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Napa - No Reservations?

My husband and I just planned a last minute trip to CA for the July 4th week. We'll only be in Napa from the 3rd thru the 6th. Obviously the 4th is included and we're concerned about getting reservations for any place we've dreamed of eating at this late date. I did book something on Open Table for the 4th as a stand-by just in case we're really stuck that night (Napa Valley Grille in Yountville - there weren't very many choices available and it looked appealing, and better something reserved than nothing - any opinions on this?).

So, instead of stressing out and spending the next couple of weeks making frantic phonecalls, I could use some suggestions for tried and true restaurants where we don't have to rely on reservations, which have solid reputations for california cuisine. We're from the NY area, so we really want to stick to places which specialize in local produce/ingredients, nothing ethnic as we can get plenty of that back home. Nothing too fancy - we're traveling light, not coming with suits or high heels :-)

We're staying at the Marriott in Napa (again, a last minute choice plus we got to use my husband's Marriott points and it's free) so we'd also rather stick to Napa or as close as possible since we don't know what our evenings will hold for us at this point (i.e., we may wish to enjoy the wine more than usual :-)


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  1. I love these restaurants, with or without reservations-either show up or call same day to see what is available. The concierge can be instrumental in obtaining reservations.

    Bistro Jeanty-Yountville The tomato soup is very special. I also love the mussels.
    Bouchon-Yountville Good raw bar and elevated bistro faire.
    Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen-St. Helena? Good for lunch, very casual.
    The Martini House -excellent for dinner. St. Helena or is it Rutherford?
    The Boonefly Cafe-Carneros Inn (excellent breakfasts, casual lunch and dinner). The Carneros Inn also has a fancy restaurant. Carneros is next to Napa and is home to some really interesting wineries. There is one that produces sparkling wine and looks like a French Chateau.

    Do not worry about dress codes. Apart from TFL, I can't remember ever wearing high heels or a suit to dinner.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Densible

      Bistro Jeanty is absolutely phenomenal. I cannot recommend their heirloom tomato salad highly enough. We planned to have a lunch there the last time we were in the area, on the recommendation of a friend, and it was so good, we wound up going back again another day before we had to fly back to NY. It was laid back and the service was unassuming and flawless.

      1. re: Densible

        Just to answer/clarify Densible's post:
        Yes, Cindy's is in St. Helena as in Martini House. Both are great.
        Boonfly is the correct spelling -- great burgers and killer gourmet mac 'n' cheese.
        Farm is the fancy restaurant in the Carneros Inn. Beautiful dining room, haven eaten there.
        Domaine Carneros is the sparkling house -- the "faux chateau." I prefer the sparkling wineries Domaine Chandon or Mumm Napa Valley over it.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Thanks Maria, "killer" mac n' cheese is something I might have to go out of my way for LOL.

          I think I remember reading Carneros isn't consistent, true?

          Sounds like we won't really have to worry about last minute eats at all - especially if we're willing to take a bit of a drive.

          1. re: sivyaleah

            Sorry, could you be more specific about what you mean by "Carneros isn't consistent?" Carneros Inn's restaurant Farm, or Domaine Carneros, the winery and its wines, or the entire district there at the north end of San Fran Bay that straddles both
            Sonoma and Napa? Happy to help, just clarify please.

              1. re: sivyaleah

                As mentioned above, I haven't dined there yet, however the dining room looks spectacular.

                More information and reviews about that Farm can be found here:

                Whiner's and carb lover's lists below are good.
                My faves are Bouchon, Boonfly, Don Giovanni (res helpful but not required),Martini House (res helpful), Cindy's. Ad Hoc (res), Terra (res), Taylor's Refresher (gourmet "drive-in"-type). Nixes for me on Go Fish, Pilar, NV and Market.
                For restos requiring a res, just call and see what's what. There might be an opening or a cancellation. Hard to predict July 4th weekend here -- usually it's a non-touristy weekend so you may get green lights all the way. Have fun.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I really enjoyed Taylor's Refresher for lunch. The bacon cheeseburger was very tasty, as was the ahi burger. I particularly liked their egg buns. They cook their burgers to "medium well", which might not fly w/ some hounds so I wonder if you can ask for reduced cook time.

