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May 10-16, 2006

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Boonfly Cafe

Boonfly Cafe.

First Bite

Boonfly Cafe

By Jonah Raskin

Where do I go if I want California cuisine that's out of the ordinary and in an extraordinary setting? The Boonfly Cafe in Napa, of course. Even though it's a 45-minute drive from home, the green hills and the lush vineyards make it spectacular, especially this time of the year.

From the outside, the Boonfly--named after Boon Fly, a 19th-century pioneer--looks like just another roadside attraction. Once you step inside, however, you're suddenly in a breathtaking, neo-industrial environment. The food is anything but industrial, and while many of the dishes appear on restaurant menus all across Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties, they look different and taste different at the Boonfly.

Last summer, I went there for lunch with my ex-wife after we'd spent an afternoon at the nearby di Rosa Preserve; I attended more recently, for dinner with two friends from Petaluma.

That first afternoon, I ordered salad and pasta, and to be honest, I can't remember much more than that, except that I knew the food was out of the ordinary and that I had to go back. On my most recent visit, I took notes and paid attention. We ordered five distinctive dishes and asked the waitress not to bring them all at once. Unfortunately, she did just the opposite. We might have behaved like spoiled brats and raved and ranted. Instead, we lifted our forks and began to eat, savoring it all, and sharing it as equally as we could--a real challenge.

The Boonfly spinach salad ($8) stands out in large part because of the organic cranberries and the fingerling sweet potatoes. The grilled asparagus ($5) was as garden-fresh and tender as can be. The linguine with portobello mushrooms in a cream sauce ($13) is better than my own, though I make near-perfect pasta at home.

Mussels are a favorite, too, and the mussels here ($14.50) are cooked to perfection: juicy, firm and sweet. Our last entrée was the anchovy flatbread ($11) with a chewy crust. We ordered three desserts ($7 each) and shared them, having an apple tart, a crème brûlée and an orange parfait, the latter of which was over-the-top and too sweet for my tooth.

Owned and operated by the same people who run the Carneros Inn just a few steps away, the Boonfly caters to travelers. On any day of the week, all day long, the out-of-towners are out in force, and, indeed, the rustic food is good enough to make the cafe a destination for jet-setters from as far away as Los Angeles. Breakfast begins at 7am, and with a spectacular lunch and equally spectacular dinner already under my belt, I might surprise myself and arrive in time to start the day with morning coffee, and savor every mouthful.

Boonfly Cafe. 4080 Sonoma Hwy., Napa. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7am to 10pm. 707.299.4900.

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Quick-and-dirty dashes through North Bay restaurants. These aren't your standard "bring five friends and order everything on the menu" dining reviews.