Napa Valley built its reputation on world-class wine. But tasting isn’t just about what’s in a wine glass. More and more, it’s becoming about what’s sitting on the plate next to it. At Ca’Momi Osteria it could be wood-oven roasted vegetables with house-pulled burrata. At Carpe Diem, a simple bowl of popcorn isn’t so simple when it’s topped with truffle oil. If the many chefs that call the Napa Valley home have anything to do with it, world-class wine will soon have to share the spotlight with world-class dining.
One of the world’s most famous wine regions, Napa Valley has figured out the combination of good wine and good food isn’t just an award winner, it’s a way to attract new visitors. Well fed guests are happy ones. And if dinner includes a great glass of wine, the smile can be even bigger. But where to go for dinner in Napa Valley isn’t an easy question to answer. Awarded more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world, sometimes it seems like delicious dishes outnumber wine grapes. Picking the 10 Best spots for dinner is a next to impossible task. The list can easily change depending on one’s mood and just as important, what ingredients are in season. Here’s 10 favorite Napa Valley restaurants to get you started, but don’t overthink it. Enjoy eating out, indulge and plan on visiting again.
Grace's Table is a little off the typical walking route through downtown Napa, but it's a nice walk and easy detour. This charming bistro isn't French, but classic Napa Valley wine country. The garage door styled wall rolls right up and on Napa's many enjoyable evenings, lets the outside in. The dinner menu draws inspiration from France, Italy and the Americas, offering a wide-range of choices. It's not often dinner in one restaurant includes choices like corn bread, fish tacos, cassoulet and Kabocha Squash Gnocchi. The drink menu includes wine, beer in bottles and on tap, and some one-of-a-kind specialty beer cocktails. (7072266200)
Hog Island Oyster Company
An oyster bar in the heart of wine country. Hog Island Oyster Bar serves fresh out of the water shellfish directly from their farm on Tomales Bay. Sit at the bar and watch the show as oysters are shucked to order. Tucked in the back of downtown Napa's Oxbow Public Market, sitting down here is a casual affair. It's alright to get dirty. Eating seafood is meant to be a messy affair. Don't like raw oysters? Order them grilled. Or think about a bowl of chowder or seafood stew. Maybe all of the above. Non-seafood eaters can't really complain. Along with assorted salads and house marinated olives, the menu offers a grilled cheese sandwich. It's not just any grilled cheese. This sandwich is made with Cowgirl Creamery's fromage blanc, Vella mezzo secco and cave-aged Gruyere and served with house made pickles. (707.251.8113)
Expect to enjoy dinner with a fun, lively bunch when you sit down at Ad Hoc in Yountville. (Another one of Thomas Keller's many hit creations, it is just down the way from The French Laundry.) Five nights a week, the popular spot draws a crowd for its four-course family-style menu. (Ad Hoc is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) The menu changes daily, but it focuses on classic American comfort foods like fried chicken, barbeque and pot roast. Dinner is a fixed $52 per person, not including wine. Ad Hoc has a multiple page wine list and a fun cocktail selection. (7079442487)
Experience a little slice of France in Napa Valley at Bistro Jeanty. Serving traditional French bistro fare in the town of Yountville, the dining room at Bistro Jeanty is small and cozy, but charming and the outdoor Bistro Terrace is enjoyable year round. The menu varies with the season, but expect French classics like Cassoulet, Steak Tartare and Coq au Vin. Bistro Jeanty's wine list includes great wines from both the Napa Valley and the various regions of France. Portions are generous, but do your best to save room for dessert. It's hard to say no to Warm Berry Pudding and Chocolate Crème Brûlée. (707-944-0103)
Morimoto - Napa
Morimoto Napa has star power and a menu that's hard to resist. Located in the heart of downtown Napa, it's the first West Coast restaurant of "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto. Without question, the restaurant is a fish lover's destination. The dining room is bustling and lively, but on a nice night, (and in Napa there are many) sit on the patio overlooking the Napa River. Morimoto Omakasa, a multi-course tasting menu is the way to go, especially if you're feeling indecisive. Since it's Napa, the nice wine list is a given, but Morimoto Napa is the spot to give sake a try. (7072521600)
Carpe Diem Wine Bar
Expect to find a happy, lively crowd when you walk through the doors at Carpe Diem. The menu makes it easy to try something new like an ostrich burger with triple cream brie cheese or crab stuffed squash blossoms. If you're out and about with a group, the menu offers a number of small plates and easily lends itself to family style dining. The wine list is expectedly long, but the Carpe Cocktails are worth a look-see.
Save room for dessert. If the food wasn't already good enough, you can make any dish on the menu "Carpe style" by adding an organic poached duck egg and crispy pancetta. (707-224-0800)
If you didn't know Celadon was there, you could easily walk right by, especially at night when you are headed to dinner. Located in downtown Napa, it's one of those hidden foodie spots, tucked in the Historic Napa Mill. The dining room is stylish, but if you have the chance to sit in the courtyard, do it. Even on a cool night the fireplace and numerous heat lamps keep it cozy. The rustic weathered brick walls create an inviting spot where it's easy to feel comfortable whether you are with new acquaintances or old friends. The restaurant describes its menu as "Global Comfort Food," with flavors from the Mediterranean, Asia and the Americas. Think options like macadamia nut crusted goat cheese and five spice-rubbed duck breast, but know the menu changes to take advantage of the season's best ingredients. (707-254-9690)
Ca' Momi Osteria
Located in the heart of Downtown Napa, Ca'Momi Osteria serves traditional Italian dishes using California grown organic ingredients, locally sourced meats and authentic products imported from Italy. Warm and inviting, the Osteria calls a historic 19th century building home. Pizza is serious business here and thanks to the open-style kitchen complete with an Acunto Napoli wood-burning oven imported from Italy, you can watch as pizza magic is made. Using a handmade organic crust, organic San Marzano D.O.P. crushed tomatoes and house-pulled, organic Fior di Latte mozzarella there are more than a dozen pizza possibilities on the extensive menu to choose from. ((707) 224-6664)
It's all about southern Italy and food as fresh as it gets at Oenotri. The open kitchen means diners can watch chefs in action and maybe even spy their pizza emerging from the wood-burning oven. Along with a variety of handmade pasta, all breads are made in house and guests can choose from more than 20 types of house-made salumi. The menu changes frequently depending on seasonally fresh ingredients. Many restaurants in Napa Valley have their own garden, but Oenotri takes it a step further. Whenever possible, produce is sourced from Oenotri's own four acres. That's more like a farm, than a garden. (7072521022)
The French Laundry
For some, The French Laundry is the end all be all when it comes to dining out. Chef Thomas Keller's Michelin three star restaurant tops many Napa Valley visitors dining wish lists. Serving classic French cuisine, two prix fixe tasting menus (a Chef's Tasting Menu and a Vegetable Tasting Menu) are offered daily. If a meal here is on your wish list, you have to be organized and get a reservation. The restaurant does not take walk-in guests. Reservations are taken two months to the calendar date and can be made daily. Jackets are required for both lunch and dinner service, so be sure to pack and dress appropriately. (Ties are optional.) (707-944-2380)
About Dana Rebmann
Dana Rebmann moved from San Francisco to Wine Country in search of sunshine. Amazing wine and food was a delightful bonus.
A former television producer for NBC News, Dana is a regular contributor to a number of publications including Viator, Luxury Retreats, Gogobot, Hotel Scoop, Shermans Travel and family luxury travel website Ciao Bambino. She is also the travel correspondent for KRON4 News in San Francisco.
When not buckled in on a plane, she’s trying to keep up with two teenage daughters. See where she is exploring this week at her website.
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