                  I was so tempted to get the special blueberry shake but didn't want to fill up too much before dinner at Cindy's. Prices were on the steep side w/ no fries included, but I could taste the difference in their ingredients.


                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    Going for a vanilla malted alone might be worth the trip for lunch :-) Thanks for that link too!

      2. We've shown up at Bistro Don Giovanni late night on Fridays without reservations. We love the place.

        1. Thanks everyone, I'll keep those in mind. As for Bouchon - it's one of our fav restaurants in Las Vegas (we've been there more than any other restaurant, let alone for breakfast) and we thought about going while in Napa but kind of nixed it because we'd been so many times while in LV. However, I guess we shouldn't if it means we'll be able to get in easily, let alone how much we enjoy it :-)

          4 Replies
          1. re: sivyaleah

            I would highly recommend ad hoc. However, you will not know what dishes they will serve until the day of, but all of them are phenomenal.

            1. re: Problem Child

              I was reading up on it and they are only open on Sundays it appears - alas, we're there late Tuesday thru Friday :-(

              1. re: sivyaleah

                Ad Hoc is open all week

                Mon, Thu-Sat 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
                Sun 3:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

          2. You might want to make reservations at these places, but they are all easy to snag and all fairly casual:

            Ad Hoc
            Bistro Jeanty
            Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen
            Martini House (slightly more formal)
            Bistro Don Giovanni (but my last meal there wasn't up to previous standards)

            1. We were just in Napa/Sonoma and had a great time. We wanted to be fairly central to Napa Valley and Sonoma so stayed in Napa and thought it was a good choice. Yountville and St. Helena are really quite close and without much traffic (we strategically chose Sun. to Tues), it didn't take long to get anywhere. For instance, we got to Yountville in about 10 min. from Napa.

              Our two dinners were at Bouchon and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. Bouchon was alot of fun and pumped out some solid French comfort food, although the dessert (butterscotch pot de creme) was a big dud and not a good way to end the meal. It has good people watching, and I was amazed that they open from 11:30am til 12:30am everyday. If you've been to the LV Bouchon several times though, I'd skip it and try something else.

              Cindy's Backstreet was good overall, but the food didn't quite live up to my expectations. Had some minor execution problems, but my mojito was great and the service very warm. Cindy Pawlcyn was even making some rounds in the dining area.

              Here are some places I'm going to consider for next time based on CH reviews, locals recs, seeing them while touring:

              Napa: Pilar, Zuzu, Fume Bistro
              Yountville: Ad Hoc (for fried chicken night)
              Rutherford: Rutherford Grill
              St. Helena: Market, Cook, Go Fish, Terra

              Any input from other hounds on the above are appreciated. BTW, we had a surprisingly solid lunch at Bounty Hunter in Napa. It was one of the few places open on Sun. around 2pm when we rolled into town and wanted a quick lunch before Copia. Good salad and pulled pork sandwich along w/ a huge wine list.

              I wasn't inspired to eat at Julia's Kitchen at Copia, but they have some good specials to entice. 3-course prix fixe for $35 on Wed. and 3-course prix fixe w/ glass of wine for $29 on Fri. Has anyone eaten there recently or tried their prix fixe offers?

              If I can get my act together, I will do a proper report on our Napa/Sonoma trip including photos...Have a great time!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Carb Lover

                I was only in Napa one day, but we had a very good meal at Rutherford grill. It was recomended to us by one of the girls working the tasting area at a winery. Now, to be honest, I had a killer buzz going by the time we sat down to eat from all the places we visited, but I do remember having some great ribs. There was no wait and no corking fee for the bottle we brought in. Worth a try.

                We also stopped by V. Sattui at lunch for a quick bite. They have free tastings, which seems rare in Napa, and also have a deli / gourmet food shop attached. There are several picnic tables outside where you can enjoy your lunch. Worth a stop.

                1. re: Ali G

                  Thanks, I've read that the ribs are the thing to get.

