Jax White Mule Diner had only been open a couple of months when the 6th Annual Chili Cookoff rolled around in August. Hardly enough time to have honed their chili recipe to a competitive level, or so you might think. Jax’s chili not only won First Place with the judges panel, which included a few discerning Napa Chefs, it also won The People’s Choice Award, meaning the folks attending also thought it was the best.
Impressive. Especially since chili is just a small part of their breakfast and lunch menu. J.B. Leamer, founding owner of Jax White Mule Diner, remembers going to the local diner with his grandfather. It was a center of community activity – a relaxed, affordable place to enjoy a good meal while catching up with family and friends. Leamer loved everything about it, and for years thought that if there was ever an opportunity to open a place just like it, he would jump on it.
That opportunity presented itself when Leamer was wearing his hat as a realtor, showing a client the space at 1122 First Street in Dwight Murray Plaza. “Gillwoods had just closed,” said Leamer. “I realized downtown didn’t have a diner anymore.” Leamer suggested to the client that he consider opening one in that spot. One thing lead to another, and Leamer ended up making the plunge himself.
Opening a restaurant is always a big risk. So far, Jax has been a huge hit.
“When I saw where they were located, I figured they’d be out of business in a month,” said Michael Holcomb, a local who owns several properties downtown. “Then, I tasted the food. I eat at Jax three or four times a week now.”
Because this is Napa, Leamer was able to assemble an enviable team to run the diner. Chef Jason Buckley, who helped make the Napa Valley Grille a success before leaving California for a few years, has delivered on the classic Americana vibe Leamer had envisioned. Bobby Cabrerra, for years a fixture at Downtown Joe’s, sees to it the kitchen runs well and that the service is top shelf. Tony Morales, formerly with Silverado Resort and Spa and Celadon, is the Managing Partner, ensuring guests’ expectations are met. Part of that is having the courage to occasionally follow the chef’s whims and go off-menu. “We participated in BottleRock, and served Tater Tots smothered in cheese and crumbled bacon. People loved them.”
“We’re really making old school new again,” said Leamer. “Come in and enjoy our relaxed atmosphere with your neighbors while sharing great comfort food, beer & wine, while enjoying the game on one of the large screen TVs . Jax is Napa’s place for Happy Hour, Wed-Fri from 3pm-7pm with $3 beer, $5 wine, special appetizers and dinner entrees per our clients’ request. Look for longer hours Wednesday through Friday with a menu that will include fried chicken and other favorites.
JAX will accommodate your fantasy football draft or private event. Just give them a call at 707-812-6853. Open daily, 7am at 1222A First Street, off Dwight Murray Plaza, west of Main and First Streets, serving breakfast till 3pm. Wednesday through Friday, open till 9pm.
As Morales says, “Come in, relax and get your mule on.”