Napa Valley, California, is home to over 400 wineries and wines enjoyed throughout the world. Any visit to this wine lover’s haven will undoubtedly include time for wine tastings, winery tours, and relaxation. But the North Bay is also known worldwide for its Michelin Star-rated restaurants, food industry-recognized leaders, and the extraordinary culinary adventures it offers locals and those who visit. There are tons of eateries to choose from across the cost spectrum. You will find plenty to eat in Napa Valley.
If you are planning a trip to wine country and are not sure of the best places in the area to dine, put these nine delightful establishments on your list.
Boon Fly Cafe
You cannot miss this bright red restaurant set in a farm building. What makes Boon Fly Cafe one of the best establishments in the area? Its atmosphere, modern rustic decor, and a menu that has something for everyone, not to mention the house-made donuts. Boon Fly Cafe is known for its savory donuts, which can be ordered as a starter or a side dish. The donuts aren’t the only noteworthy item on the menu. Try the Green Eggs and Ham (poached farm-fresh eggs wrapped in honey-cured ham with lemon-leek cream on crispy hash browns) or the Boon Fly Cafe version of chicken and waffles (made with free-range chicken, fresh donuts, and brown butter syrup). These are just a few of the menu items that make eating here feel more homey than you’d expect from a meal in wine country. Speaking of wine, if Boon Fly doesn’t offer your favorite Napa wine, you can bring it with you for a $15 corkage fee.
The French Laundry
You can’t step into Napa Valley without hearing about The French Laundry. It’s likely the most famous restaurant in the area -- and the most expensive. This three-star Michelin restaurant is exquisite in every detail. You’ll find yourself mesmerized by the view of the chefs working in the 2,000-square-foot kitchen. It’s similar to watching a soul-stirring theatrical performance. The two tasting menus, each crafted by award-winning Chef Thomas Keller, span nine captivating courses. They change daily so no two nights are the same.
Diners at The French Laundry swoon over the attention to detail put into the evening and are known to feel like they’re the only diners there. The cost to dine -- $325 per person (as of August 2019) has to be paid upon securing your reservation. This is a must-try restaurant when visiting Napa, if you can get a reservation. Thoughts of your meal and experience at The French Laundry will undoubtedly top your list of lifelong Napa memories.
Restoration Hardware Restaurant Yountville
Set inside of an operational Restoration Hardware furniture store, Restoration Hardware Restaurant Yountville will tantalize all six of your senses from start to finish. You’ll be surrounded by high-end, contemporary home furnishings while eating dishes like maple-glazed thick-cut pork belly bacon or the RH Scramble (farm eggs fitted with thick cream, avocado, and chives). The ambiance leverages the property’s 100-year-old olive trees while a flowing water fountain and the low light of candles and chandeliers adds to the extravagance of the evening. The menu is not complex but does offer vegetarian options. Put this one on your list. You’ll be glad you did.
FARM At Carneros
Elegant, beautiful, and lavish are words that come to mind when thinking about FARM at Carneros. The restaurant, part of the Carneros Resort, is defined by lavish characteristics that extend to the menu and service. Farm-to-table produce grown on site is featured prominently. There are two options for dining -- a prix fixe brunch menu and the tasting menu. The prix fixe option is best suited for a group as these meals are served family style. The meal cost is set at $45 per person. You’ll choose four items from a list of 15 dishes like shrimp and grits, pan-roasted brassicas lobster rolls, eggs benedict, and crispy duck confit. The tasting menu involves five courses with seasonal themes. If you are feeling as grand as your surroundings, you can even add caviar to your dinner selection.
The CIA At Copia
If you pull up to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia and aren’t sure what you should do inside, look to the giant fork sculpture on the grounds for guidance. You should definitely eat from one of the six menus available to the public at the renowned culinary education institution. Unlike the food at other CIA restaurants, the dishes prepared for Copia diners are not a part of CIA students’ academic requirements. Instead, The CIA at Copia restaurant is led by Chef Polly Lappetito, a culinary icon. The dishes served here are straight-forward and leverage flavors associated with California, plus the wines produced in the region.
Try the Original CIA Burger made with the school’s signature blend of beef and mushrooms, served with Pt. Reyes Toma cheese, house relish, and fries. This will be a one-of-a-kind experience in the heart of Napa Valley. CIA at Copia’s restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Brunch is available Saturdays and Sundays. If lunch was your favorite class when you were in school, you will love it here.
Angele Restaurant And Bar
Set across from the Napa riverfront, Angele Restaurant and Bar has been serving delicious food in this community for nearly 20 years. What makes this a must-visit establishment is its charming atmosphere combined with French country cuisine. Enjoy your meal from the patio that faces the riverfront promenade. Order one of the custom-made cocktails, like the Madam Mineaux -- Napa Valley-distilled gin, green chartreuse, pineapple and lime -- or the All Day! and head to the patio.
Dining at Basalt prioritizes the unembellished: dinner, brunch, hand-crafted cocktails -- that’s it! There is no menu overwhelm, which makes this a welcome respite from other dining experiences in the area. Your dinner choices involve appetizers, entrees, and three shareable sides. During brunch, you only have approximately a dozen main dishes and five sides to contend with. The dessert menu features five divine options.
Fortunately, simple doesn’t equal boring at Basalt. Whatever you choose will be delicious. This establishment also has a river view that makes outdoor seating preferential on a sunny day.
Sometimes you just want a good happy-hour martini. If cocktails are on your to-enjoy list, count Torc among the Napa restaurants you need to visit. Close to Basalt and boasting a similar view of the Napa River, you can indulge in reasonably priced eats and libations during happy hour. Drinks such as the Classic Old Fashion, Manhattan, margarita, and martini are just $7. Cocktails are $6 and the four beer choices run between $4 and $6. While the food menu isn’t extensive during happy hour, the quality of the selections is undeniable. The house-made rigatoni and Maine lobster risotto are absolutely worth trying. Torc has a down-to-earth vibe that comes across in its ambiance and cuisine.
ZuZu is a Spanish-influenced restaurant and tapas bar. You’ll find the California wines that you’d expect in Northern California wine country, plus wines from Spain, South America, and Portugal. There a handful of cold tapas and more than a dozen hot tapas to choose from. But the reason ZuZu makes our must-dine list debuts at 4 p.m. At 4 o’clock, Zuzu’s signature dish, paella, is available to order. The Paella del Dia, served with Spanish bomba rice, is scrumptious. Each person at the table will pay a per-person cost for this order. ZuZu is cozy and the perfect place to stop during a day of wine tastings and food sampling.
Napa Valley has a reputation for good food and world-class wine. Go with an open mind and desire to try new things and your vacation here will be elevated to the next level!
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