Headed to Napa? You're going to need to plan your meals. There are a LOT of Napa restaurants and a lot of small towns that make up Napa Valley and Sonoma as a whole, and it can be hard to make decisions – especially when you only have two or three opportunities to eat well in between all that wine tasting you'll be doing.
This complete list covers the best of everything, from Yountville to Calistoga, Sonoma to Healdsburg, and all the places in between.
A downtown Napa staple, and one that's maintained its status as such by consistently serving excellent food year after year since 1996. Hit Celadon for a meal at the bar after a long day of "tasting" wine, AKA drinking two bottles. The menu changes frequently and always includes some Asian or Middle Eastern influence to keep things interesting. Get the Moroccan lamb chop if it's available.
Oentori is a Southern Italian restaurant that serves simple, excellent food like thin crust pizzas, pastas, and salads that are sourced from their own garden. We love it for brunch, but it's a smart move for dinner as well.
Oxbow Public Market in Napa is one of our favorite places to spend a few hours on an afternoon that isn't occupied by wine tasting. This indoor extravaganza of consumables is home to many things we love to consume, most important of which are oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co. Pull up a seat and get to slurping, and while you're there, also check out the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant, and the tacos from C Casa.
Mustard's is a bit up the road from the town of Yountville, but it's an absolute must visit. The move is to come here for lunch and eat the legendary Mongolian pork chop, preferably with a bottle of California pinot at your side. We like to make this our first stop when we get into town, just to set the tone for the rest of the trip.
Probably our overall favorite restaurant in the entire Napa Valley. Why? Because it's Thomas Keller food without Thomas Keller restaurant pretense. Sure, you could eat down the street at French Laundry, and you probably should someday (if you can get that reservation…good luck). But Ad Hoc is a place you could eat multiple a week. The set menu changes daily, includes a salad, some sort of meat entree, a cheese course, and dessert for $52 per person. We've never been disappointed. Not even once.
For a while, people used to book a reservation at Ad Hoc and pray to the fried chicken gods that Keller's famous version would be on the menu on the day they visited. Now, you can get that legendary fried chicken without depending on luck or divine intervention. Just show up to this shack behind Ad Hoc between Thursday and Sunday and eat your chicken at a picnic table in peace.
Here's how you do Bouchon: arrive for lunch and order a dozen oysters, a bottle of Viognier, and the croque madame (pictured). Repeat annually or daily, depending on how your triglyceride counts are looking.
Is it worth it? Absolutely, at least one time in your life. Maybe two, if you get rich selling Herbalife or make it on Jeopardy or something. Dare to dream.
This cute little bistro is a great spot for a causal dinner, especially if you're looking for something French but not fussy. Order the tomato soup, which comes with a puff pastry top, along with a bottle of Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir.
Redd is a classic Yountville restaurant featuring Asian-influenced dishes, good cocktails, and high end service. We like it, but we always feel like we can get that experience in other cities. However, we love the pizza place by the same owners, Redd Wood. Redd Wood is a cool, casual space that smells like a wood burning oven and serves excellent pies and handmade pasta. The wine list also features bottles from some legendary wineries you probably won't get to visit, like Araujo. Rest assured your money here will be well spent.
At some point, you will probably find yourself on St. Helena Highway headed to a winery, and you will inevitably pass Oakville Grocery. STOP. The sandwiches here are amazing, and you can buy wine and snacks and deli containers of high-end sides for your winery picnic and/or drunken limo ride.
Aside from French Laundry, this might be the most expensive, most absurd meal you can have in the entire Napa Valley. The price tag is $225 per guest, and it's an amazing experience, assuming you won't be sweating about the bill throughout dinner. It's more modern and a bit more adventurous than French Laundry, but every bit as impressive. Save it for a (very) special occasion.
This roadside burger spot is a must visit, thanks to their famous burgers and ahi tuna tacos. We even hit this spot for an egg sandwich at breakfast from time to time (all the time).
