This morning as I was doing the voyeurism thing on Facebook I came across this post: “I noticed that Napa actually allowed an Applebees and an IHOP into the south-end of town. My questions are: Who eats at those places when you’re in NAPA? A Mecca of great food and wine? And, why did the city of Napa allow places of the unwashed masses to exist in this town?#TheNapaStruggle continues..
What followed was an onslaught of rude comments about the type of people who might go to Applebees rather than downtown Napa. Sometimes with all the glitz and the glamor people forget that at the end of the day Napa is just a normal town. The city of Napa is the engine that drives the entire valley. Napa is more affordable than Up Valley St Helena or Yountville. It’s where the vineyard worker, cellar rat, tasting room associate, busboy, server, chef, housekeeper, flower arranger, plumber, and other blue collar workers live. This is why there is so much traffic south bound on HWY 29 at 5:00, because everyone who works up valley lives in Napa proper.
So my husband and I decided to find out who indeed eats at Applebees in Napa. We went during happy hour and this is who we met.
Larry was born and raised in Napa. He graduated from Napa High and went to school at the Napa JC. Larry is an electrician by trade but his passion is coaching football. He coached the Napa Saints when his kids were young and now volunteers at Justin Sienna High School.
We asked Larry why he comes to Applebees. He said that when he coached the Saint they would go to Applebees for meetings because of the team moms worked there. Over the years he became a regular. While he does enjoy going to some of the fine dining establishments in Napa, Applebees is where he goes every day for iced tea. Yes, that’s right, iced tea. He sits at the bar everyday with a big pitcher of iced tea and the occasional order of chicken wings, his favorite thing at Applebees. The price point, the friendly atmosphere, and his friends are what keeps this Napa native coming back to Applebees for the past 10+ years.
MEET ALAN AND KEVIN
Alan and Kevin have been friends since they attended high school in Napa. Alan took a little hiatus from Napa but is now living in Napa and works in Banking. Kevin left just as Alan came back. They were at Applebees because Alan came back to town for a job interview. He’s hoping to move back home. They chose to come to Applebees because they wanted a cheep beer ($3.99) and a place where the game was on. Kevin also pointed out that the bar at Applebees is quite large. Their favorite appetizer is the chicken wings.
Jill, who has lived in Napa Valley for past 4 years, came to Applebees with her friend Jack (not pictured). They live Up Valley (Angwin) but had to come to Napa to run some errands. Jack was in his basketball shorts but was hungry and didn’t want fast food so Applebees was the perfect fit. The food is affordable, the restaurant is comfortable, the atmosphere friendly, and the basketball shorts went unnoticed until pointed out to me. Their favorite appetizer is the wonton chicken tacos. Funny enough, both Jack and Jill work in fine dining in Yountville.
Meet Jenny and Jay
Jenny and Jay come to Applebees every day for the happy hour. Jenny earns minimum wage as a cashier at an automotive store and Jay earns minimum wage working at Ace Hardware. They’ve had some bumps in the roads of their lives but are on the straight and narrow now. Applebees offers them a place to fit in, to have friends they call family, and a little bit of pleasure they can afford. While their jouney has not been easy Jay’s son just graduated from Washington State University with a degree in bio-chemistry. Their favorite thing is the Bacon Cheddar Potato Skins because they are delicious and only $1.99. Neither have ever been to the well known fine dining establishments. Both were born and raised in a Napa that had more prunes than grapes.
While we were there we also met a couple who had stopped in for a quick beer while their mom watched their 4 children. Both are Napa natives, one works in the wine industry. They love Applebees because it’s kid friendly and affordable. Another man we met was at Applebees because he lives up north towards Tahoe. He comes to Napa a few days at a time for work. He was having a beer at Applebees to kill time waiting for the traffic on HWY 80 toward Sacramento to die down a bit.
We looked around and saw many young families eating. By young we mean both the kids and the parents. We spoke with the staff and they said people like to come to Applebees with kids because it’s a kid friendly environment. It’s perfect for young families who want to go to a restaurant but can’t afford downtown prices.
Those of us who work in the wine industry love to support local restaurants and encourage our guests to eat at our favorite restaurants. But just our guests are eating at those fine dining establishments for their special occasion, one must remember that we also save those places for our special occasions. Our normal life is just like anyone else’s normal life in Small Town America. We shop at Target, drink Peet’s coffee, and when we want something casual and affordable we just might eat at Applebees.