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Napa on a budget?

  • k

A month ago I asked for restaurant recommendations for Napa (thank you!). I started going through my list and looking up the menus online. A lot of the restaurants recommended are on the pricier side.

My BF and I will be there for 3 nights and can probably afford to do a nice dinner one night - but probably not all 3 nights. Being recent graduates, we don't have *that* much spending money. :)

Are there any reccomendations for places that are tasty but won't break the bank?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Not sure what was recommended or your price range:

    Cindy's Back Street Kitchen


    Foothill Cafe (couldn't find the website


    Red Rock Cafe/Backdoor BBQ

    3 Replies
    1. re: Scott M

      Foothill is under new ownership and has gone downhill :-(

      1. re: megamalone

        Sorry to hear this, but thanks for the information. I've been asking if anyone's tried it under the new chef and you're the first to report. Have you been to Gordon's in Yountville to see how it's faring with the chef's departure to Foothill?

        1. re: megamalone

          Bummer! Thanks for the update, I hadn't realized it changed ownership.

      2. I totally hear you on the issue of spendy menus in Napa.

        Bouchon, Taylor's Automatic Refresher, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, Bistro Don Giovanni, and Market Restaurant in St Helena are all a lot more affordable than most of the high end Napa spots.

        1. Another way to go is to eat from the bar menu at Redd or Press. Both are significantly less than in the dining room proper.
          Press's bar menu is on line. I was just in Yountville and Redd's bar menu is comparable in price, although not found on line.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Oakland Barb

            this is a great tip - thank you! just checked out the sample bar menu for press. fish tacos for $12? kobe beef burger for $14? these are definitely prices we can do.

          2. This actually helps me, too (thanks for posting, katg!) I'm going to Yountville in a couple of weeks and this post made me think about pairing down a meal or two to keep costs down. Redd's bar menu sounds like a plan!

            1. Bistro Don Giovanni's - and if you want a nice place to stay that is VERY resonable when you are on a budge, try the John Muir Inn in Napa. You can get a fair price and be close to everything and then maybe be able to splurge on more dining and such!

              1 Reply
              1. re: chef chicklet

                make sure you get a reservation, though! It's ALWAYS super busy.

              2. Not sure what you mean by 'budget", but living here, I can throw you some really good, and really cheap places and thoughts. Also, not knowing where in the vally you are staying (would make a difference drive time); most of these are Napa city reccos. For breakfast, the Boonfly at Carneros Inn is the best bang for the buck. Nothing is more than $10 or so, pretty chic, rustic environment, classic Kimbal Jones wine country food. A truly locals place is Soscal Cafe..but its really a hole in the wall. Also, Sweetiepies in Napa is great for coffee/pastry sort of thing. I really like Taquiza on Redwood at 29 - cheap fish tacos, but sort of gourmet. The General Store downtown napa has great cal/winecountry/asian food...again, really cheap, but quite good. If you want to do a mid/spurge, not too expensive lunch, Farm at Carneros Inn is insane good...I just wrote about that in another post (entrees $16-20 at lunch). Market in St Helena is really quite nice, mellow, chic space, they do a prix fix menu for I think $12 at lunch...3 courses. really yummy. Search and youll find a bunch of reccos on this subject my myself and a host of others. Zare has a nice bar menu, and i think a $8 burger deal at the bar I see mentioned in the newspaper..not been myself, but thought it a nice deal. Ive also had some pretty good food, at a very chic place...the bar at Auberge du Soleil...no reservations, and the bar has its own menu...again, at lunch, nothing more than $15 or so, huge portions and great environment, great view etc.

                6 Replies
                1. re: naparover

                  naparover, we're staying in napa at the river terrace inn which is on soscol avenue if that gives an idea of where we are.

                  budget wise, i think we're looking for places that have a range of $17-$23 for dinner. anything higher than that and i get guilty about even looking at appetizers, the wine list or dessert menu!

                  i think we might do a nice dinner either on my birthday or new years eve and then try to try the "nicer" restaurants for lunch so we can experience them and still get more bang for the buck.

                  1. re: katg

                    Your lunch strategy is a good one. I stayed at the River Terrace Inn this summer for a few days and played that one. Here's my posting, and in most cases, prices are included to give you an idea of what to expect -

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      melanie, talk about a comprehensive report! pilar and zuzu both sound yummy.

                  2. re: naparover

                    I lived in Napa for three years and can totally second NapaRover's recommendations; especially Zare and Boonfly.

                    I'd like to chime in with Bounty Hunter for EXCEPTIONAL bar food (better than most bars!) that is on the reasonable side. When I lived there, I was also on a consistent budget and could rarely eat out on the high-end. In that frame of mind, I would often make lunch my big meal of the day, enabling me to eat at great restaurants like Pilar without spending as much as I would for dinner.

                    Lastly, I've heard some pretty unsavory things about Redd lately. I ate there when they first opened but several friends have had pretty horrible experiences that have made me concerned.

                    1. re: Carrie 218

                      Just took a look at the sample menu for Boon Fly - sounds perfect!! great find.

