Visiting Napa Valley is like going on spring break for adults, except instead of Mardi Gras beads and Hurricanes, it’s fresh produce and endless vino. We like them both, but for different reasons.
Each Napa town has its own personality and vibe, with St. Helena being the middle ground between the restaurant dense epicenter of Yountville, and the the more laid back, rich hippie retirement retreat of Calistoga. We love St. Helena for its small town character, its funky main street, and most of all, its excellent food and drink.
Here’s a list of St. Helena greatest hits, should you find yourself making plans to visit (hint, you should).
This roadside burger joint is a Napa Valley institution and a mandatory stop on every trip. Get yourself a double cheeseburger with bacon and special sauce with a side of sweet potato fries. Not into beef? The menu has something for everyone, from kale salads to fish tacos to an amazing ahi tuna burger. If you have kids, this is the place to be. They can run wild in the big outdoor backyard that’s scattered with picnic tables.
A homey little Northern Italian joint nestled in between Downtown St. Helena’s art galleries and design shops. It’s open all day so you can saddle up to the bar whenever you’re hungry and enjoy a time-out over a hot bowl of pasta. Get the fettuccine with short ribs.
Believe it or not, there are other incredible fine dining experiences to be had in Napa Valley, not named French Laundry. Restaurant at Meadowood is a magical place, and one of the best restaurants in the entire country. The modern and experimental cuisine is both adventurous and satisfying, and worth the special occasion splurge…if you can get a reservation.
The local Mexican grocery has got all the supplies you need to cook up a feast at your house, but they also make killer tacos and burritos. This is the place to satisfy that taco fix, which will come on strong after a full day of drinking.
Farmstead is the restaurant on the property of Long Meadow Ranch, a winery, farm, event space, and concert hall all in one. It’s an amazing place to spend a day, but breakfast is the best time to come for a meal. Their egg dishes are all phenomenal, and the beautiful dining barn is most attractive when the light is pouring in from all angles. We also love coming here for a cocktail at sunset before dinner, when you can sit outside and enjoy the grounds.
Goose & Gander is another restaurant with lots of different rooms and vibes. The dining room is a formal public house, which is the perfect place to hang with your parents for a proper, but not too fancy meal. The outdoor dining area is a little more low key, and all the food we’ve tried here is way better than it needs to be. The best part about Goose & Gander is the basement pub, which is always packed with people having a good time. Come here late, have a glass of whiskey, and prepare to mix it up with some new friends.
The local deli, smack in the middle of Main Street, makes killer sandwiches. Pro tip: ask for Giugni Juice on your sandwich, and buy a bottle to take home. That sh*t is magic.
It’s a 15-20 minute drive out of town, but trust us, it’s worth it. There are few vineyards like this, as Pride is located at the top of a mountain, and has jaw-dropping views of Mt. St. Helena. Reservations are required, so make sure you plan accordingly. By the way, the wines ain’t bad either. Make sure to try all of their big reds.
Another vineyard perched high atop a mountain, overlooking St. Helena, Cade Winery is one of our Napa happy places. It’s small, off-the-beaten path, and incredibly private. The family that owns it are some of the nicest people we’ve ever met; we wanted to move right in after spending a half hour here. You’ll have a hard time finding Cade-stocked in wine stores or on restaurant menus, so make sure you leave with a couple bottles of their Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
Want to impress your friends by picking a spot most people have never heard of? Make an appointment at Anomaly Vineyards, a small stone winery out of the downtown fray that makes an incredible Cabernet Sauvignon.
Conveniently located directly off of Main St., close to all downtown and all of the restaurants, Sullivan Winery is one of the more neatly manicured vineyards we’ve stepped foot in. Family run since the 1970’s, the vibe here is laid back and the wines are true California – big and fruity and full of oak.
Failla is a Stang personal favorite and a must visit on every trip we take to Napa Valley. Situated very close to town, the Failla “tasting room” is not really a tasting room at all, but a small restored farmhouse with a front porch from which you can sip their incredible Pinot Noir and Chards in a rocking chair. That’s how you do it.