The Napa Valley Guide
As total winos, we’re always taking notes on the best spots in Napa (cue Escapes for Foodies and Winos). The region’s old greats, like The French Laundry, Opus One, and Auberge du Soleil, will always rank high in our hearts for continuing to set crazy-high standards for food, wine, and luxury. That said, we’ve also discovered some pretty awesome off-the-beaten path wineries and restaurants in Calistoga and Napa’s less-touristy neighbor, Sonoma Valley, that are worth checking out too.
The Restaurant at Meadowood900 Meadowood Ln., St. Helena | 707.967.1205
Meadowood is one of the most luxurious spots in the region, so it's only fitting that its restaurant is decadent and opulent enough to live up to the hotel. Christopher Kostow's program, which is a traditional nine-course tasting menu, has been Michelin-starred for several years in a row. And while it might seem trite to discuss décor in a place where the food is the focus, the subtle, elegant design of this spot is a perfect fit for the cuisine.
Catelli’s21047 Geyersville Ave., Geyersville | 707.857.3471
The siblings who now own and run Catelli's are the third generation of restaurateurs at this much-loved Italian spot. Everything from the wine to the vegetables is locally sourced, and it's all really nicely priced.
Spoonbar219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg | 707.433.7222
Spoonbar has a great menu with California-style cuisine, but the biggest draw is the cocktails. The drink menu changes seasonally depending on which local spirits are available, meaning that it's a great place to get a feel for the talent in the region's many distilleries.
Ralph’s Martini House109 Plaza St., Healdsburg | 707.433.1380
Located right in the heart of downtown Healdsburg on a lovely walking street, Ralph's is a classic. We've heard the entire menu is great, but we can't say for sure, as we always go for the chicken paillard with fries.
Barndiva231 Center St., Healdsburg | 707.431.0100
Healdsburg is a little bit off the beaten path, with a vibe that's more small-town than glitzy tourist spot. Boasting a back garden that's dripping in ivy and wisteria and insanely good goat cheese croquettes, Barndiva is hands-down one of our favorite dinner spots to try while you're exploring the area.
Fremont Diner2698 Fremont Dr., Sonoma | 707.938.7370
Fremont Diner is a charmingly local spot where the menu focuses on old-fashioned comfort food—the fried chicken and waffles, fried chicken sandwich, and especially the homemade pies make for customers year-round. Kids will love the backyard chicken coop, where local-as-it-gets eggs are harvested daily for famous dishes like the deviled eggs and breakfast hash.
ad hoc + addendum6476 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.2487
It's hard to imagine that Thomas Keller initially opened ad hoc as a temporary dining space—it's been a beloved Yountville dinner spot since it first opened back in 2006, and it definitely doesn't seem like it's going anywhere. This laid-back spot offers a four course menu that changes daily and showcases the comfort food Keller grew up with (fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and some seriously good salads with blue cheese and bacon). It's a fixed menu, with no substitutions except for a few add-ons, which always sell out.
Solbar755 Silverado Trail N., Calistoga | 707.226.0800
Solage Calistoga is a relative newcomer on the hotel scene here, and Solbar is one of its best amenities. Featuring a large, open dining room that looks out onto an outdoor garden and seating area, it's a nice quiet spot for California-style cuisine. It's a great place to meet people for drinks, but we recommend sticking around to try the truffled organic chicken.
Cook1310 Main St., St. Helena | 707.963.7088
Snag a spot at the long, low, white marble bar at this local favorite where you can look on into the open kitchen. The rustic California-style menu offers up dishes like a whole fish and gorgeous heirloom tomatoes that don't need to be served with anything but olive oil. We can get behind that.
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen1327 Railroad Ave., St. Helena | 707.963.1200
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen (named for Chef Cindy Pawlcyn who, with a James Beard award under her belt, is a big name in Napa's food scene) is housed in a cool little 1920's building that used to be a bordello. The menu is a nice mix, with items that feel elevated, but not too fancy to keep this from being a neighborhood joint. Pawlcyn makes great use of the restaurant's wood-fired oven with duck meatballs and braised pork shoulder, or try classics like the avocado and papaya salad or the lobster cobbler.
