.
Kimberley Nunn and Dan Worden of Shopworks should feel great that their décor impressed these two little girls. The girls immediately checked out the private dining room at the back of the restaurant and thought it was “pretty cool.” They loved the bathroom with REAL plants, music playing, and their favorite, “put your hand under the magic faucet” where the water flows automatically.
The Norman Rose Tavern is the newest and hottest spot on First Street. Owners Michael and Christina Gyetvan make the place hum with years of experience at Azzurro Pizzeria and Enoteca. Prices at the Norman Rose are very reasonable, the décor has a friendly funky bar atmosphere and the food is great and very inventive. Chef Reed Herrick serves up healthy portions of really tasty food and Pat Jeffries manages the restaurant with a warm Napa friendliness. The Norman Rose Tavern seats 70 customers inside, about 16 in the private dining area and another 18 on the patio. We all loved the BIG windows that look out over First Street and the AVIA Hotel. Our waitperson, Ryan, was friendly, efficient and, according to Gracie, very pretty.
We began our dining adventure by ordering the bubbly crab and artichoke dip ($4.95). The girls ate most of it. If you can get 8 and 5 year olds to eat crab and artichoke, you must have a winner! Gracie really liked the crunchy bread served with the crab dip, and both girls loved the small bowl on the table filled with tiny plants. John ordered an “Arrogant Bastard” beer ($8.00) and Dorothy enjoyed a terrific Peter Franus Napa Valley zinfandel ($8.00). Veronica and the girls ordered black cherry sodas and sparkling apple juice ($3.00) served in tall glasses. Both girls ordered cheeseburgers with Cheddar cheese ($9.95) with a side of “Natural” French fries served with sea salt and black pepper ($2.95). Like many kids their age, they often only eat a few bites of their food and give up. The Norman Rose should be pleased that on this night they finished their cheeseburger and the fries and told Ryan (the pretty waitperson) that the cheeseburger was the best they had ever eaten. Arden’s compliment of the century was that the French fries were better than Mc Donald’s! That is definitely a gold star rating from a 5 year old!
Veronica ordered the grilled flank steak with herb butter, watercress and shoestrings ($18.95) and the red skinned mashed potatoes ($4.95) and enjoyed them both. John ordered the cheeseburger with Swiss cheese and smoked bacon ($11.95) and Dorothy had the roasted chicken breast chop with ABC’s Rancho Gordo beans and wilted greens ($17.95). The Rancho Gordo beans were really good and the chicken was cooked to perfection. It’s hard to choose which dish to try since you can order “to die for” lamb burgers with garlic spinach and herbed goat cheese for ($12.95), Caggiano sausages with roasted onions and mashed potatoes ($15.95) or fish and chips ($16.95). The fries are either served natural ($2.95) or barbecued ($3.95), with chili and cheese ($4.95) or with truffle salt and Parmesan cheese ($4.95). The Norman Rose Cheeseburger ($9.95) with a choice of Swiss, Cheddar, blue or pepper jack cheese, can be loaded up with grilled onions, smoked bacon, a fried organic egg, thyme roasted mushrooms or avocado relish.
Gracie and Arden’s parents and their friends go to the Norman Rose Tavern for Frank’s Frito Burger Sliders with pepper jack cheese and an avocado relish ($9.95). The Norman Rose features some of our favorite local purveyors; Five Dot Ranch meat and hot dogs, the Fatted Calf charcuterie, and Alexis Baking Company’s Rancho Gordo beans.
As John’s giant bottle of beer suggests, you can find an eclectic array of beers by the bottle or on tap, including the kid’s favorite, root beer on tap. The wine list features wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Barbara and other California regions. Desserts include fresh baked bread pudding, root beer floats, ice cream and fresh fruit crisps. We ordered the rainbow vanilla ice cream for the girls ($5.95) and the pear crisp ($5.95) for the three adults to share. The ice cream lasted for about 3 minutes with the girls and the pear crisp went even faster with the three adults. The girls thanked Ryan and Pat and said they really liked the restaurant. Arden even made sure that she told them both that their pickles were really good, which they really are, and they are homemade at the restaurant. Since kids typically don’t like pickles, that’s another gold star!
The Norman Rose Tavern is located at 1401 First Street. It’s open for lunch at 11:30 a.m. and dinner goes on to 10:00 p.m. or later, which Veronica proclaimed is a great date-night place to hang out. Reservations are accepted for large parties only. Lunch and dinner is walk up, so get there a little later than noon for lunch and either early or late for dinner to avoid the line at the door. For information, call (707) 258-1516.