                      1. re: katg

                        We ate lunch at Boonfly yesterday. It was not only good the portions were HUGE!
                        I'd suggest splitting a sandwich for lunch, and, if you're in a decadent mood, they'll substitute the onion rings for the salad.

                  3. Bistro Jeanty in Yountville - have the Tomato Bisque (heavenly rich tomato soup baked in puff pastry - 8.50) and either have a salad or share the coq au vin (it's quite large and could easily fill two people)- you'll be most satisfied! http://www.bistrojeanty.com/

                    No necesaarily 'budget' but definitely a good bargain for the quality.

                    1. Redd is a bit overrated - I've tried on several occassions, and have left underwhelmed. I've gone with people in the business, but without announcement, in order to see what the experience is like for the 'regular' patron. Service - deplorable; servers - lacking skill and product knowledge; cuisine - average by valley standards. For the price - not worth it.

                      Taylor's Freshers is fun for lunch, except if it is rainy and cold (outdoor seating only is available).

                      Rutherford Grille is a locals' favourite - sit at the bar and enjoy the jalapeno corn bread, chicken salad, enchilada side. No it's not tex mex or anything like that, just a nice variety of options. Their BTG wine selection is respectable.

                      Cook in St Helena (main street) is open for lunch and dinner. Try dinner. The penne dish or the braised short ribs are great on a rainy night. The eggplant parmesean is quite good (starter portion) and is a carryover from the previous owner as it has been a favourite of local patrons for years. Jude Wilmoth (current chef/owner) thought it best to keep it on the menu.

                      The wine list is simple, with a nice selection of local and imported. The objective is to offer a selection appropriate for the cuisine at prices that don't reach into the stratosphere. They also offer corkage ($15 at last visit)if you've found one during your day's wine visits and it is not on their list. If it's crowded, don't hesitate to eat at the bar - everyone is very friendly.

                      Go Fish - another Cindy Pawlcyn restaurant. On 641 Main St., St Helena. Sushi and fresh fish. - www.gofishrestaurant.net for menu. Haven't tried it yet - would love to know what people think.

                      Zuzu's in Napa is a favourite of mine as well. Sitting at the bar and tasting wine (lots from the Old World and Southern Hemisphere) enjoying small plates is fun. The bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly. Angele is also a very nice spot, within walking distance of Zuzu, next door to the Napa River Inn.

                      Don't be afraid of trying Terra or Martini House (also St. Helena). When I'm not too hungry, but want to try a variety of menu items, I focus on the starter selections. I've had a four-course meal without venturing to the entree selections before and have enjoyed a wonderful dining experience. It won't break the bank, either.

                      For a light lunch, try Oakville Grocery (right on Hwy 29, in Oakville). You can pick up sandwiches, charcuterie, cheeses, and a host of other yummy treats for very little.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: SanseiDesigns

                        I'd like to second the idea of having a gourmet "picnic" takeout
                        lunch using the lovely foods at Oakville Grocery and especially
                        Sunshine Market in St. Helena. These places have such good deli food and can provide you with napkins and utensils. Then, you can use the picnic facilities at a winery (call ahead) or other setting and really enjoy yourselves, especially with a bottle of wine. If you have room, you may want to bring along a picnic basket with a colorful tablecloth, small cutting board and knife, real (though cheap)wine glasses, corkscrew and other utensils. That would be a fun inexpensive meal...enjoy yourselves.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          i love oakville (there's one here in palo alto where i am) - i just wonder if the weather would accomodate a picnic. perhaps we'll have to try an indoor picnic!

                        2. re: SanseiDesigns

                          SanseiDesigns - i think we're going to keep terra or the martini house on the list for one of our "nicer" dinners. I'll definitely take a look at Cook and Rutherford Grille. thanks!

                        3. i think most people know that rutherford grill is a houstons. having said that, their cornbread is absolutely to die for...and ive never, ever had less than a very good meal there. the food is a bit tweaked for the location, the vibe good, lots of locals, and one can eat (and drink) very well for not too much cash. Alternately, many rave about the burritos from the market across the street, though i find them pretty heavy. Since your up on Soscol, you may want to skip the Oakville grocery and hit Vallergas on Silverado trail by your hotel. They have great to-go food as well, and tons of condiments.

                          Also, for your budget, without a shadow of a doubt to me, Farm at the Carneros Inn offers the best bang for the buck...especialy at lunch (entrees around $16). The room is **insane** uber chic, sort of a mix of las vegas scale and miami design vibe. It just opened a few weeks ago, and ive already been a few times. The food is really great, woudl stand up to, or beat, most places anywhere near its price and well beyond. Its only about 5 min from your hotel.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: naparover

                            naparover, thanks so much for all the recommendations! i'm definitely going to keep farm in mind.

                            1. re: naparover

                              Naparover, thanks for the info on Farm. Been wondering how it is - I'll have to check it out!

                            2. Another thing about Rutherford Grill, when the farmers markets are in season, you see the chefs at both St Helena and Napa. In St Helena, they bring a wagon. You can't say the same thing for a lot of other high profile chefs. RG is fine and easy and fun, not the living end, although I think their wild rice salad is super.