Napa Junction in American Canyon Has Food and Drinks – John Gamboa

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Don’t know much Pieology…

My lady and I were in Fairfield, CA craving some food one day so she went onto her Yelp app on her Lumia 830 Windows phone to see what’s good to eat near where we were. Scrolling through the list of places to eat for one dollar and 2 dollar pricing, she found this place called Pieology Pizzeria. It had good ratings so we decided to check it out.

Woah, it felt like I was in a Chipotle but instead of burritos, I’m looking at pizza. Interesting. That’s basically what it is, you choose how you want your pizza to be topped and they make it for you. The selection of toppings is pretty vast (no anchovies as my wife found out). Different cheeses, meats, veggies, and sauces. The pizzas are thin crust from what I was able to see based on some orders that went through as we were selecting our toppings. I let my wife build up our pizza while I snapped a few photos.

Pieology view from the entrance. Fairfield, CA

Pieology view from the entrance.
Fairfield, CA

Pieology at the counter

Pieology at the counter

This Pieology has modern decor as you can see from the above photos. Industrial ceiling above with exposed ventilation ducts. The use of tiles, metal, wood throughout as well as sharp corners add to the modern feel. The stainless steel oven is center stage behind the counter. It’s very nicely designed and I have a feeling all the other Pieology franchises look like this. A nice unique feature is the mural wall of inspirational quotes.

One of the quotes on Pieology's quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology’s quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology's quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology’s quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology's quote wall - John Gamboa

One of the quotes on Pieology’s quote wall

Quotes from different sources are spread out all over the wall and as you wait in line to place your order, it provides nice uplifting thoughts adding to the positive experience of your visit. At least it did for me.

When you get to the counter you are greeted by a host/pizza preparer with an ingredient bar in between you and them organized in the order you would normally place toppings onto a pizza. Sauces, then toppings. Not much to it.

Pieology choices - John Gamboa

Pieology choices

I don’t know about you, but at first this can seem daunting if you’re used to ordering pre-determined pizzas like pepperoni and mushrooms. You assume tomato sauce is the sauce and you get exactly that. At Pieology, having to choose a sauce puts a little delay in the though process. I’m sure a few times here, you’ll get used to it. BUT, if you get all flustered and bogged down by having to make decisions, they do provide a menu of pizzas you can choose from. Thank God my wife was there to build up our custom pizza otherwise I would have gone with one of their pizzas with predetermined ingredients. I think the “Mad to Meat You” pizza looks enticing.

Pielogy Menu

For those who just don’t feel like thinking too hard, there’s this menu.

Our pizza was excellent. I like thin crust to begin with and the toppings my wife picked were excellent. And for the sauce – pesto. What? No red sauce?!

Not this time.

My wife's Pieology creation

My wife’s Pieology creation

Only 2 slices left - Pieology - John Gamboa

Only 2 slices left – Pieology

Pieology in Fairfield is located at the Gateway Couryard shopping center within 20 minutes of Vallejo, Napa, and American Canyon in Solano County. Being a franchise, there are many Pieology Pizzerias throughout California as well as some scattered throughout the country.

Black Bear Diner in Vallejo

In the northern part of Vallejo close to Discovery Kingdom is shopping area where a lot Vallejoans get their wears and grub on. A few years ago a long time eating establishment by the name of Lyons closed their doors. Lyons died a slow death and unfortunately (or fortunately) saw its demise in early 2011 but out of its remains rose the Black Bear Diner which opened its doors in the summer that same year.

The first time I ever ate at a Black Bear Diner was in Suisun and to me it seemed like a super suburban type of place – almost country – that served good food and had good service. There’s a lot of wood used in the decor. Of course a Black Bear statue or several of them stand guard inside and out of the restaurant. The one in Vallejo even has a log toy train with little bears on them and my kids didn’t hesitate climbing atop and pretending to ride it and acted like they were friends with these cub statues. Adding to the ambiance, the menu looks like a old time newspaper from small town. You get the idea. It’s like you’re out in the country where black bears may join you for dinner.

Newspaper Menu

Newspaper Menu

The decor does make the restaurant feel livelier compared to Lyon’s during its last months. Where Lyons felt a little drab and depressing, Black Bear Diner is bright and cozy. I’ve been to Black Bear Diner four times in the last year and each time it was busy enough that I’ve had to wait. It’s a good sign. A busy restaurant (no matter the Yelp ratings) is a good thing to me. It means that people like the food enough to pay for it. The food is somewhat fresh because of turnover. As more people eat, the more food has to be brought in. And the service is decent enough that it doesn’t turn away customers.

newspaper menu

Black Bear Diner newspaper menu

Prices at Black Bear are right where a restaurant in a bedroom town like Vallejo should be – affordable. For a family like mine with 5 kids – 4 with restaurantable appetites – affordable is important. A burger, fries, and a shake with extra tin cup for the extra for under $15 bucks is welcome. Steak dinners for under $20 – pretty good.

