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Walnut Creek Magazine

Market in St. Helena is the Locals Choice

Jul 22, 2018 11:36AM ● By Fran Miller


If one truly wants to know a town or locale, one must eat as the locals do. And in Napa Valley, the locals dine at Market in St. Helena. From weekend brunch through late night digestifs, the charming restaurant located on St. Helena’s quaint Main St. teems with palpable conviviality. On any given night, families, couples, first-daters, and local vintners can be found within the historic, high-ceilinged stone building where owners Ernesto Martinez and his brother-in-law Roman Flores know just about everyone who enters the door. 

Martinez estimates that more than 70% of his clientele are Valley residents. “We have a really nice regular crowd that includes vintners, winemakers, and other notable names from the area.” says Martinez, who, with Flores, has owned the St. Helena hot spot since 2008. “We enjoy serving as a home-away-from home for our community, and we welcome wine country visitors warmly.”

Located in an historic 150-year-old building featuring exposed brick and stone, Market serves a mix of families, business people, and tourists – all of whom are made to feel welcome and at-home. High ceilings, warm lighting, white tablecloths, an antique wood bar, and a soft R&B soundtrack set the backdrop for Market’s American classics with a twist. Market’s free corkage on every first bottle brought in by guests contributes to the restaurant’s draw and allows wine-tasters to easily enjoy their day’s spoils.  

Market signature dishes include Organic Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, sautéed garlic spinach, cheddar-jalapeño cornbread & home-style gravy and the Very Adult Mac n’ Cheese with Fiscalini cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Hobbs bacon and toasted panko. Many ingredients come directly from Market’s own gardens, and Martinez works with local purveyors to source organic meats, poultry, fish, and the freshest, seasonal ingredients he can find. “We are truly a farm-to-table restaurant,” says Martinez, who, prior to owning Market, worked there under previous ownership as sous-chef. Previously, he served as sous chef at the Culinary Institute of America for nine years. “At Market, we really care for the environment,” he says. “We don’t buy anything in danger, and we are as green as possible.”

Guests at Market love the number of menu choices. There is truly something for everyone, from Ahi Tuna Poke, to Baby Back Ribs, to Porcini Mushroom Ravioli. Lunch and dinner menus are similar, and a weekend brunch menu includes the addition of items such as Huevos Rancheros and Belgian Waffle Fried Chicken Sliders. Desserts include hearty portions of soul-soothing faves such as mixed berry short cake served with a house made biscuit, French vanilla ice cream and cognac glaze, or their version of s’mores: marshmallow, homemade graham crackers, chocolate and peanut butter ganache served over a ‘mini-campfire.’ 

But as delicious as the food may be, it’s Martinez’s staff that are the true stars of Market. “Many of our servers and cooks have been with us for ten years,” says Martinez, who generously offers his employees full benefits and a 401K program. “Our wine director Chelsea Hammond started in 2008 as a food runner and she now runs the beverage program. We are one big family, and we welcome everyone to experience our Market home.”  

Market celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, claiming the title for St. Helena restaurant longevity. With its eclectic American-favorites menu, elegantly relaxed dining room, and free corkage, it’s not hard to see why. 

1347 Main St., St. Helena