Farmstead738 Main St., St. Helena | 707.963.4555
With a large, open dining room and casual vibe, Farmstead is our pick for big groups or for when you're traveling with kiddos—the fried chicken Tuesdays are a family favorite. The cuisine takes farm to table as literally as possible; vegetable dishes change every day based on the fresh box of produce the chefs receive that day from Rutherford Estate.
La Condesa1320 Main St., St. Helena | 707.967.8111
When you can't stomach another glass of red wine, stop by La Condesa for expertly mixed margaritas and California-style Mexican. The fresh seafood (we love the ceviche and fish tacos) makes the menu a standout, and it's right downtown in St. Helena, meaning it's an easy dinner spot where you can mingle with other tourists and locals alike. Hang out in their bar on the weekends for live music from local bands.
Press576 St. Helena Hwy, St. Helena | 707.967.0550
This contemporary-feeling steakhouse is right off the St. Helena Highway, but it's way more than a roadside joint. The interior is really sleek, meaning it feels a little more New York than Napa, and your fellow diners will be dressed accordingly. It's the kind of place where you'll want to indulge in the really high quality meat—we go straight for a bone-in ribeye.
Tra Vigne!1050 Charter Oak Ave., St. Helena | 707.963.4444
Tra Vigne was Michael Chiarello's first Napa restaurant, and it remains a total Napa classic—between the white tablecloths and the piano playing in the background, it's one of the most opulent experiences in the valley. It's not a tasting menu, but the traditional offerings (simple but elegantly prepared fish, poultry, and red meats) feel very grown-up.
Bar Terra1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena | 707.963.8931
Restaurant Terra has had a Michelin star every year since 2007, but we're partial to its more casual little sister, Bar Terra, whose exposed brick walls and leather banquettes make for a really comfortably intimate setting. It's a small but creative menu with a subtle Asian influence, offering up a signature ramen and a broiled, sake-marinated black cod. They also have a great selection of small plates for sharing.
Archetype1429 Main St., St. Helena | 707.968.9200
This neighborhood spot has the best brunch (try the summer squash omelet or the lemon ricotta pancakes), and décor that looks like it's straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie. Watch the time—it's tempting to stay here all morning and blow through your afternoon of wine tasting appointments.
Gott’s RoadsideOxbow Public Market, 644 First St., Napa | 707.224.6900
A requirement every time we're in Napa, Gott's Roadside is basically a fancy diner with unbelievable food. In other words, it's perfect for kids and a Napa-quality meal without the white tablecloths. There's also a location in St. Helena.
Bouchon6534 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.8037
Another mandatory stop on the Thomas Keller tour of Napa, Bouchon is the Keller's take on casual French bistro food. It's sort of impossible to call out the best menu items because everything is great. Bonus: they have a late night menu, which can be a game-changer on a long Napa night after too many wine tastings.
BottegaV Marketplace, 6526 Washington St., A9, Yountville | 707.945.1050
If you're a Food Network addict, it's worth putting Bottega on your list so you can taste Michael Chirello's Italian menu in person. It can feel a little bit touristy, meaning it can get loud and busy, but the service is surprisingly good and the signature ricotta gnocchi is undeniably awesome.
Mustard’s Grill7399 St. Helena Hwy, Napa | 707.944.2424
Cindy Pawlcyn was a big part of the first generation of chefs that established Napa as a foodie destination, and her casual grill has been equally loved by tourists and locals in the 30 years since. Order the Mongolian pork chop and onion rings, and take advantage of their wine list, which is surprisingly comprehensive for such a laid-back spot.
