Conceived by chef Thomas Keller, this restaurant in Yountville is a great way to sample Keller’s cuisine if you cannot get reservations to the French Laundry. The daily-changing menu focuses on American comfort food and is a four-course, fixed-price. It’s delicious and informal. Note: while the restaurant serves dinner only throughout the week, a Sunday brunch is also offered and is fantastic.
Thomas Keller has added an even more casual eatery to the Yountville culinary scene. Addendum, a little wooden house behind Ad Hoc, serves up barbecue fare and unbelievable buttermilk fried chicken, but only at lunchtime Thursday through Saturday. You can order to go or eat it at the nearby picnic table.
From the Rouas family, creators of the exceptional Auberge du Soleil, comes this warm and wood-lined take on a refined French brasserie. The space is a refurbished boathouse with high, vaulted wood beams and views overlooking the Napa River. The staff is family-friendly, but as always, well versed on the wines.
Bistro Don Giovanni
This Tuscan-style, couple-run establishment is a favorite for locals as well as tourists who may seek alternatives to Napa’s heavy emphasis on French and California cuisine. Sit on the terrace overlooking a stretch of vineyards below and catch ambient whiffs from the restaurant’s herb garden; the interior is brightly lit with a wood-burning hearth inside. For souvenirs or gifts, owners Donna and Giovanni Scala also offer jars of house-cured olives grown directly outside the terrace.
Reservations are hard to secure at celeb chef Michael Chiarello's Bottega, but locals and visitors agree that this elegant Italian eatery is well worth the effort. Much of the menu is farm-to-table, and dining on the terrace is wonderful in warm weather.
From French Laundry chef extraordinaire Thomas Keller comes another precious culinary destination, this one only a few blocks away in Yountville. Heavier on ambiance and drawing a more casual, late-night clientele, Bouchon bistro is a jewel box affair. The red- and gold-bathed interior teems with heavy potted ferns and flickering votive candles. The kitchen serves up traditional brasserie-bistro dishes with such high-quality execution that each flavor emerges enhanced, refined and most certainly seductive.
Open every day at 7:00 am, the Bakery adjacent to Thomas Keller’s late-night Bouchon bistro is a great place to pick up pastries and coffee in the morning. On Saturdays and Sundays, go for glazed and fruit-filled doughnuts inspired by French Laundry’s signature “Coffee and Doughnuts” dish—but go early, because the weekend-only specialties tend to run out quickly. The bakery also offers a sliver of outdoor seating with light lunch fare such as soups, salads and sandwiches atop fresh-baked baguettes. Bouchon-stamped gourmet gifts include biscotti and homemade granola; you might even be tempted by the pet treats they offer (think foie gras and diced-bacon biscuits). Bouchon Bakery now has locations in New York, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas.
Enjoy well-prepared French Bistro fare, with a hint of New Orleans, outdoors on Evangeline’s inviting terraced garden. Chefs Brandon Sharp, executive chef of Solbar in the Solage Calistoga, and Gustavo Rios bring a deft touch to uncomplicated classic dishes. Craft beers and a thoughtful and moderately priced wine list round out the pleasant experience.
Considered by many to be the best restaurant in the country, the French Laundry was awarded three Michelin stars in 2007 and has kept them ever since. A meal here is more of a sensory experience, akin to going to the opera or touring the Louvre, than about simply eating. The two nine-course menus are exquisite (expect a three-to-four-hour dining time), and reservations are hard to get. There’s a one-month advance reservation policy, so be sure to plan early.
Chef Thomas Keller presides over the run-like-clockwork kitchen most nights, and his signature dishes, which make the most of seasonal produce, are revelations of taste. Where else can you discover that artichokes have a vast range of flavor and sweetness? But unlike his grand restaurant in New York, Per Se, here the atmosphere is true California, with no pretension permitted. The small dining rooms resemble those in a simple country house. Getting up between courses and wandering out to the pretty enclosed back garden by the kitchen is encouraged, although appropriate attire is required (that means no t-shirts, shorts or tennis shoes).
You may spend hours and a small fortune, but it’s a dining experience you are unlikely to ever forget. The trick: gather a group and book the semiprivate dining room, which seats up to twelve and can be booked a year ahead.
