Southside, a Napa coffee house and cafe that’s achieved a low-key cult status in wine country for its all-day breakfast, opened its third location in just over three years at the end of July. Located a few miles south of Downtown Napa within the South Napa Century Center—also home to a movie theatre, a twice-weekly farmers market, NapaSport restaurant, and several other businesses—it’s the first Southside to offer dinner service, plus blended juices and an extensive wine list.
Three Locations in Three Years
Southside founders Morgan and Irma Robinson opened the first location in the same parking lot as their catering kitchen, Smoke, in 2016. It’s tucked away on the south side of Napa (hence the name) and in a residential area that few tourists would stumble upon accidentally. But Southside’s quick rise to fame has had people coming out in droves ever since.
The opportunity for the burgeoning Century Center location actually came next, but two-and-a-half years of construction meant that their post in Yountville as part of the Stewart Cellars tasting room opened first in 2018. “We can’t believe there can be three different places within this close proximity and this short amount of time,” says Irma Robinson.
The only other local eatery to grow to this many locations within Napa Valley is The Model Bakery. Gott’s has two (the St. Helena original and an Oxbow outpost), but has expanded across the Bay Area, which Southside also hopes to do in the next few years.
“It feels whirlwind and it makes us thrilled that we’ve had these opportunities and that at each location we’ve been embraced by the community. It’s been fun to create the different looks of each space and evolve the menu with each location.”
Every Southside outpost has a unique look. Exuding SoCal vibes, the Century location is especially bright and airy with light-colored wood elements. Irma Robinson pointed to Los Angeles Mexican joint Broken Spanish as inspiration and has even integrated a similar wall of mid-century modern screen blocks, which indicates the line for counter service. The restaurant is both beautiful and industrial at once, with cinder block walls and exposed pipes intersecting throughout the unfinished ceiling. A series of woven pendant lights hang from it.
“We firmly believe with every location that every aesthetic has to be real. Nothing plastic,” says Irma Robinson, adding that they even have a turntable in each restaurant so that they can play real music, too.
Pops of personality and color — emerald green especially is a recurring theme throughout — come via watermelon tiles placed over the wood-fired oven, rose tiles that cover the order counter, and a floral mural that they hope will double as a selfie wall. In one bathroom, there’s chevron wallpaper and in the other, the signature sugar skull wallpaper for which Southside’s original location has become famous.
Details in each restaurant are personal to the Robinsons. The tiles were created by Santa Barbara architect Jeff Shelton, who was a former draftsman for Morgan Robinson’s father. There’s also a striking art piece of raku tiles that depicts Irma Robinson’s great aunt from Mexico City wearing a traditional dress. “It’s a way to have the matriarchs of my family represented,” she says.
Lastly, floor to ceiling glass doors lead to a large and dog-friendly outdoor patio complete with fire pit and a trio of swinging pop chairs.
A solid mix of light and hearty dishes with a focus on veggies, Southside is known for its California cuisine with a Latin twist, for both Robinsons have roots tied to Mexico. Irma Robinson’s family is from Mexico and she’s a first-generation American who grew up in San Francisco. Morgan Robinson, who is also Southside’s executive chef, just so happened to be born in Mexico when his father moved the family there for a job. He spent four years in Mexico before his family moved back to Santa Barbara, where he continued to be surrounded by Spanish influences.
“The only good food in Santa Barbara until about five years ago was Mexican,” he says. “There are a lot of French and Italian immigrants, but don’t forget that [California] was once all part of Mexico, so I feel it’s important to embrace the food that was here originally and be respectful of that.”
Most of the Southside staples grace the menu at the new location, including the biscuits and gravy with chorizo sausage gravy and the avocado toast (avocado, poached egg, toasted pumpkin seeds, arugula). But a handful of new plates come into play here as well, thanks to a larger, fully-equipped kitchen — something the other two locations lack.
New items include the cauliflower Baja tacos, featuring beer-battered cauliflower and Irma Robinson’s mother’s hit salsa, and Duck Carnitas, which come with the toppings on the side so that diners can build their own lettuce wrap. For something sweet, the cornmeal pancake — made with corn instead of flour and cooked in the wood-burning oven — was inspired by the caramelized top of an upside-down stone fruit cake. Southside’s locally-famous fried chicken, offered on the first Friday of the month at the other locations, will also likely make an appearance at Century soon.
Five blended drinks join the Wrecking Ball coffee program, which are bound to be a popular post-workout drink for gym-goers at the In-Shape Health Club across the street. The bee-sting, for example, is made with almond milk, golden beet, honey, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, bee pollen, and collagen peptides. The wine list has 36 selections—many available by the glass or carafe—from all over California.
“Breakfast is kind of my jam,” says Irma Robinson, reflecting on Southside’s mini-empire. “Whatever was wrong last night always seems a little better in the morning. I find it to be a really social and relaxing way to eat.”