The French Laundry6640 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.2380
Nestled discreetly in a former laundry in Yountville, The French Laundry has been a pilgrimage-worthy foodie destination for years. Thomas Keller (who owns several fantastic restaurants in Yountville) is the only American-born chef to have two three-starred Michelin restaurants. Although you'll pony up for a meal like this, it's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even if you can't get a reservation, experience it vicariously through the gorgeous three-acre garden across the street from the restaurant, which is open to the public.
Redd Wood6755 Washington St., Yountville | 707.299.5030
Richard Reddington’s Redd Wood is sort of the classic embodiment of what some call the "new Napa." The fresh-feeling, casual Yountville spot was decorated by Erin Martin (she has a shop in St. Helena and is one of the area's best decorators) and is best known for its spot-on pizzas.
Bistro Jeanty6510 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.0103
French Chef Philippe Jeanty first came to the US back in the '70s to work on the first Moët & Chandon restaurant in Napa, and he's been in the valley ever since. His eponymous bistro in downtown St. Helena is French country in the best, most quaint way—sit on the idyllic outdoor patio.
Garcia’s Taco Truck| 707.980.4896
The city gave Garcia's a permit to set up in the parking lot of Pancha's, which is one of our favorite little local bars, and you'll find them there most evenings. Tacos like the well-loved fish and el pastor will only set you back between one and two dollars, which is a major blessing when your wallet is starting to feel the strain of too many big, wine-heavy dinners.
Bistro Don Giovanni4110 Howard Ln., Napa | 707.224.3300
This place is right off Highway 29, and if you're not looking carefully you could drive right by it. They're known for classic Italian fare, with excellent homemade pasta—the fettucine Bolognese with duck ragu is a must-order. Ask to sit outside in the perfectly charming garden space.
CeladonNapa River Inn, 500 Main St., Napa | 707.254.9690
Greg Cole (the former Executive Chef and owner) originally came to Napa to work for Chef Jeanty (of Bistro Jeanty fame) in the kitchen at Domaine Chandon. This spring, he and his wife sold their share in this cozy restaurant to their long-time General Manager, and Chef de Cuisine Marcos Uribe took over as head chef. Not to worry—Uribe has been trained by Cole over many years, and we've heard the menu and food quality are still just as good.
Hog Island OysterOxbow Public Market, 610 First St., Napa
Napa is a short drive from some of the country's best oyster beds, so it's worth taking a break from all of the farm-to-table vegetables to check out the offerings from the nearby ocean. If you have time, head over to Point Reyes National Seashore and stop at their oyster farm for a taste of the bounty when it's fresh out of the ocean.
La Toque1314 McKinstry St., Napa | 707.257.5157
Chef Ken Frank's formal bistro in the Westin Verasa Hotel is the embodiment of the traditional, old-school Napa dining experience. In addition to the nine-course tasting menu, we recommend springing for the wine pairing here—it's totally worth it and a great opportunity to see how the region's best wines hold up in a dining setting.
Morimoto610 Main St., Napa | 707.252.1600
Masaharu Morimoto is best known as the original Iron Chef, though his restaurants are actually better than the TV hype. The vibe here is much more urban here than you'll find at other restaurants in the valley since it's right downtown in Napa. Meanwhile, the Asian food is also a nice way to break up the local California cuisine.
Oenotri1425 First St., Napa | 707.252.1022
Although the interior at this spot is a little Napa-quirky (think green leather and lime and orange-striped banquettes), they serve up unshakably good Italian right in the center of downtown. The pasta recipes are creative and original, and the pizza crusts are the perfect, slightly chewy Neapolitan consistency.
Redd6480 Washington St., Napa | 707.944.2222
Richard Reddington has had stints at a dizzying array of good restaurants: he worked for Daniel Boulud at Daniel, for Wolfgang Puck at Spago (he was the Sous Chef that helped open the restaurant), and was the Executive Chef at Auber du Soleil for several years before striking out on his own with two great Napa restaurants. The space here is wide and airy with an industrial warehouse feel, and the food is excellent. Do as the locals do and order your meal from the bar.