              2. I'll add in a few locals' favorites in the city of Napa, where you can probably get reservations or walk in:

                Pearl http://www.therestaurantpearl.com/ind...
                The Foothill Cafe on Old Sonoma Road may be re-opened by then
                Many love Zinsvalley and while I really want to, the food never wows me. Do a search for more favorable thoughts. However, they do have a lovely patio on the creek...... http://www.zinsvalley.com/
                Julia's Kitchen is another thought, but I haven't been there recently
                Fume Bistro http://www.fumebistro.com/
                and my favorite, Uva http://www.uvatrattoria.com/

                FYI, Silverado Country Club has fireworks on July 3. The downtown Napa fireworks are July 4. If you lunch at Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena, you can pick up your sparklers (etc!) in the parking lot.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Junie D

                  Wow! Thanks for the July 4th firework tips! I was wondering where they were locally!

                  I'll check out those recs too - Julia's Kitchen was one I was contemplating.

                2. Ok, several of you mentioned Ad Hoc but when I looked online it said it's only open on Sundays or what little I can gather about it - the website isn't up and running yet. I'm not there on a Sunday, only Tueday through Friday.

                  Has this changed? When are they really open? There was mention of a fried chicken night. This is mighty appealing to me :-) Keller fried chicken, yum! I can only imagine how great that might be.

                  Can someone please clarify what days it's open?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: sivyaleah

                    Here's hhc's Ad Hoc report from January:

                    She indicates that it's closed on Tues. and Wed. but open for dinner on other nights. I'd call the place directly and ask for more info (including what night fried chicken is served!).

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Thanks for that link - it will be very helpful to us. The only problem will be if they are serving a seafood dinner when there - my husband doesn't eat any of it (I know, he's odd). I'm very intrigued by this place, so we'll keep it in mind - perhaps I'll make a reservation for one of the nights and hope for the best as far as the menu is concerned and if it doesn't fit my husband's eating habits, try again another night.


                    2. re: sivyaleah

                      I was last there in April and talked to Peter (I think that's his name, who may be either the assistant manager or head waiter). He said that they don't know the menu until the day of but they typically serve seafood or something light on Fridays, something rich on Saturdays, and something whimscal on Sundays. The weekend that I went was monkfish on Friday, pork tenderloin on Saturday, and beef shortribs on Sunday.

                      1. re: purple gator

                        And what about weekdays? Is that fried chicken :-) One can only hope LOL.

                        1. re: sivyaleah

                          Looks like I've planted the fried chicken in your head. :-) If Bouchon doesn't work out, then you can try the buttermilk fried chicken at Market.

                          Morton's report on Market:

                    3. I agree with most of the suggestions. The restaurant at Meadowood is a sleeper. The new chef is excellent and the setting is wonderful. Check out Michael Bauer's review in last Sunday's SF Chronicle (www.sfgate.com). I like ZuZu in Napa for a quick meal. NV has been a bit inconsistent recently. Bistro Jeanty is terrific although probably impossible to get into on short notice. They do have a communal table and bar seating which isn't reserved. Celadon in Napa is good...eat in the outdoor area. There are last minute cancellations so calling places like Terra around 4 PM is always worthwhile.

                      1. I'm a huge fan of Zuzu in downtown Napa. The Boonfly Cafe at Carneros Inn is great - try the doughnuts!

                        Have you thought about making reservations viz Opentable? I'll bet most of the restaurants are on there....would be easier than calling.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: katg

                          That's what I've been doing but a lot of the places I want to go to were already taken for the times I wanted.

                          Right now I do have reservations for Tuesday at Napa Valley Grille just as a backup because I'm going to call Ad Hoc or Bistro Don Giovanni and hope for the best,

                          Wednesday we decided to take the Napa Valley Wine Train for the 4th because they are doing a special tour where they stop for the fireworks at Domaine Chandon - we know dinner won't be that amazing but my husband is a huge train buff and this is my compromise for the trip for him.

                          Thursday is at Julia's Kitchen - another Open Table res just as a backup in case we can't get something better (not terrible by any means but not our first pick) which will be either Ad Hoc or Bistro Don Giovanni, whichever we didn't get on Tuesday.

                          Friday night we have the red eye back to NJ, so we probably can squeeze in another early dinner and we'll see what happens then. I'm almost tempted to go to Bouchon to see how it compares to the Las Vegas outpost. We just LOVE that place and never tire of it.

