By Irene Lechowitzky
8:18 PM EDT, August 24, 2012
The long-neglected west end of downtown Napa is undergoing a resurgence, sparked by a stylish hotel that has blazed a trail for new restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and retail shops. No need for a car; you can walk to everything in this six-square-block area. Adding to the buzz is the Uptown Theatre, a restored Art Deco gem that is now an intimate concert hall featuring such name acts as Chris Isaak, Mother Hips and "Weird Al" Yankovic.
The Avia Napa (1450 1st St.; (707) 224-3900; rooms start at $240) is the centerpiece of the West End. The 141-room boutique hotel has an eclectic mix of styles, from modern to rustic. Be sure to follow the black marble staircase to the second-floor deck, which has a party vibe with shaded cabanas, fire pits, porch swings and rocking chairs — but alas, no pool. We booked a basic guest room but were upgraded to a mini-suite because our room wasn't ready. The 385-square-foot rustic-chic studio suite had a king bed with a chocolate brown leather headboard, hickory hardwood floors and a small living area with a sofa. The bathroom was a marvel of marble with a large countertop and an enormous shower complete with a redwood stool and a waterfall shower head.
Breakfast at the Avia can't be beat. Start with a Green Smoothie (organic apples, pears, bananas, kale, spinach and apple juice), then go decadent with a plate of yummy roasted plantain buttermilk pancakes ($7-$17). Good lunch or dinner options are across the street. Oenotri (1425 1st St.;  252-1022) is a popular place for salumi and pizza ($10-$29). Norman Rose Tavern (1401 1st St.;  258-1516) serves killer lamb burgers in an inviting setting ($9-$23). A terrific inexpensive option is Bistro Sabor (1126 1st St.;  252-0555), which specializes in Latin American street food ($5-$13) and has salsa dancing on Saturday nights. (The West End is compact, and Bistro Sabor and Wildcat are just steps outside its somewhat fuzzy boundary lines.)
Two, actually: You can create your own wine blend to take home at District 4 (1405 2nd St.;  254-4906), as well as do tastings from four local vineyards. Wildcat Vintage Clothing (1210 1st St.;  224-3162) offers a fab mix of used and new retro as diverse as bowling shirts and wedding dresses, cowboy boots and bathing suits.
The lesson learned
Planning pays. If I had checked the Uptown Theatre schedule, I would have bought tickets and come a week later to see Lyle Lovett.
Besides gas for the 800-mile round trip, we spent about $650, including $500 for two nights at the Avia (AAA rate with breakfast included) and about $150 for dining out.
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