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Recommend destination restaurant 3-4 hours from SF for weekend trip?

I'm willing to drive anywhere within 3-4 hours of SF for good food, and since I want to plan a romantic weekend without the baby anyway, I thought I'd ask here for tips on places with great food that are off the beaten path and close to nice lodging. While I want this to be a romantic getaway, the restaurant doesn't have to be the typical "romantic restaurant" with low lighting and fancy linens. I care somewhat about ambience (no hole-in-the-wall places for this trip, though I usually love them), but my bottom line is just really tasty food of any cuisine except Chinese (which I'm super picky about as it was the food of my childhood and because I don't think there are any destination Chinese restaurants beyond SF, the South Bay, and Oakland). And by nice lodging, I mean a cute B&B or cottage, not a motel or chain hotel but we're willing to stay at at a chain hotel if the food is worth it.

We've been to the typical "weekend trip spots" (Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga, Half Moon Bay, Carmel, Monterey, Seaside, etc.) but I'm sure there are other "overlooked" areas with great food.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. One idea is the Paso Robles area...there is certainly good wine, though I don't personally have any specific food recommendations. But there is some good info in this thread:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/86714

    A nice bonus to spending the weekend in Paso Robles is that it allows for some excellent taco stops on the way and way back, in and around Salinas/Greenfield/King City.

    Dave MP

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave MP

      Are you traveling soon? As a local, I'd add that while Paso can be quite cold (nites into the 20's) and rather bleak in winter, romantic Cambria is just 20 minutes to the west, right smack on the coast. Evergreen Monterey Pine forests and seashore views add romance to any dining experience there. There is lodging of the kind you're looking (google b&b and farmstay)) and enough good restaurants to last you a while. See these recent Cambria dining threads:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/451376

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/455333

      and one of many more that covers both PR and Cambria:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/406641

      1. re: santabarbarian

        In Big Sur you might also consider the Big Sur Bakery - they serve fancy dinner in a nice cottage with big fireplace. Deetjens' also has pretty decent food and the place is very cute.

        Madrona Manor, Cyrus, Manresa and the Boonville Hotel are also worthwhile destination restaurants within a couple of hours of SF.

      2. Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn is charming, obviously in a beautiful area, and has one of the best restaurants in the Tahoe area.

        http://www.plumpjack.com/squaw1.html

        1 Reply
        1. re: RevrendAndy

          Have not been to many of the recs posted but I was there for Mother's Day and it was absolutely wonderful. I don't know how it compares to others mentioned on this thread, but Plumpjack gets my vote :)

        2. In Forestville, in the Russian River area in Western Sonoma County there is a wonderful place called The Farmhouse Inn, Restaurant, and Spa. That is what jumped into my head. I have not been there, but I drove past it almost every day when I lived up there. It is about an hour and a half north and west of the GG Bridge.

          http://www.farmhouseinn.com/

          1. We just returned from one of our favorite place, especially this time of year, Nevada City. It's a little historic gem about 25 min. north of Auburn. Lots of quaint B&Bs, Deek Creek Inn for example, and some nice dining options, Citronee, New Moon, Sopa Thai, and not to miss Ike's Quarter Cafe for breakfast and lunch with a cajun flair. They're doing some remodeling but remain open for business. The Mekka coffee house on Commercial is a good spot for pastry and dessert.

            Nice thing is you can walk to everything. During December they hold the Victorian Christmas celebration, so lodging might be at a premium. Here's a link.

            http://www.nevadacitychamber.com/even...

            1. Two thoughts:
              1. Chateau du Sureau, which has Erna's Elderberry House attached to it. Great food, great lodging. Just outside of Yosemite.
              2. Sea Ranch Lodge. Very good dining and romantic lodge.

              1. My husband and I had a fabulous weekend in Winters, CA. I'll provide the links below. We stayed at Abbey House Inn B & B..in the De Winters Room. Gorgeous place, nice owner..romantic as ever. We had some great steaks at The Buckhorn Grill and Roadhouse prior to seeing a great show at The Palms Playhouse. Jane Siberry will be there Nov. 28th! We got a coupon from the B & B for breakfast at Putah Creek Cafe...the best bisquits I've ever had!

                I've heard really good things about Monticello Bistro..seasonal cuisine. We'll try that next time.

                Everything was within walking distance...no car needed at all, once you get there.

                I highly recommend this for a weekend getaway. Winters is not far from Davis, CA. It's an artsy little town.

                http://www.wintersca.net
                http://www.abbeyhouseinn.com
                http://www.monticello-bistro.com

                1. I'm not sure it qualifies as a "destination restaurant" but I really enjoyed dinner at Citronee during our weekend getaway to Nevada City a year or so ago. (See someone else's post below....) And it IS romantic! Also, for lodging check out the Piety Hill Cottages: reasonable, cute, and a good breakfast (to keep it chow related!).

                  Here's a link to the report on Citronee: www.chowhound.com/topics/88819

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: janetofreno

                    Nevada City/Grass Valley is great. They have Victorian Christmas in NC and another Christmas fair on Grass Valley on Friday Nights. With the new Holiday Inn there, rooms should be easy to find. try the Northern Queen. Nice place and a beautiful restaurant with decent chow for breakfast (I would go to Ike's myself).

                    1. re: bennyboy1

                      I have had both highs and lows in Grass Valley and Nevada City - be sure you get some current reviews, very current. Villa Venezia went from very nice to totally awful in one year. Blue Moon was extremely mundane and overpriced.

                      1. re: glbtrtr

                        Villa Venezia was one of my favorites. Why is it "totally awful" now? Was this one experience or many? Are the owners the same? Thanks!

                        1. re: BN1

                          I have been to Villa Venezia in the past six months and it was excellent.

                          http://www.villavenezia.info/index.htm I cannot imagine it ever being awful....

                          A couple of other reccos in the area....

                          Kane's in Grass Valley. Very nice, italian based. Steaks, wood fired pizzas, Very large menu, great wine list.

                          Friar Tucks. Nevada City. Clubby, romantic. Good food, steaks, etc.

                          StoneHouse, Nevada City. Very good food. Beautiful building.

                          I still miss Kirby's though.

                          1. re: bennyboy1

                            Thank Goodness! I’ve enjoyed many really good bottles of Barolo and Barbaresco at Villa Venezia, which they decant for me if I call ahead. Besides several bottles of the reliable Klinker Brick Zin, I was introduced to Macchia Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, as Dennis tries to feature local (Sierra foothills) wines. I think they have a really good wine program. I especially like the gnocchi, which we split as an appetizer because it is so rich.

                  2. Wow! Thanks everyone. I'm going to start researching some of these places now.