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Apr 17, 2008 08:58 PM


My wife and I are going to Napa/Sonoma for 3 days. We have 3 Breakfasts, Lunches and Dinners. We wouldn't mind picnicking one day and enjoy all kinds of food.

So far we are going to

Sol Bar(Dinner)

Bistro Ralph(lunch)
Cindy's Back Street Kitchen(Lunch)

Does anyone think that I am missing a restaurant or a better choice than we made? and can you recommend some Breakfast places?

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  1. You are missing Ubuntu--perhaps for lunch. It's a fabulous and unique restaurant that serves vegetables. If you do a search on the board, you'll see many recent postings-both pros and cons. I'm one of the pros.

    6 Replies
    1. re: fdb

      We looked at that place, would you suggest going there over Cindy's backstreet?

      1. re: jf123

        My experience at Ubuntu was sublime hence my suggestion. It's unlikely any other restaurants I've ever been to. I have not been to Cindy's. Perhaps other CH could make that comparison for you.

        1. re: fdb

          Thanks for the suggestions, any others would be welcome. We have not been to the Napa/Sonoma areas in over 5 years, so really looking forward to this trip. I am also new to CH and think this is an awesome venue for rec's.

          Thanks Again,


          1. re: jf123

            Welcome to Chowhound. I am guessing from your profile you are from the Chicago area.

            Napa/Sonoma is an extensive area. You might take a look at the "Read this first" post at the top of this board. It will give some hints about how to get more info and a better response to your question by being as specific as possible.

            There is a relatively new feature on the board called the places database which lists quite a few Bay Area restaurants. Posts about those restaurants are linked.

            I mention that because if I just search Places for 'Sonoma breakfast' it turns up 49 restaurants ... not all that would be recommended for a limited time for visitors

            So the only point is Napa/Sonoma is a lot of territory ... btw, in the list above, Boon Fly Cafe and Sunflower Cafe are two usual suspects recommended for breakfast.

            As for Ubuntu, it is probably different from what you will see in Chicago and might be a good lunch option.

            Why Auberge? It is a great place for drinks at sunset with an exrodinary wine list but from everything I've read there is better food for the price. What is it about it that appeals to you?

            I see you have another thread going that is a bit more specific, but it would still be worth your while to read the post at the top of the board.

            Wherever you go, hope you have a nice time and report back.

            1. re: rworange


              I disagree about Auberge. Especially, if you are going to eat in the restaurant. it's a great place to grab a drink/burger for sunset and to enjoy the bar, that is true. But the service, and food in the dining room is to die for. The excellence of service, the ability to request (and get an outdoor table with your own private heating ) a specific table, and the choices on the menu are great.

              I'd definetly recommend getting a bite there. Romantic, too!

              Other places to try

              The Farm at carneros, for an outdoor, casual lunch
              Boont Fly Cafe-great bfast
              Ad Hoc-fun atmosphere, quality food, TK's signature casual spot

              1. re: Doodleboomer

                Thanks. There are few reports about Auberge except negative or meh one-liners. I think there was a postive report within the last year.

    2. jf123, you didn't indicate where exactly you are staying.
      I like Bistro Ralph a lot, and the drive back from Healdsburg via 128 into Napa Valley is pleasant.
      Ubuntu over Cindy's is a no-brainer. Seriously.
      I would urge you to consider Terra and Meadowood (both in St. Helena) over Solbar/Auberge respectively.

      15 Replies
      1. re: Madge

        We are staying in calistoga and probably going to do one day in sonoma/healdburg area. based on the comments, we are second guessing auberge, but I do think that the atmosphere combined with the food will keep us there. We changed to Redd and now looking for a 3rd place for dinner, from the above mentioned places. From what I have read in all sorts of areas, go fish is going to get a pass as is SolBar(in all likelyhood). If we do auberge and redd, probably a place a little more relaxed will be in order. But taylor's refresher is also right up our alley.

        Thank you for the suggestions.

        1. re: jf123

          Again, if you are willing to spend for Auberge, give Meadowood a long look. I think you will have a more enjoyable time.
          If you are in Calistoga, hopping over to Zazu (on Guerneville Rd. in Santa Rosa) or Mirepoix (west of 101 in Windsor) may satisfy a more casual need. Calistoga, IMHO, doesn't have truly noteworthy options, just some reasonably nice places to eat.

          1. re: Madge

            We plan on eating closer to St. Helena, rutherford/napa, etc. The only place in calistoga was going to be sol bar, but that is quickly dropping off of our list. We were recommended Go Fish because of the sushi, but we eat sushi all the time and would rather have california/asian, etc.

            Any thoughts on quick/more casual mexican eats?

