There are tons of excellent restaurants around Napa, Sonoma, and the surrounding towns - and choosing one to enjoy a meal at is no easy task. With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide that covers the best restaurants and bars from Yountville to Calistoga, Sonoma to Healdsburg, and all the places in between. This list should get you well on your way to planning an ideal afternoon of eating and drinking.
Celadon is a downtown Napa staple that’s maintained its status by serving stellar food year after year - they’ve been around for decades. Hit Celadon for a meal after a day of exploring the area. The menu changes frequently and always includes some Asian or Middle Eastern influence. Get the Moroccan lamb chop if it’s available.
Oentori is a Southern Italian restaurant that serves excellent pastas, thin-crust pizzas, and salads sourced from their own garden. We love it for brunch, but the comfortable spot is never a bad idea for dinner either.
Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market is home to many excellent vendors, our favorite being Hog Island Oyster Co. Grab a seat outside and get to slurping, and while you’re there, also check out Fatted Calf for some picnic charcuterie or sandwiches. If you’re an early riser, C Casa does fantastic breakfast tacos.
There are two locations of Gott’s in the area: a roadside one in St. Helena, and one in Napa right next to Oxbow. All the burgers are delicious, and they do pretty great salads and ahi poke tacos.
Cadet Wine & Beer Bar
This sleek downtown Napa wine and beer bar is a nice change from glass-swirling tasting spots in town. And right now, they’re offering a small menu that changes often and includes things like cheese and salumi boards, paninis, and our favorite grilled cheese.
Mustard’s Grill is a bit up the road from the actual town of Yountville, but it’s an absolute must-visit. Come here for lunch on their outdoor patio, and eat the legendary Mongolian pork chop - an enormous chop with sweet and sour cabbage, mashed potatoes, and homemade mustard sauce.
People used to book a reservation at Ad Hoc and pray to the fried chicken gods that the famous Keller version would be on the menu the day they visited. But now you can get it without depending on luck or divine intervention. Just order ahead here, show up to this shack that’s located right behind Ad Hoc, and eat your chicken at a picnic table in peace.
Probably our overall favorite restaurant in the entire Napa Valley, because it’s Thomas Keller food without Thomas Keller restaurant pretense. Sure, you could eat down the street at The French Laundry, and you probably should someday (if you can get that reservation - good luck). But Ad Hoc is the kind of place you could go to multiple times a week. The menu is approachable and excellent, and we’ve never been disappointed.
The French Laundry
Is the Thomas Keller spot worth it? Absolutely, at least one time in your life. The French Laundry is currently serving their tasting menu in their courtyard or their dining room, with prices ranging from $350 to $450. Those looking to dine more intimately can reserve the Boardroom, a private outdoor dining space located next to The French Laundry’s wine cellar.
Here’s how to do Bouchon, the Thomas Keller empire’s version of a French bistro: arrive for lunch and order a dozen oysters, something to drink, and the croque madame. Repeat annually or daily.
Ciccio is a small Italian restaurant right on the edge of town that offers takeout and dine-in from Thursday to Sunday. The most important thing to know is that they’re making burgers, sandwiches, salads, and solid wood-fired pizza.
Brix Restaurant and Gardens
On the St. Helena highway slightly north of downtown Yountville is Brix, a garden fantasyland where Bambi and friends would live if they were also into wine. The menu is full of things like pastas and burgers, all of which are very well executed.
This cute, small bistro is a great spot for a casual dinner, especially if you’re looking for French food. Order the tomato soup, which comes with a puff pastry top, along with a bottle of Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir.
Kelly's Filling Station
If you’re driving around wine country, the in-car snack situation is extremely important. This fancy gas station/convenience store is the place to pick things up to keep you going for the day. They also have an ice cream counter (power up with an excellent affogato), and great hot dogs if you need something more substantial. And yes, you can get gas here.
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
There are a few restaurants we would like to move all our possessions into and establish as a permanent residence. Farmstead is one of those places. Get a seat at their outdoor seating area for incredibly good local meats and vegetables. They also have a chocolate chip cookie more people should know about. We don’t go to Napa without a meal here.
Press is one of the best restaurants in Napa, and it’s a serious place - the meats and produce in this steak-focused restaurant are all sourced locally, and the wine cellar is about as deep as they get in this town. But it’s not just about meat and cabernet. Press is essentially a farm-to-table restaurant that also happens to have a cowboy ribeye on the menu, and that’s why we love it.
Cook St. Helena
A small Italian place located in the heart of St. Helena, Cook is exactly the kind of Napa restaurant you should keep in your back pocket. Come here for a bowl of house-made pasta, like gnocchi with a rich gorgonzola sauce or cavatelli all’arrabbiata. All of them are tremendous, and a great complement to a glass of wine.
Restaurant at Meadowood
Restaurant at Meadowood was badly damaged in the Glass Fire in September 2020. It is temporarily closed.
This is one of the three most expensive, over-the-top meals you can have in Napa and Sonoma (the other two being The French Laundry and Single Thread). The price tag for the roughly three-hour tasting menu is $360 (they also have a four-course bar menu with lighter courses, too). And even for the price, the impressive and beautiful, California-inspired food is worth the trip.
The Charter Oak
People think of The Charter Oak as the casual restaurant from the chef behind The Restaurant at Meadowood. And while it’s definitely not the multi-course tasting extravaganza that you get at Meadowood, it’s actually not very casual at all. The food is much simpler (charred avocado, corn grilled over an open hearth, or raw veggies with fermented soy dip), and entirely delicious. Get the cheeseburger, which is one of our favorites, ever.
