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Oct 27, 2007 04:23 PM

3 Nights in Napa w/ Fiance; Suggestions Needed

My fiance and I are spending 3 nights in Napa and I need suggestions of great places to eat. We love italian, mediterranian, and most other cuisine. I love french, but she is not a big fan. We want places from both the "money is no object" and "hidden gem" categories. Please help!

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  1. In the hidden gems category, I'd consider Kelly's no-bad-days cafe at 976 Pearl Street in downtown Napa, especially for desserts. Kelly is outstanding when it comes to pastries/desserts. She's big on quality too - California type cuisine with a down home spin. For a delicious burrito, try Villa Corona in the Bel Aire Shopping Center on Trancas Street and for an even better burrito, and lots of pleasant conversation if the owner, Roman, is present, try Quinto Patio Taqueria at 2555 Kilburn Ave., 255-1802. Locals love Fujiya in the Outlet Center for extremely fresh sushi and outstanding Sukiyaki. Ekko is a lovely hostess/owner. The most popular local hangout for burgers and BBQ is Red Rock at 1010 Lincoln Ave, 226-2633 - it's a small hole-in-the-wall. The owner's daughter, Erin, works most nights. Pearl, at 1339 Pearl Street, near downtown, is truly a gem. A nice place for small plates, sometimes very up-scale, sometimes very casual, always good and it's been around a long, long time, 224-9161. Truly hidden - Zins Valley Restaurant behind the Browns Valley Center at 3253 Browns Valley Road, 224-0695 - California cuisine, the best creekside dining in all of Napa, nice wine list.
    As far as money is no object, obviously The French Laundry, but if you don't already have a reservation or a connection, probably no last minute availability. There are so many so I'll go for quality/overall dining experience: Redd in Yountville, I love everything about Redd, 6480 Washington, 944-2222. Bistro Don Giovanni, just north of Napa - lots of fun, generally excellent, but noisy. Cole's Chop House is an absolute must for the Napa bar scene and consistently outstanding food and service. Cole's is probably my favorite of all the Napa Valley Restaurants, 224-6328, 1122 Main Street, downtown. Silverado Country Club puts on a terrific seafood buffet on Fridays and a brunch on Sundays, and it's open to the public, 257-0200.
    We're also lucky enough to have a couple great Thai places, plus you cannot go wrong picking up bread/food/cheese/wine at Browns Valley Market in Napa or Sunshine Market in St. Helena, and hiking up into Westwood Hills or Alston Park in Napa, or Bothe State Park north of St. Helena, for a picnic.
    Have fun!

    6 Replies
    1. re: hi standards

      Could you please tell us more about the seafood buffet at the Silverado Country Club. I can't find anything about it on their website. Is it served at the Grill or at the other restaurant? Is it expensive? Good? Well, I guess it must be good since you recommend it. Thanks for any info.

      1. re: Glencora

        Glencora - I'm not sure if Silverado advertises the seafood buffet. It used to be served in the restaurant. I haven't been there for a couple years and yes, it was really nice, fresh, well-presented, just super. I think you'd need to call. By Napa Valley standards, it was not too expensive. I've been to Cole's quite a few times and only had one not-so-good entre. Otherwise, it's very consistent, and for me, the side dishes alone are worth the money. Yeah, Napa is a relatively quiet place, but there is a bar scene - Compadres, Rutherford Grill, Downtown Joe's, Cole's, River City, N.V. was pretty cool, but now under new ownership and undergoing renovation, Celadon. I love the looks of Terra, but found the food to be so-so. There's a new barbecue place in the Bel Aire Plaza that some people swear by but it's mega bucks for what you get. The Farm out in Carneros seems to be winning fans. Also, IMO the best falafel this side of the bus station in Afula, Israel, is in downtown Napa at Small World - made to order by the owner Mike and his relatives who moved to Napa from Nazareth (Israel) a number of years ago. Haven't tried Ubuntu (vegetarian) in downtown Napa yet, but it's supposedly quite interesting. Then there are the usual Napa Valley suspects - all good and quite distinct - Pilar's, Tra Vigna, Martini House. I don't spend much time in Calistoga so I honestly wouldn't know what to recommend. I have to agree that Napa has no good Chinese, but I disagree about the Thai. I'm very partial to Thai Kitchen's yellow pumpkin curry. As far as La Toque is concerned, my two experiences have been over the top good. But, who knows?

      2. re: hi standards

        cgutstein...just as an explanation...the city of Napa is in the south end of Napa Valley. Most of the wineries are to the north, and to the southeast in the Carneros. Drive north out of Napa and you'll reach the agricultural heart of Napa Valley (vineyards), and a series of five charming small towns. Lots of good restos in those towns, especially Yountville and St. Helena. A few holes-in-the-wall too, and BTW, there's a current Chowhound thread on that very thing now. Also do a Chowhound search for those Napa towns and any restaurant names you come across again and again. Hundreds of Napa Valley suggestions already on this board...just read a few threads.

        My restaurant favorites are: Terra, Martini House, Redd, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen,
        Don Giovanni and Bouchon.

        I lived in Napa Valley many years (am involved in the food and wine industry) and was delighted to read some hi standards' recommendations for places I'd never heard about (all her recs are in the city of Napa only).

