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Looking for Memorable Food and Ambience in Napa/Sonoma

We're heading to Napa and Sonoma this fall for a (much deserved) four-day respite from our kids. We're staying in Sonoma but will travel for worthy food. Where should we go?

(ps - we've decided to pass on the French Laundry...)

Thanks for any feedback!

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  1. The Girl & the Fig in Sonoma. While I was there, I had planned on dining at half-dozen restaurants and ended up forgoing a couple spots to return to The Girl & The Fig.

    Della Santina's gets mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it.

    1. We had friends that stayed in Sonoma last weekend. He's a pretty good amateur chef plus a real foodie. He said Cyrus was simply outstanding, had nothing bad to say about it.

      1. Not so sure about ambienca at Girl & the Fig, though the food is quite good. It has alwyas struck me as an odd little place--not sure what it is about it. For knock-you-socks-off ambience and decent (to very good) food, how about Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford?

        1. I second The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, especially if you are here during fig season in the fall. The ambience is familiar to me now, so I'm not an objective judge of it. It is certainly not stuffy, and the food is very, very good.

          Although you've decided to pass on The French Laundry, I do highly recommend Bouchon, sometimes called TFL's "little brother down the road." Reservations aren't very hard for two people, especially if you are able to reserve a few weeks or more in advance. They take reservations up to 2 months in advance. A chef from per se in New York has recently taken over the kitchen, and I've seen a lot more sophistication and variety in the daily specials lately. Bouchon has a very romantic feel, especially if you dine in the late evening. And get the salmon rillette. You will not be disappointed.

          1. I third the Girl & the Fig

            Cyrus is in Healdsburg and is worth the trip

            Martini House
            Julias Kitchen

            1. Harvest Moon Cafe is in Sonoma and right on the square. It is supposed to be fantastic. I haven't been, but hear on good authority it is great. If you do go, please report back. Thanks.

              1. In Sonoma County please look at the Farmhouse in Forestville. It really rocks. Amazing food, great wine list and if you are into cheese, they do a marvelous presentation. And it has a very comforting vibe, unpretentious yet not slacking in service. One of the best restaurants I have ever experienced. I think the Farmhouse hits every intended note.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Madge

                  If they're staying in the town of Sonoma, then Forestville's a bit far to drive for dinner. That said, I love the Farmhouse Inn. Here's a link to my recent post -

                  1. re: Madge

                    We ate at the Farmhouse Inn in May and I completely concur with your and Melanie Wong's observations. We loved it. We'd probably be happy eating there every night. But that would be boring, so we're open to other possibilities...

                  2. Cyrus (Healdsburg) is stunning. The very best of everything. www.cyrusrestaurant.com

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Maya

                      C'mon, Maya, please give us a little more. Or if you want to say that Cyrus was so stunning, you're speechless, I can relate to that. (g)

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I actually *was* pretty speechless after dinner there :)

                        There are some great reviews on here, like

                        with which I wholeheartedly agree. The space was attracive and welcoming, the cocktails were the best I've had anywhere, the service was superlative, the menu was a revelation even for my jaded San Francisco palate (and I liked how it was set up - your choice of # courses, and you could have anything off the menu, ie you could have all appetizers, all foie gras preparations, or all desserts, if you wanted, not one required from each grouping) -- all in all truly a unique and extra-special evening. All the food was amazing - I particularly remember the thai-marinated lobster with avocado, melon & hearts of palm, truffle-red-wine-parmesean risotto, and the rack of lamb...

                    2. Curious why ya'll passed on The French Laundry, assuming reservations available....?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Waterboy

                        Well, our budget is not unlimited, and we have several days to fill with good eating. We know the F.L. is the ne plus ultra of fine dining in that part of the world, but there is a lot of great food to be had in wine country without spending $420 without a drop of wine (which we drink passionately). Our food at the Farmhouse Inn a while back was around half the price and simply devine. Probably a lame excuse to someone who has eaten at the F.L. and can attest to its transcendence, but that's what we're thinking...

                        1. re: Waterboy

                          That's a pretty good assumption.........
                          It's been my experience that reservations are close to impossible. By the time I'm able to get through with the 2 hours of re-dial exactly 2 months prior, it's sold out. We also rarely plan to go to the valley on more than a few days notice and have had no success on last minute cancelations.
                          It's just too much work for a meal no matter who's in the kitchen. With the amount of outstandanding culinary opportunities in the area, I resent having to jump through hoops to spend my time and money at any restaurant.

                          1. Don't forget Cafe La Haye in Sonoma. I have never enjoyed a meal at La Salette - tried two or three times and I just don't like their food. Same with Della Santini - I find their food horribly greasy. No one ever mentions Breakaway Cafe in Sonoma. I knopw there is no atmosphere and no fancy presentation but damn their food is good. If you want a break from pricey, fussy food and atmosphere it is consistently good - breakfast, lunch and dinner. There staff are very friendly, they have a full bar and an okay wine list. I love their fish tacos (this from a person who lives in Mexico nine montha year).