The Napa Valley Guide
As total winos, we’re constantly taking notes on the best spots in Napa (cue Escapes for Foodies and Winos). The classics, like The French Laundry, Opus One, and Auberge du Soleil, will always rank high on our list for continuing to set the bar for food, wine, and ultimate luxury. That said, discovering new-to-us wineries, restaurants, and mom-and-pop boutiques is just as exciting. A short drive from San Francisco (45 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge), and a quick flight from LA, Napa continues to be an easy long-weekend getaway for West Coasters and visitors alike.
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. 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.
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. Bistro Don Giovanni is known for classic Italian fare, with excellent homemade pasta—the fettuccine Bolognese with duck ragu is a must-order. Ask to sit outside in the charming garden space.
Bistro Jeanty6510 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.0103
French Chef Philippe Jeanty first came to the US back in the '70s to work in 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.
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.
Bouchon6534 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.8037
Another mandatory stop on the Thomas Keller tour of Napa, Bouchon is 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.
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.
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 on 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 it 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.
Cook St. Helena1310 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 right 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.
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 (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.
The French Laundry6640 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.2380
Nestled discreetly in a historic former steam laundry in Yountville, The French Laundry has been a pilgrimage-worthy destination for years. It's another lauded establishment by Thomas Keller–the only American-born chef to have two three-starred Michelin restaurants. Although you'll pony up for a meal like this, it's 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.
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 are also several other locations in Northern California including St. Helena and San Francisco.
Hog Island Oyster Co.Oxbow Public Market, 610 First St., Napa | 707.251.8113
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 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.
Mustard’s Grill7399 St. Helena Hwy, Napa | 707.944.2424
Cindy Pawlcyn was a big part of the first generation of chefs who established Napa as a culinary destination, and her casual grill has been equally loved by tourists and locals for 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.
Morimoto610 Main St., Napa | 707.252.1600
Masaharu Morimoto is best known as the original Iron Chef, though his restaurants are actually even better than the TV hype. The vibe here is more urban than you'd 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.
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.
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 Auberge 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.
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 famous for its spot-on pizzas.
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.
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.
Bar Terra1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena | 707.963.8931
Restaurant Terra has garnered countless Michelin stars since 2007, but we're partial to its more casual little sister, Bar Terra, the exposed brick walls and leather banquettes here make for a comfortable, intimate setting. It's a small but creative menu with a subtle Asian influence, offering signature ramen and broiled, sake-marinated black cod. They also have a great selection of small plates for sharing.
Tacos Garcia| 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.
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.
Acacia House1915 Main Street, St. Helena | 707.963.9004.
Chef Chris Cosentino has earned a reputation as one of the culinary world's top talents (he's held his own in the TV sphere as the winner of Top Chef Masters). At Acacia House, his penchant for classic American dishes is evident on the menu. For the vegetarians among us, the whole roasted eggplant is exceptional, finished with capers, pistachios, and blistered tomatoes. If you're looking for a heartier protein, go for the Striped Bass. And if you happen to find yourself tiring of wine, there's an inventive cocktail list from which to choose, which includes a traditional Mexico City margarita.
The Charter Oak1050 Charter Oak Ave., St. Helena | 707.302.6996
New-ish kid on the block, The Charter Oak, is the highly anticipated follow-up from Christopher Kostow and Nathaniel Dorn, who previously earned three Michelin stars for the Restaurant at Meadowood. Located in the former Tra Vigne, lovingly run by Michael Chiarello for some 30-plus years, the space has undergone a soup-to-nuts renovation (the iconic lion statues outside still remain) and the result is a warm brick-and-wood interior, a substantial patio, and a more casual family-style menu. Chef Katianna Hong takes the helm of this restaurant that elevates the art of simple American food. (And we mean simple: Most of the dishes feature minimal ingredients and are meant to be shared.) This means, hearth roasted figs with local honey for starters, coal roasted cabbage, and cauliflower with a mushroom au jus. It's gaining in popularity, so be sure to snag reservations ahead of time.
Two Birds/One Stone3020 St. Helena Highway N., St. Helena | 707.302.3777
We love a good yakitori dish, so naturally we were curious to try this restaurant when it opened last summer. It delivers, to say the least, and offers a refreshing (and much-needed) Asian twist to Napa's culinary scene. The duo behind it has serious chops (Douglas Keane and Sang Yoon, from the now-closed Michelin-starred Cyrus and LA's Father's Office, respectively), proving their talent by using local woods to infuse the grill with flavor unique to the area. We especially like the laid-back vibe of the staff that welcomes walk-ins with the same ease as anyone with a reservation (an anomaly, at times, in Napa). Check out their happy hour event Monday and Friday.
Angéle Restaurant540 Main St., Napa | 707.252.8115
The relaxing setting on the patio is one of the main draws of this bistro-style restaurant. Located in the Hatt Building, an historic 1890s ship chandlery, the space has the feel of a French brasserie. The menu is solid, with French favorites such as duck confit and roast chicken.
The Boon Fly Café4048 Sonoma Hwy., Napa | 707.299.4870
In this red barn right on the Carneros Resort property, weekend brunch is a major thing, both for visitors and locals, thanks to diner favorites like green eggs and ham, a triple stack of griddle cakes, and breakfast tacos—despite it not taking reservations. (Oh, and a bacon Bloody Mary, obviously.) If you have to be in and out, don't miss the made-to-order cinnamon doughnuts or scones.
FARM at Carneros4048 Sonoma Hwy., Napa | 707.299.4880
Nestled between the Napa and Sonoma Valley, the FARM, the Carneros Resort's warm, though undoubtedly fancier dining option (the other is the roadhouse-style Boon Fly Café) is known for its stellar farm-to-table line-up. Much of the menu is dictated by what's seasonally thriving, so that may be heirloom tomatoes, little baby lettuce, beets, and carrots; meats and fish come from nearby farms, including the Bay Area. Napa-raised chef Aaron Meneghelli's dishes are a nod to his Italian roots, too, with orecchiette pasta, ricotta gnocchi and summer squash, and Urbani truffled burrata being some of our favorites to order. (There's also a gorgeously plated five-course tasting menu if you want to go all in.) The wine list is obviously impressive too, and the cellar features some 490-plus options, including Carneros bottles plus many other sustainable and biodynamically farmed options.
Kenzo1339 Pearl St, Napa, | 707. 294.2049
To dine here is to indulge in authenticity and flavor, as well as minimalism. Owner Kenzo Tsujimoto, the businessman and vintner behind Kenzo Estate Winery, has created a space that evokes his Japanese heritage: light woods and clean lines complement the simple design and allow the authentic Japanese dishes, stars on their own, to shine. The menu is prefixed, and you’ll pay a pretty penny, but it’s an experience you'll likely never forget.