Napa Valley may be best-known for its wine, but gastronomy in the valley is anything but an afterthought. Dining options range from shacks serving gourmet barbequed picnics, to luxury resorts providing fine dining to and breathtaking views. From hearty Italian cuisine to experimental Japanese creations, Napa Valley caters for visitors of all tastes, offering food experiences that characterise Napa’s northern Californian vibe. Here are 10 unmissable restaurants in the valley.
‘The best fried chicken around’ is the unanimous verdict on Addendum, the lunchbox shack from Thomas Keller’s restaurant franchise Ad hoc. Setting up shop in the kitchen garden of the Ad hoc restaurant, this humble addition serves a choice of either their famous buttermilk-fried chicken or the hickory-smoked barbecued daily special, which rotates through some of the most popular items on the Ad hoc restaurant menu. The main is accompanied by two sides and a piece of cornbread, all wrapped up in a box to go. Ideal for family picnics or those on the road, Addendum is the best place in Napa to get a quick and easy barbecued lunch from a top restaurant.
Addendum, 6476 Washington St, Yountville, CA, USA, +1 707 944 1565
The Restaurant at Meadowood
With three Michelin stars The Restaurant at Meadowood has pioneered not only a New Napa Cuisine – the title of chef Christopher Kostow’s recently published cookbook – but also a new model of fine dining: the ‘curated singular dining experience’. Describing themselves as a modern American restaurant, the team are passionate about designing bespoke menus for each table of guests, a process which starts from the first conversation at reservation, where guests will be asked about preferences and allergies, continues with the chef then creating a unique menu to provide them with a tailored personal experience. The dialogue between the patron and the restaurant is sustained during the meal itself, with servers and cooks creating a deeply holistic experience. Guests are encouraged to cultivate relationships, direct or otherwise, with the food, the region, the artists who provide the ceramic crockery and the entire team at the restaurant.
Tra Vigne is at the height of neo-Italian dining in the Napa Valley, channelling old-world Italy and situated in a stone villa with a tree-lined courtyard. The décor is a fusion between art deco and rustic Italian, and the food reflects the same ethos, with traditional Tuscan dishes brought into modern Napa cuisine through the use of regional ingredients. Menu highlights include the popular hand-pulled mozzarella bruschetta, a variety of handmade pastas and seasonal meat and seafood. The award-winning wine list features 520 varieties of the best wines both from California and Italy, including lesser-known wines from new and pioneering producers. With a gorgeous setting and hearty Italian food to match, Tra Vigne is ideal for an intimate dinner with friends or loved ones.
Tra Vigne, 1050 Charter Oak Ave, St Helena, CA, USA, +1 707 963 4444
Bottega Napa Valley
Bottega restaurant has much to boast of; in addition to celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, the Emmy-winning host of the Food Network’s Easy Entertaining, the restaurant is situated in one of the oldest wineries in the valley, part of the historic Vintage Estates. Showcasing Italian flavours with chef Chiarello’s signature twists, the menu relies on both artisanal ingredients and sourced local produce, resulting in fresh regional dishes that are impressively unique and vast in number. Guests can choose from wood-grilled lamb chops, duck three ways, forno-roasted whole fish, and twice cooked pork, to name just a few options, all of which are accompanied by innovative vegetable sides, which have clearly received as much attention and thought as the mains. The ambiance is quaint, perfect for a relaxed evening sampling mediterranean flavours and the best of California’s wines.
Auberge du Soleil
The very first fine-dining establishment in the valley, restaurant-turned-spa Auberge du Soleil, has been providing guests with a balance of well-being and indulgence since 1981. Set in the hills with panoramic views over the valley, the restaurant’s characteristic style is a fusion of California and Provence, served around rustic wooden furnishings and underneath abstract artwork hanging on the walls. The dinner options are carefully thought out, combining regional ingredients with a Mediterranean flair, resulting in appetisers such as poached Maine lobster with apple, almond milk, avocado, and orange vanilla vinaigrette, and mains such as spiced local lamb with medjool dates, farro, radicchio, lemon and harissa. In the warmer months, guests enjoy glasses of wine from the award-winning list outside on the peaceful terrace, overlooking the lush landscape.
