"The thing is," says the attractive, coiffed woman working the Fête stall at the Oxbow Public Market, "no one who lives here knows that we're here." Looking around the stylish but largely empty market building on a recent Tuesday afternoon just before the weekly "Local's Night" was to commence, it was easy to agree. Unless North Bay residents are devoted to the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times or the Wall Street Journal, just a few of the national publications that have poured ink on developer Steve Carlin's newest gem, this local treasure may be easy to overlook. Carlin, who developed the S.F. Ferry Building's renovation, knows that it's wise to be patient. It took the Ferry Building over a year to generate any momentum, but a recent Saturday morning visit there proved that patience is prudent: the place packed out the piers with the sexy allure of farm-fresh food and appreciative hipsters ravenous for some high-end paper-plate dining.
Naturally further behind the curve, Oxbow's indoor stands are nonetheless almost completely filled. Hog Island oysters are slated to move in by September, and press rep Tom Fuller hints that a "sweet, not savory" vendor that isn't Citizen Cake "but close" is about to sign off on another stand. The outdoor produce market is now inside, as the "farm stand" idea didn't figure Napa's solid heat into the plan. Six days of 100-degree weather is all it took to drive the lettuce in, and six days of 100-degree weather is less than a week in a Napa July. Only one spot remains vacant inside now that Ritual coffee is established and the Kanaloa Seafood stall is open for business.
Tuesday nights from 5pm to 8pm are reserved for locals with a variety of economic enticements like $3 wine at Taylor's Automatic Refresher, 10 percent off ground beef at the Five Dot Ranch store and other discounts. (Three-quarters of a pound of freshly ground beef already shaped into two patties at Five Dot that night was just $4.13 without the discount, which seemed like the burger deal of the century.)
Oxbow also offers a card to Napa County residents giving specials and money off on purchases all the time, giving residents even more of a reason to make this special place a part of their ordinary rounds. Sign up online at www.oxbowpublicmarket.com, and try it in person at 610 First St., Napa (adjacent to COPIA). Taylor's, the Fatted Calf charcuterie and the Model Bakery are in a separate building on the corner and well worth the few extra steps.
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