Burger, Fries, and a Shake - John Gamboa - Vallejo

Burger, Fries, and a Shake

If you know me, my biggest criteria in deciding whether I’m going to enjoy my visit to a restaurant is the dessert menu. Good thing Black Bear Diner has banana cream pies in the dessert display fridge. Winner! Oh, they have other pies, too, but banana cream is my very favorite.

Another cool thing they have is 24 hour breakfast. So if you’re craving some good ol’ breakfast foods, you’re covered. Eggs, hash browns, sausage – you’re covered.

breakfast Black Bear Diner Vallejo John Gamboa

Eggs, Hash Browns, Sausage

If you’re in the area of Vallejo, American Canyon, and Discovery Kingdom and you want some good affordable food, stop by Vallejo’s Black Bear Diner and bring the family!

American Canyon’s CRAVE for Asian Fusion food

My eldest son told my wife and I about this little place he goes to get boba drinks. They’re those drinks that come with dark chewy tapioca balls. It turns out they serve food, too. A good thing for us because we like to eat out a few times a months as much as our budget allows our family of seven to go. That’s a lot of mouths to feed!

The little place he was referring to is Crave. We decided to try out Crave in American Canyon, a little town sandwiched in between Vallejo and Napa California. Crave serves a variety of things but I don’t think you can go wrong with most of the stuff they serve and they tout themselves as an Asian Fusion restaurant.

They have a wide selection of boba drinks (with and without boba). We got some taro root drinks, a lychee one, and a couple thai milk teas. There may have been an avocado one, too, but can’t be too sure. I like thai milk tea and Crave’s is pretty good. You can’t really do it wrong unless you put way too much milk that it tastes like, well, milk. Then you’ve messed it up.

This was our first time at Crave and the first food we ordered the Sisig Fries. Sisig, for those that don’t know is a Pampanga term that means “to snack on something sour”. Pampanga is a section of the Philippines in the Central Luzon region.

Enough geography…Crave’s sisig fries are excellent. A wonderful snack or meal if you’d prefer to enjoy them by yourself. It’s loaded with sisig pork, cheese, sour cream, and some other stuff, and it tastes good!

Crave-Sisig-Fries

Sisig Fries – Crave – Napa

Next we ordered the surf and turf noodles. It’s got pork, it’s got shrimp (hence the surf and turf in the name), and it’s got noodles. And it’s good, too! One of those dishes you have to try. It’s so simple yet so yummy.

Crave - Surf And Turf Noodles

Crave – Surf And Turf Noodles

They’ve got rice plates, too. Our family shared the barbeque pork skewers and egg over rice. They stick to what works in most Filipino restaurants and it’s done well.

BBQ - Pork-Egg-Garlic Rice

Crave – Napa – BBQ-Pork-Egg-GarlicRice

Oh! Did I tell you they serve crepes? If you have room after your meal, they’re an excellent dessert!

Little Dessert Shop In Napa, CA – Sweetie Pies

Located in the old mill in Downtown Napa California is a little dessert shop and cafe called Sweetie Pies.

Sweetie Pies | Napa, CA | John Gamboa

Sweetie Pies | Napa, CA

The family and I were walking in old downtown Napa looking for a place to eat and happened upon this quaint bakery and dessert shop aptly named Sweetie Pies. What makes this place unique is its locale in the old mill as well as the mismatched furniture and outdoor seating.

The desserts are too numerous to try in one visit even for our big family – cakes, pastries, etc. All of it prepared excellently with great presentation. Check out their website gallery and other reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The main reason I’d come back is the experience bringing the kids. Just like and ice cream or candy store, the kids’ eyes light up at the colors and sights. Sure the sweets are always a treat but the historic feel and odd (in a good way) decor brings with it an experience all its own. Right in the middle of the shop is an old mill thing – I have no idea what it is but it must be important and historic.

The word is their pies are excellent but we didn’t have it this go round, but surely we are coming back to try some of their homemade desserts.

Sweetie Pies | Napa, CA

Sweetie Pies | Napa, CA

Sweetie Pies Desserts

Sweetie Pies Desserts

Our sweets from Sweetie Pies

Our sweets from Sweetie Pies

We were here on a busy holiday weekend and it didn’t seem to crowded which was a little surprising but a welcome surprise it was because we got seated right away. If it were just my wife and me, I would have loved to chill with our tasty baked goods in one of the table outside especially because the day was bright sunny and perfect.

A word of caution. Sometimes the desserts are reported as being stale or old and I’m not sure why that is. Maybe they expect to be busy and prepare more than is needed. Who knows. For the most part they are prepared fresh so expect cakes to be moist and bread to be fresh.

Sweetie Pies isn’t only about sweet treats though. They also offer sandwiches and paninis as well as gourmet coffee and tea. If you’re in early and crave a breakfast meal you’re in luck. They have a selection of breakfast dishes from breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, and bagels.

