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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 :-)

Thanks!

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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:
                http://www.chowhound.com/search?
                item_type=Topic&board_id=1&query=farm+restaurant+napa

                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.

                  http://www.taylorsrefresher.com/

                  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:

            Market
            Mustard's
            Ad Hoc
            N.V.
            Bouchon
            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.