                          We're going to try to get to Ravenswood one day during lunch time (my of my fav Zin wines); my brother mentioned they do BBQ's and it's quite lovely to grab a glass, sit and eat the "Q" there. I'll keep in mind some of the others for lunches, we'll problably have better luck then than we would for dinner reservations this holiday week.

                          1. re: sivyaleah

                            if you can get to zuzu, i'd just go for dessert and order the apple emplanada. YUM

                            1. re: katg

                              I guess Zuzu is just tapas, right? That would be lovely for a light lunch one day and the apple emanada sound delish.

                        2. I see that no one recommends La Toque on this inquiry. I used to hear that it is on par with TFL, is that not the case?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Problem Child

                            There have been a lot of recent reports that it has gone downill.

                            La Toque was never "on par" with TFL, I don't think (never been to TFL, just based upon all the reports I get) -- but it was REALLY REALLY good, nonetheless.

                            Anyway, the whole "no reservations" and casual thing would deffinitely rule La Toque out.

                          2. Ok everyone, this is where I now stand:

                            Tuesday I'm still open. I'm going to make a reservation at Bistro Don Giovanni next week. I called and they said I can wait until then. Shouldn't be a problem at all according to the gentleman I spoke with.

                            Wednesday it's my concession to my husband's love of trains - we're doing the Napa Valley wine train for their 4th of July special trip which does a fireworks stopover at Domaine Chandon. Hope the food will be ok. If not, I'll enjoy the trip nonetheless :-)

                            Thursday - Ad Hoc!!! I made the reservation today and mentioned my husband does not eat any seafood at all. They were extremely nice about this and made a notation in the reservation about it and said they could accommodate him for sure. I'm very excited! Interestingly, one of my good friends told me one of her friends works for Per Se in NYC and she was going to help me get reservations for French Laundry if need be. I actually had to turn her down on that because of my husband's odd food restrictions (no seafood, doesn't eat meat on the bone, a few others) which would have just made it not enjoyable for HIM. Then she offered, if need be, to get me the reservation at Ad Hoc, thankfully, it wasn't necessary.

                            Friday depends on our schedule. We fly out on the red eye (10:00pm) and probably will stay in the area for an early dinner, if my friend in SF is not around to meet with us. Have not made a reservation yet - still debating what we want to do for this night. We want to keep it very casual (we'll be dressed really sloppy for the plane trip), and definately in Napa, because we don't want to have to backtrack from anywhere back south towards the airport.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: sivyaleah

                              If you can do St. Helena, their's no such thing as more casual than Market -- and the food is really good.

                              1. re: sivyaleah

                                You should definately drive back and have an early 5:30 dinner at Chez Panisse cafe if you're looking for the epitome of "places which specialize in local produce/ingredients".

                                1. re: Problem Child

                                  I totally forgot about that and it IS someplace I've been dying to try. Last time I was in SF I didn't manage to get there. Thanks for reminding me about it! I'm going to make a reservation just in case.

                              2. Fume Bistro is right near the Napa Mariott. I really enjoyed a dinner there about two years ago when we also took a quick unplanned trip up to Napa. The highlights were a woodfire pizza as an appetizer that my companion and I almost came to blows over and chipotle ribs. I can't remember what he ordered, but he decided next time to just get a second pizza for his dinner, it was that good. The dessert was very simple, a housemade strawberry ice cream and strawberry sorbet with a balsamic strawberry sauce, but two years later it still comes up when we talk about our favorite desserts.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Meredith

                                  I've been very disappointed by Fume Bistro. Four of us dined there (sharing tastes of each item) not too long ago and the food was lackluster. Fuel, but not much more. Other restaurants, for the same money, offer much better food and more atmosphere.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    That is so sad to hear, I had been looking forward to going back on our next trip up there. I wonder if they are only good at the very simple food - we had been port tasting so everything we ordered was as simple and clean as we could find on the menu. (Can you tell I am hoping that at least the pizza and ice cream will still be good?)

                                    1. re: Meredith

                                      Meredith, if you have enjoyed it, then please try it again. I know you have good memories of the pizza especially.