Goose & Gander
Goose & Gander is one of the livelier spots to grab dinner in St. Helena. The cocktails and patio are the main attractions, but the upscale menu - which includes things like salads, burgers, and a 24-oz ribeye - is better than it needs to be considering the very attractive surroundings.
This takeout-only sandwich shop is about as local as it gets around here. It’s a build-your-own situation here, so go forth and load your sandwich up as you please - but it’s worth noting that the pastrami is excellent. Whatever you do, get some extra Giugni Juice on the side - it’s an herby, olive oil-based dressing that’s best poured all over your sandwich.
The Model Bakery
There is no English muffin so perfect as the English muffin from Model Bakery. We say so, the muffin man says so, Oprah says so. And we all know how much Oprah loves bread. This little spot on Main Street uses their unreal English muffins as a base for amazing breakfast sandwiches, but they’re also great on their own with butter or jam. Besides sandwiches, there are excellent pastries and some salads that you can enjoy on one of their handful of tables outside, or for takeout.
Oakville is a tiny town between Yountville and St. Helena that you’ll likely drive through at least once during a Napa day. The best place to eat here is Oakville Grocery, a side-of-the-road market/cafe with picnic tables out back and a serious to-go operation. There’s also one in Healdsburg, but the roadside stop tends to be more convenient. Our favorites are the vegetable wrap and the turkey pesto sandwich, and if you’re there on the earlier side, they do breakfast sandwiches, too.
Auberge du Soleil
No trip to the valley is complete without a lunch stop up the hill at Auberge du Soleil, which has one of the most beautiful views in all of Napa. Reserve a table on the balcony, order some light lunch dishes, and take a break from wine. Their Bloody Marys are what you want.
This lowkey wine bar in Sonoma is one of the newer restaurants in the area, but it’s already a top must-visit spot whenever we head north. They serve creative, frequently-changing dishes like tender cumin lamb or soft-boiled eggs topped with XO sauce, and everything is prepared perfectly with simple, fresh, seasonal ingredients. Grab a seat on their back patio or parklet and unwind after a long day with a glass of wine.
The Girl & The Fig
The Girl & The Fig opened in 1997 - and it’s been serving reliably great French food ever since, like a croque monsieur or mussels and frites. If you’re looking for a comfortable spot to eat, get a reservation on their spacious patio.
El Molino Central
The food at El Molino Central isn’t just some of the best Mexican in Sonoma - it’s some of the best in the whole Bay Area. The setup is simple: arrive at the ridiculously good-looking store, order at the counter (or you can call ahead), and grab a seat on the patio. El Molino is known for their tamales, but we’re partial to the enchiladas. As for the salsa - if you can stop yourself from filling up on chips and this sweet, not-at-all-watery stuff before the rest of the food arrives, you are stronger than we are.
In an area that needs more good restaurants, Evangeline is a step in the right direction, especially for brunch. It’s a casual French-Creole place with an excellent patio - another one to put on your list for a nice day.
When you’ve had enough of fancy, overdone brunches where they pressure you into ordering a bottle of wine, Cafe Sarafornia is here for you. Come to the casual diner for coffee, eggs, and pancakes on their sidewalk patio, and don’t miss the breakfast burrito.
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 backyard. Hit it for an afternoon of wine drinking and eating - they’re open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday, from noon to 9pm.
Chalkboard is located in a hotel that will make you feel like you’re an extra in a movie about Marie Antoinette, but you’re more likely to be eating pork belly biscuits here than frogs’ legs. Get a lot of small plates to share on their outdoor patio, or try tasting all their housemade pastas in a single meal.
A contender for one of the most expensive restaurants in California wine country: Single Thread. A prix-fixe meal here will set you back $375, and while we haven’t made it for a visit yet, we’ve heard it’s one of the best restaurant experiences you can have. The Japanese-influenced food is largely sourced from the restaurant’s farm.
Barndiva is a popular spot for weddings, since it’s essentially a fancy barn. And we’re always down to drop in and grab a seat at the bar, order a few glasses of wine, and get into some goat cheese croquettes. But Barndiva is also just a great place to have an excellent meal - they’re open for lunch, dinner, and brunch on weekends.
Farmhouse Inn Restaurant
The Farmhouse Inn is a small bed and breakfast in Forestville, and eating here is a date night power move. You can order things like grilled octopus or peking duck a la carte, or opt for one of their three to five-course menus with wine pairings. If you’re looking for something less stuffy and more intimate than The French Laundry or Meadowood, this is the place for you.
Glen Ellen Star
Glen Ellen is one of the smaller towns in Sonoma County, but it’s well worth a visit for this little restaurant alone. This place is very casual and often filled with locals who are here for everything that comes out of the wood-fired oven: pizzas, charred vegetables, and often whole fish. There are also a couple of pastas if you need a break from things cooked with fire.
Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria
Geyserville is a town just north of Healdsburg, and it’s extremely charming. While you’re there, hit up this also-charming Italian restaurant for a meat and cheese plate and a glass or two of Brunello on their patio. And yes, it’s OK to drink wine that doesn’t come from California. Just this once.
Della Fattoria is a great spot for an easy breakfast or lunch if you’re in Petaluma. You can order pastries, cookies, bread, and one of their very good breakfast sandwiches in person or online, and take them to go or sit down on their outdoor patio.