Oxbow Public Market
‘The local gathering place for great food and wine in Napa Valley’, Oxbow Public Market, open seven days a week and overlooking the river, is the sociable eating destination at the lower end of the price scale. Strictly speaking the market is not a restaurant itself, but there are many treats to be sampled there against a dynamic backdrop of community events, live music, cooking demos, wine and beer tastings, and animated chatter from local visitors. Kitchen Door, from Chef Todd Humphries, is a popular contemporary family diner serving dishes from classic chicken roasts and root beer floats to the banh mi duck sandwich with pickled vegetables, spicy mayo, jalapeno, and duck liver mousse, all in a toasted roll with sweet potato fries. There are many other restaurants and stalls offering the best of Napa’s food and culture, all with a focus on communal gathering and regional produce.
Oxbow Public Market, 644 1st St, Napa, CA, USA, +1 707 226 6529
Kitchen Door, Suite 24, Oxbow Public Market, +1 707 226 1560
Contrasting with Tra Vigne’s rustic feel, REDD is a light and modern establishment with simple contemporary furnishings designed to create the perception of even more space. The vibe is relaxed but the food is a sophisticated fusion of world cuisines with an emphasis on bold flavours in simple combinations, such as sashimi of hamachi on sticky rice and edamame with a lime ginger sauce, and Liberty Farms’ duck breast and Swiss chard crepes on celery root and chocolate sauce. Guests can opt for a paired food and wine tasting menu, chosen for them by Executive Chef/Owner Richard Reddington, formerly of the aforementioned Auberge du Soleil. Guests particularly enjoy the range of cocktails available at the elegant bar, and describe the REDD experience as a surprisingly modern retreat in the Napa Valley.
REDD, 6480 Washington St, Yountville, CA, USA, +1 707 944 2222
Sitting on the riverfront, Morimoto Napa is the valley branch of celebrity Iron Chef Morimoto’s franchise, maintained under the guidance of Napa’s executive Chef Kang, who recreates Morimoto’s signature Asian dishes. The restaurant itself is designed as a wide retail space, with tables set against a background of brand products such as cookbooks, wooden crockery and sake, all representing the ‘Morimoto lifestyle’. The dining area is flanked on one end by the shop gallery and on the other by the open kitchen, where the craft of sushi is always on display. Décor is cool and minimalistic, creating an air of expansive privacy that wouldn’t be out of place in Tokyo. The menu offers both a vast sushi and sashimi list, and Morimoto’s more innovative creations, including grilled hamachi kama with red miso chimichurri sauce, and duck meatball soup with duck confit, fried rice and gooseberry compote.
Morimoto Napa, 610 Main St, Napa, CA, USA, +1 707 252 1600
Describing themselves as ‘Sol-ful dining in Napa Valley’, Solbar at the Solage Calistoga Spa uses seasonal ingredients to artfully create dishes, producing both homely soul food and healthy spa food, all with a great deal of heart. The menu is itself delineated along these lines, with hearty meals such as grilled loin and confit shoulder of Sonoma lamb with English peas, Cipollini onions, tarragon honey-bacon carrots and PX sauce, and lighter meals such as warm bulgur pilaf with ras al hanout, roasted cauliflower, cannellini bean hummus, castelvetrano olives and tomato chutney. There is a sprawling outdoor terrace with a chic atmosphere, from which guest can enjoy al fresco dining or a glass of wine at sunset, admiring the view of the surrounding mountains.
Solbar, 755 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga, CA, USA, +1 707 226 0800
Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant
The Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, run by the Culinary Institute of America, is inevitably a top-notch affair; the vineyard views are breathtaking, the cuisine inspired, and the hospitality as warm as the atmosphere is cosy. Guests enter the heritage building through a crafted gate, flanked by glimmering lanterns hung on stone walls. The most popular offering is the ‘Lessons in Wine’ tasting flight, which samples the restaurant’s ‘temptations’ paired with varieties of wines. The food is well-prepared, with an emphasis on substance rather than minimalistic fancy plates, and all ingredients are sourced to ensure sustainability. The menu offers at least one of each fish, meat, poultry and vegetarian plates, but make sure you save room for one of the heavenly desserts, which include brown butter pecan cake with butterscotch ice cream, brown sugar banana and chicory glaze, and slow baked chocolate mousse, with ganache, poached raisins and whipped cream.
By Carly Minsky
Source: The Culture Trip