There a few restaurants we would like to move all of our possessions into and establish as a permanent residence. Farmstead is one of those places. Settle down at the chill outdoor bar or in the comfortable, rustic indoor space for crazy good local meats and vegetables. They also have a sleeper chocolate chip cookie. We don’t go to Napa without a meal here.
PRESS is one of the best restaurants in all of Napa, and it's a serious place, as evidenced by the use of all those capital letters. The meats and produce in this steak-focused restaurant are all sourced locally and are as good as you can find anywhere, and the wine cellar is about as deep as they get in this town. But it's much more than just meat and cabernet. PRESS is more like a farm to table restaurant that happens to have a cowboy ribeye on the menu than it is a traditional steakhouse. And that's why we love it.
One of the most insane views in all of Napa, no trip to the valley is complete without a lunch stop up the hill at Auberge du Soleil. Get yourself a table on the balcony, order up some light lunch fare, and take a break from all the wine. Drink a cocktail for a change, particularly one of their legendary bloody marys.
A small Italian restaurant located in the heart of St. Helena, Cook is exactly the kind of Napa restaurant you should keep in your back pocket. You don't need a reservation and can blow in here for a bowl of homemade pasta on a whim. All the pastas are tremendous, and pasta is a great compliment to wine, in the sense that you can drink more when your belly is full of it.
Goose & Gander is one of the livelier spots to grab dinner in St. Helena. The cocktails and outdoor patio may be the main attraction, but the food is better than it needs to be considering the aesthetically pleasing surroundings.
Eating at a spa? Not usually our definition of an ideal meal. But Solbar is an exception. Yes, this restaurant at the Solage resort is pricey, but everything coming out of the kitchen from breakfast to bar food is absolutely incredible, and this is easily the best place to eat in Calistoga. Don't miss the spice cake for dessert.
A new restaurant from the chef of Solbar, Evangeline is a casual, French-Creole restaurant with an excellent patio. In an area that needs more good restaurants, this is a step in the right direction. Put it on your list.
In California, do as the locals do. Eat outside. The patio is just what you need after a long day of pretending to smell the chocolate, elf musk, and tarragon notes in a glass of cabernet. For Sunday brunch, we advocate the duck egg bacon sandwich. God’s day.
Welcome to Napa's version of Denny's. Part greasy spoon, part California kitchen, Cafe Sarafornia is the move in Calistoga when you're looking for coffee, eggs, and pancakes. Don't sleep on the breakfast burrito
The SHED is a James Beard Award-winning indoor market that houses a coffee shop, a restaurant, and a bunch of kitchen tools and knick knacks that will make you mad that you don't have a kitchen that's nice enough to warrant owning those kinds of tools and knick knacks. We love the restaurant here A LOT, especially thanks to the excellent salads that they put together from the things in their garden. Drink a bottle of Matthiasson Napa Valley White and fully understand why people love Healdsburg so much.
Campo Fina is more than just an Italian restaurant. It's an Italian restaurant with excellent wood fired pizzas and a bocce court in the back yard. Hit it for a day of wine drinking, eating, and sport, and yes we just called bocce ball a sport.
Barndiva is a popular spot for weddings, thanks to the fact that it's an old barn with five star outfittings. But it's also a great spot for an excellent meal. The main dining area is a fairly formal farm-to-table experience, and you'll need to book far in advance if that's what you're looking for. We're more partial to dropping in and grabbing a few seats at the bar, a few glasses of California chardonnay, and an order of goat cheese croquettes. Do that.
If you're looking to have an upscale, romantic meal in Sonoma County, this is where you should do it. Set in a small bed and breakfast in Forestville, the restaurant at the Farmhouse Inn is a very special, very expensive affair. But if you're looking for a true "Napa" fine dining experience and want something a bit less stuffy and more intimate than French Laundry or Meadowood, this is a great place to do it.
Geyserville is a town just north of St. Helena, and it's effing adorable, so it's worth a visit if you're looking to explore Sonoma County a bit. While you're there, hit this rustic Italian restaurant for a meat and cheese plate and a glass or two of Brunello. And yes, it's OK to drink wine that doesn't come from California. Just this once.