Aloha, Napa Valley - Napa’s Connection to Wilfred’s Lounge Runs Deep
By Linda Bausch
A trip downtown Napa to Wilfred’s Lounge is all you need to transport yourself to a place where the day quickly evaporates into island time. With offerings of tropical cocktails, a solid Napa Valley wine list, and an enticing, island inspired menu—Napa’s new Tiki bar draws you in.
The Aloha Spirit, evident at the edge of the First Street Bridge, is another chapter in a sweet story, which began in the islands in 1929. As a young lady named Flora left her Honolulu, Hawaii home, her brother Wilfred stood with their family members and bid her farewell. She traversed the wide Pacific Ocean, bound for the mainland.
Flora boarded a ship on her way to San Francisco. In due time she completed an education at St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing, where she met and later married Jerry Komes. After many other accomplishments for both, before long they made their way to Napa Valley and embarked on a family, venture—making wine with their son John, their daughter Julie, and Julie’s husband Pat Garvey. Established in 1977, Flora Springs Winery continues to thrive in 2021, under the family’s watchful eye.
I never thought writing about a newly opened establishment is fair game, especially in the first week or two. You have to give ‘em a fair chance to work out the kinks. Wilfred’s Lounge changed my mind about that; they raised the bar for excellence in hospitality, delicious food and beverage, right out of the gate.
An unexpected, quick visit home limited my window of opportunity to enjoy Wilfred’s Lounge, which had a surprisingly quick start. “From zero to open in about four weeks,” was how opening consultant Sean Meyers said it. It took the coordination of an experienced team: Doc Parks in the General Manager role, Chef Max Ackerman, and of course John and Nat Komes (President and CEO of Flora Springs Winery, General Manager of Flora Springs Winery, respectively.)
With a bit of lucky timing, we were seated at a dinner table early Saturday evening. In the long run, it didn’t matter one little bit that it was opening week; this was a staff on fire. I mean that in the very best way possible. The only description that fits the service and food was—impeccable. That’s saying a lot, I know. But, it was true.
This brings us back to Wilfred. His spirit migrated west, across the Pacific, as Flora’s son John and grandson Nat have lovingly brought Tiki bar life to Napa. Honoring Uncle Wilfred‘s playful spirit, blending it with Flora’s deep flowing Napa Valley heritage, the result must bring a sense of great accomplishment and pride to everyone who has who has had a hand in the project.
From the massive orchid displays on each end of the bar, framing the welcoming hosts, to the band playing Hawaiian tunes on the downstairs patio, the evening was without a doubt, one of my favorites.
Your eyes can not help but roam the brightly colored décor. Proudly overseeing the space, portraits of Wilfred and Flora remind us of the family history which was rooted from afar. Wilfred’s bamboo framed picture graces the main dining room, and Flora’s image is featured upstairs.
One of the first things our server Shanie did, was assure us that her time was ours and that we should feel free to relax and enjoy ourselves. No rush. Now, we were on island time. The ultra-comfortable, tropical-print chairs at our table made relaxing all the easier.
Shanie was well-versed in every aspect of the food and beverages listed in the leather-bound menus. The impressive cocktail list was more than tempting with its fruitful options and rum galore. But when we saw the wine list was composed solely of Napa Valley wines, we chose to honor Flora Springs and selected the Merlot. It was a fine complement to our entrées which came to the table visually impressive.
There were quite a few items we wanted to try, but knew our eyes could be way bigger than—well; you know where I’m going with that . . . I promise there will be a return visit for all the things we didn’t try this time around, like the Salmon Candy Rangoon, Portuguese Bean Soup or Akaushi Flat Iron Steak.
We started our meal by sharing the Coco Me Loco Coconut Shrimp appetizer, accompanied with lemon slices and a Ginger-Mango Sauce, which was flavorful without being too spicy. The coconut was crisp fried to a golden brown, while the shrimp remained perfectly tender inside. In addition, we had the Papa’i Crab & Avocado Salad served on a bed of greens with tropical vinaigrette; the flavors are well-balanced and complimentary.
For entrées, we selected two—the Five-Spice Sticky Ribs (a half rack of baby back ribs with five-spice and hoisin barbeque sauce) and the Honolulu Burger.
The ribs were meaty, oh-so-tender and delicious. The sides were fluffy, steamed rice and a macaroni salad with bright flavor in each bite—with the addition of finely diced red pepper, onion and carrot, and just the right amount of sweet and tangy dressing. The servings were generous and no one was disappointed to have leftovers the next day.
The Honolulu Burger is described on the menu as: half-pound burger, smothered in island teriyaki on a Paulie’s Hawaiian bun, topped with Swiss cheese, grilled pineapple, red onion, lettuce and tomato. The beef was juicy and the burger was stacked pretty high with a good bun to burger ratio. The bun held up well all the way to the end; that’s a bonus right there. Although it isn’t noted on the menu, sweet potato fries were a welcome addition to the plate.
As I said in the beginning, a trip to Wilfred’s Lounge will transport you to a place and time where slowing down a bit and enjoying life on island time is the point. The atmosphere was upbeat and exciting. Every single detail has been thought through to create an authentic island vibe. (Be sure to make your way to the bar and patio upstairs!) The food and service couldn’t have been better. Wilfred’s Lounge was run like a well-oiled machine where everyone involved was happy to be there, it was evident by the comfort and care shown to each guest.
A Tiki bar is just what Napa needed. Getting a Tiki bar that has such a long and valued connection to another Napa Valley treasure, Flora Springs Winery, is a blend we can all enjoy until the next ship sails.
wilfredslounge.com | Wed. - Sun. 11am - 11pm | 967 First Street, Napa | 707. 690.9957