With it’s ability to satisfy the sweet teeth on our household, Sweetie Pies if definitely deserving of a return trip by me and my family.

Oxbow Public Market in Napa

My family and I went to Gott’s (wrote about it here) one day and decided to check out the Oxbow Public Market and that place is cool. It’s like a little mall with specialty stores and food places. I wanted to get some cupcakes at Kara’s Cupcakes and they were excellent as gourmet cupcakes tend to be. Who would’ve thought cupcakes would ever be a big business? Having just watched my first episode of Cupcake Wars, I guess I can see why.

Located just north of Vallejo and American Canyon and east of Sonoma in the city of Napa, Oxbow Public Market contains a variety of shops and eateries inside a large warehouse. Upon entering the warehouse in which the Oxbow Public Market exists my family and I were pleasantly surprised by what was inside. Although I only had cupcakes from Kara Cupcakes’s which were really good if I haven’t mentioned, I really was drawn to the feel of the place. Bustling with activity and the cacophony of merchants and visitors that you only get from a marketplace with concrete floors and a metal roof, the combination of colors and sounds gives Oxbow a unique appeal. Merchants of different kinds fill the place with tasty goods and confections for those of us with a sweet tooth.

John Gamboa, Napa, Oxbow Public Market

John Gamboa and his wife at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa

There are two butcher shops located in the Oxbow Public Market. One called called The Fatted Calf and the other Five Dot Ranch. At one of them is where we learned what 42-day aged beef was and why it tastes so good and why it’s expensive. The beef is actually left to sit in a room controlled room for 42 days and the reason why it’s expensive is because the water gets drawn out and what’s left is the meat without the water content (or much of it anyway). The carcass actually build a layer of inedible “skin” with mold that gets cut and thrown out hence adding to the per pound cost of the aged beef. Once that is removed you are left with a rich, flavorful, and hearty cut of beef. Maybe one day will pick up a cut and taste test that process and see if it’s worth the premium in price. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a choice, select, or kobe ribeye steak. Honestly. So for me at least it may not be worth the extra cost.

There’s also a fish market and an oyster bar in Oxbow! We’re definitely going back to try Hog Island Oyster Bar out because I’m a big oyster fan. Raw, fried, grilled, bar-b-queued – it’s all good. Another great find is a Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) reviewed joint called Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. I think it has something to do with corn since that’s what maize means. We’ll be eating there some time in the near future hopefully to find out what signature dish drew the Triple D crew to Pica Pica.

Oxbow Public Market has ample parking around the area and with all the different stores you may have to make several trips into Napa to try everything. To learn more visit their website at http://oxbowpublicmarket.com.

Napa’s Gott’s Roadside

Napa, Gott's, diner, burgers - John Gamboa

Gott’s Roadside

One of the coolest and fun places to eat in Napa is Gott’s Roadside, formally Taylor’s Automatic Refreshers. First established as Taylor’s in St. Helena, then later sold, it’s named changed to Gott’s Roadside. Gott’s Roadside expanded to a location in Napa and most recently in Palo Alto where they serve some of the most delicious dishes around the Bay Area. When the weather is favorable we love eating in the outdoor dining area.

They’ve got good burgers no doubt. Their meat is fresh, their bread is mmm-mmm freshly baked good! Garlic fries and sweet potato fries are excellent. But one of the things that makes this place truly an awesome place to eat are the interestingly unique menu items. The first one is a signature burger.

Burgers, Gott's, Roadside

Juicy burgers

It is their Ahi tuna burger. Oh my goodness! My family and I first heard of this place on Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins. Triple D and Guy Fieri went to the one in St. Helena (30 to 40 minutes north of Vallejo and American Canyon) where they featured the Ahi Burger. The wasabi mayonnaise is crazy good and makes the sandwich amazing! They also add a cole slaw to add crispiness to the burger. The mixture of flavors and textures is such an unexpectedly wonderful surprise.

Next is another signature item I enjoyed on our last trip there. The ahi poke crispy tacos and they are incredible! So tasty! What a mouthwatering delight. You get three per order and you WILL finish all three. If you’re a fan of ahi poke, you’ll love how Gott’s combined that with Mexican flair.

Gott's, roadside, napa, ahi, poke, tacos

Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos

As for your sides, they have much to choose from. Check out Gott’s menu here. When our large family goes there, we are lucky enough that there’s enough variety in what we all order that we get to try many dishes in one trip. My favorite side dish is the garlic fries. My wife’s are the sweet potatoes. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

For drinks, I highly recommend their shakes and malts. It’s just a nice accompaniment to an appetizing meal. Their strawberry shakes have little chunks of strawberries and the chocolate ones are rich and thick. They also have root beer floats, another favorite of mine.

When you’re done, you can chill in their outdoor dining area or walk around downtown Napa, St. Helena, or Palo Alto. It’s a good trip no matter which one you go to.