This relaxed, family-friendly restaurant at Oxbow Market has long communal tables and holiday lights draped along the ceilings. Ordering at the counter from the eclectic menu can be off-putting, but the cuisine is of the level you’d expect in wine country. Chef Todd Humphries, who earned his stripes at top New York, San Francisco and Napa restaurants, has created such tempting brunch items as strawberry pancakes with lemon curd. The wood-burning grill and rotisserie produce Korean style short ribs, roasted chicken and other crowd pleasers.
Lucy Restaurant & Bar
From the street the buildings of this eco-hotel look like the kind of hard-edged construction featured in Dwell magazine, not exactly conducive to cozy meals. But once you step through the entrance, made of stone and reclaimed wood, and find your way onto the shaded patio surrounded by pebble-filled reflecting pools, you feel like you’ve stumbled into an oasis. The menu might include a vibrant beet salad with burrata cheese and pistachios tossed with sherry vinegar or a juicy natural-beef burger with pickled vegetables and a trio of homemade condiments—the mayo made with organic olive oil and fresh eggs is an indulgence you should definitely permit yourself. Fellow diners are a mix of hip twenty- and thirty-somethings.
The Iron Chef’s first foray into Napa opened in 2010 and was hailed as one of the first additions to transform Downtown Napa into its own bona fide destination. The large dining room is airy and sleek, the menu features Morimoto’s brilliantly detailed Asian-fusion cuisine, and the ambience is congenial, particularly since the restaurant is open until midnight (1 a.m. on the weekends), a true novelty in this region.
This casual Italian eatery in Napa has excellent pizzas and pastas as well as a seasonally driven menu that changes daily. Locals love the reasonably priced menu and neighborhood vibe.
Solbar is the restaurant at Solage, a serene spa resort in the Calistoga hills where guests come to cleanse the body and spirit. Yet Solbar is also a restaurant where diners come to satisfy their appetites. Chef Brandon Sharp, who has had top jobs in the kitchens of Gary Danko and the French Laundry, offers a menu with a clear distinction: on one side you’ll find lighter dishes designed to “nourish your soul,” while those alongside them are meant to “comfort your body.”
On a recent visit, a tangle of seasonal vegetables with Greek yogurt ranch dressing was offered as a starter on the “soul” side of the menu, but so was a dish of bacon-wrapped sardines with fennel and sunflower seeds.
Despite the Michelin-starred menu, children are also welcome at Solbar and even have their own menu and adjacent bocce ball courts for entertainment while parents finish a good bottle of wine.
This restored bakery is a great place to hang out in the morning. True to its name, the store is piled with cupcakes, pastries and other sugary confections. With Napa’s robust wedding industry, it’s also a choice spot for wedding and specialty cakes. Sweetie Pies also has a café, serving soups, salads, sandwiches and mini pizzas.
The Restaurant at Meadowood
This restaurant is temporarily closed.
The fine dining restaurant at Meadowood has long been one of the Napa Valley’s most renowned restaurants. Chef Christopher Kostow cemented that reputation and achieved three Michelin stars. Named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs, Kostow has a surprisingly mature grasp of how to strike the right balance in an haute setting. His food is serious but not pretentious; playful but not undisciplined; rooted in contemporary French cuisine but also quintessentially Californian and with an unshakable love of farm-to-table.
It’s worth splurging on the chef’s innovative tasting menu here, which includes up to ten courses, all perfectly sized and paced, leaving lots of time to discuss the brilliance and care behind each concoction. Alternatively, opt for the lighter "Snacks" menu, which can be enjoyed in the lounge areas. Says the chef about what inspires him: “I embrace food memories, traditional combinations that work together, and then distill those flavors into something that is very much different, and very much stands on its own.”
That the food combinations and cooking techniques are perfectly mapped-out is evident in every deliciously precise bite, but Kostow’s joy for cooking and creating unique dining experiences shine equally bright. The presence of this talented young chef makes a return trip to Meadowood the more enticing. Request a table at the window or, during the warm months, on the dining patio, overlooking the natural splendor that surrounds this special Napa resort.