Dining

The World's Best English Muffins Are in Napa Valley

Even Oprah agrees
Model Bakery English Muffins
Photo: Tasting Table

It's hard to deny the excellence of an English muffin. Melted butter sinks into the nooks and crannies of puck-sized fresh sourdough, presenting the ultimate breakfast carb. But who does it best? While Thomas' holds down the market when it comes to the grocery variety, Napa's Model Bakery, with its original brick-and-mortar location in Saint Helena and a newer outpost in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, has the best fresh-baked English muffin in the world.

Just ask Oprah Winfrey, who flies them in from California regularly. They're so good, in fact, that she included them in her coveted Oprah's Favorite Things list for 2016, stating, "I don't have to tell you all how much I love bread. These English muffins are my current carb of choice: crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and scrumptious all over—especially when slathered with the amazing Clif Family preserves that are included." 

No offense to store-bought muffins, which are handy for Sunday breakfast at home, but Model Bakery's are the real deal. Think English muffin meets brioche that's simultaneously soft, crunchy and fluffy. The not-so-secret secret? "Our English muffins are made with a classic focaccia dough, shaped by hand and proofed on a cornmeal-lined pan," co-owner Sarah Hansen says of the muffins the bakery's been perfecting for more than 20 years. "The cornmeal becomes part of the bottom crust as they are gently cooked in clarified butter on both sides. This makes the muffin crunchy and light at the same time."

More than 5,000 muffins are produced on a nightly basis, which Hansen notes have to be rationed to six per customer unless preordered. If you don't have the luxury of a Napa Valley zip code, you can order the house-made, griddled delights online and have them shipped directly to your stoop (just like Oprah!) for $40 a dozen, including your choice of preserves.

What you can't get via FedEx is the coveted breakfast sandwich served at the bakery. Scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon and cheese get, er, sandwiched in this award-winning muffin—a recommended way to start any day, especially one that involves multiple winery visits. Ask any local, and they'll tell you it's quite arguably the best breakfast sandwich in the valley.

Jenn Rice is a food and travel writer constantly traveling for cheese, tacos and kouign-amann pastries. Follow her on Instagram at @jennricewrites.

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