        I disagree with some of the recs, too. For example, I think the burrito at Villa Corona is barely passable. Head to La Luna Market, a true hole-in-the-wall, across the street from Rancho Caymus Inn (mentioned in a post below) and buy the best burrito in the Valley.

        And Thai food? The Thai restos in Napa aren't very good at all. Go to San Francisco, go to the East Bay, but don't eat Thai or Chinese in the Napa Valley. It's pretty awful here.

        Cole's: What's turned me and many others off of Cole's is that the resto is overpriced for what you get. Hi standards, do you find this to be so? Since there is such competition for your dining dollar in Napa Valley, the minute a resto reveals itself to be overpriced, it loses favor in many minds.

        It's interesting hi standard refers several times to the City of Napa "bar" scene: I didn't know there was one. Certainly there's no Napa Valley bar scene at least I've never noticed it...or perhaps I've become tragically unhip.

        Getting that picnic lunch at Sunshine Market (or Oakville Grocery) is a good idea, and
        going to a winery that allows you to picnic along with a bottle of wine. Brown's Valley Market is a bit out of the way, and the word on Zinsvalley (the resto there) is a yawn compared to other stuff at the same price.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Regarding hi standards' recs in her first post...didn't mean to say all her recs are in Napa Valley...just those in the first graf.

          Terra is at the top of the heap (factoring out FL for purposes of recommending restos at which you might actually dine), Californian-Asian, with a great wine list. Martini House is charming and wonderful; I especially like lunch out on the patio. Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen (American favorites/Latina fresca) is casual, fun, great food. All three of these restaurants are in St. Helena. Can't recommend Tra Vigne in SH or Go Fish (Cindy's other resto in SH), though. I've had wonderful food at Redd each time, though I find the interior a bit lackluster and noisy. Bouchon is a wonderful smallish French brasserie in Yountville. My favorite place to sit is at the bar. The mussels and pommes frites are outstanding, also great raw bar and wine list. Both Redd and Bouchon are in Yountville. Don Giovanni (Californian-Italian) is in northern Napa. Great food consistently, flavorful appetizers, and a stunning dining room. And I very much like Boonfly (in the Carneros) for gourmet burgers, onion rings and man 'n' cheese at the bar. Also, Wappo Grill in Calistoga.

          I'd not send a Napa Valley visitor to Red Rock -- there are better options dive-wise and Q-wise. For Q, go to Buster's in Calistoga, right at the flashing red light. Buster is known far and wide, and most days you can see him standing outside by the grills.

          This will show a bias of mine: Fujiya is in a huge urban mall, which could be Anywhere, USA, and I hesitate to recommend it for that reason. The food may be fine there, but if I were a tourist in Napa Valley, I'd like to dine in a place with some lovely wine-country ambience. The casual or the elegant variety.

        2. re: hi standards

          I second the Cole's rec. Every time I go, the food is outstanding and the service is as well. As far as it being overpriced, I don't believe it to be any more so than other high end restaurants in the area. The food and atmosphere are excellent and it is also a fun and lively place.

          1. re: baseballfan

            When I first started visiting Napa (before I moved there), I wanted slightly "exotic" restaurants that would give me the "wine experience" = Mediterranean cuisine. For that, Bistro Don Giovanni, Tra Vigne (when it was good, 10 years ago), and the like were what I was after.

            I never considered Cole's because it is a glorified steakhouse. However when I lived in Napa, it was a great place for a great steak which is what one wants when drinking those big California reds. In that regard, yes, Cole's is a good suggestion -- however, it really is just a steakhouse which is less than many tourists are looking for.

        3. Oh wow, totally forgot to mention Rutherford Grill (no reservations, everybody waits) right on Highway 29 in Rutherford for fun food and an equally fun, young, Napa Valley bar crowd, and La Togue Restaurant, also in Rutherford at 1140 Rutherford Road, 963-9770, next to Rancho Caymus Inn - they get very little publicity, serve a pri fixe menu, incredible food, and I think the chef is one of the nicest, most talented guys around. Happy eating!

          2 Replies
          1. re: hi standards

            I believe that Rutherford Grill gets no publicity because it is a Houston's in disguise. The Napa valley does not allow chain restaurants which is why RG is not called a Houston's even though it is owned by that corporation - meaning that for all of the really great restaurants that are in the Napa valley, RG is pretty formulaic chain food.

            I also think you are referring to La Toque which if you search around will see a LOT of varying reviews from exceptional to horrendous. I have eaten there four times; two was amazing and two was beyond bad. It is the general inconsistencies which make La Toque too much of a crap-shoot to spend money on.

            1. re: Carrie 218

              Good comments. I like Rutherford Grill for several reasons: hearty, satisfying food and no corkage ever. Gets a lot of winery insiders (moi included) and sometimes there's some trading and sampling at the bar ("I'll pour you a glass of mine if you pour me a glass of yours"). Rutherford Grill offers a few dishes that are not on the Houstons menu IIRC: ostrich steak (it's succulent and amazing), great ahi sashimi salad, one of the best basic green salads anywhere (comes with 2 deviled eggs), an outstanding smoked salmon platter. No, the food isn't outstanding but it's definitely enjoyable.

              La Toque, is, exactly as Carrie 218 says...too iffy to drop that kind of $$$ on.

          2. I know that you mentioned your fiance doesn't like french, but Angele is absolutely wonderful. Their french onion soup is great and the atmosphere is lovely.