            1. re: jf123

              I really like Wappo Grill in Calistoga. The patio outside is great. Love the duck carnitas, and the Brazilian seafood chowder is one of my favorite dishes anywhere. The smoked chicken salad is very good -- almost like a Cobb. Good wine list, prices are reasonable. Charming setting.

        2. re: Madge

          Note that while the address of Meadowood may be in St. Helena, the restaurant is nowhere near town (unlike places like Terra and Martini House, that are right in downtown St. Helena). It's on the Silverado Trail on the other side of the valley. It's actually rather nice that it's off the beaten track.

          Meadowood Napa Valley
          900 Meadowood Ln St, Helena, CA

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I think we are likely to make the decision to switch and go eat at meadowood. By chance how far are these places from the Carneros region, or more specific to stay in calistoga(which we have planned) or carneros(carneros inn) specifically, any thoughts?

            1. re: jf123

              Carneros and Calistoga are about as far away from each other as you can be and still be in "Napa". St. Helena is quite a bit closer to Calistoga than to Carneros. Given that most of the places you listed are in St. Helena, the only reason to choose Carneros would be if you were at all interested in checking out Sonoma.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                St. Helena is 6 miles away from Calistoga. The Carneros region(meaning "sheep" -- it was formerly a sheep grazing area) is an area that straddles the southern end of BOTH Napa and Sonoma. That area is particularly well known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Napa side of the Carneros is about 45 minutes to an hour from Calistoga, about 35 miles.

                Chardonnay and Pinot Noir probably find better expression in the wines of the Russian River valley, which you'll be close to while in Healdsburg. Westside Rd is a winding road that flanks the river for much of its distance. It has a remarkable number of good wineries along it. Check the other Healdsburg threads -- they have specific info.

                Napa Valley is known for Cabs. Wonderful cabs. You may wish to do a search on that.

                Back to Carneros, the Napa side: There is a casual resto in Carneros that I like a lot -- Boonfly. Great burgers, killer mac 'n' cheese, gourmet onion rings, nice wines. One of my favorite spots. Also in the Napa Carneros is the amazing, witty DiRosa Art Preserve. Just across the street, is the fairly good sparkling wine (Champagne) house in Carneros called Domaine Carneros.

                On the Sonoma side of Carneros, unfortunatelly, there's really not too much going on terms of good wineries and restaurants.

                jf123, with all your threads asking for info, I'm surprised you haven't yet procured a map, at the very least downloaded one from online.

                There are great maps online showing the roads and lay of the land, the distance from southern Napa (Carneros) to northern Napa Valley (Calistoga) -- about 35 miles, and the location of the wineries all along Highway 29 and Silverado Trail.

                .As far as Healdsburg (northern Sonoma County), there are links on the CH threads to all the wine regions around there: Alexander Valley (along Highway 128), Westside Rd., Russian River Valley, and Dry Creek area (Zinfandel) -- with maps. Check them out.

                I realize you're new to Chowhound, and from some of your questions, it appears you haven't yet done a few searches on Chowhound. It's a good idea to take the time to do that. A lot of answers to your questions are already here on other threads. Read about how to do a search to get precise results.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I had looked at a map, i was just looking for a first hand opinion as to what is a better starting point. We are pretty much committed to Calistoga because of its ease to get to Healdsburg, Spring Mountain area, and St. Helena for Dinners. We did some research on some of the places, but were looking for some fresh opinions, as to chef's leaving, staying, opening up new places. Thank you for your help.

                  1. re: jf123

                    Here is an article about the Healdsburg area with good recs.
                    From last week's Dallas Morning News. Note the website for
                    the Russian River Wine Road:


                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      I received a map from the Russian river district when I started planning at;


                      Another web site I use is;


                      If any one has any other wine country related web sites that they would like to share I'd be very gratefull. Has any one ever taken one of the classes at the CIA?

              2. re: jf123

                Meadowood recently achieved a high degree of acclaim...they won two Michelin stars. Very shortly after that, the chef resigned.

                So, any reports on the food now, with the new chef? Has the food taken a tumble? Or is it just as good? Any reports? (I've heard or read none.)

                It is expensive. As I recall we spent $750 for two people. We did order $120 worth of wine, but still... This is just me, but I think it's a little risky to try it now, especially for the tariff. The new chef has been there 3 months.

                Here are two of my reports on Meadowood.
                the first on the meal (not sure what worth it's worth now), and
                the second, on the very short time the chef spent there:



                My favorite restaurant of all in Napa Valley is Terra in St. Helena.
                Californian-Asian, exquisitely prepared and presented. Great service,
                wonderful wine list. Housed in a beautiful old stone building.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  The new chef at Meadowood had earned two Michelin stars at his previous restaurant, and the executive chef at Meadowood was still in place to ease the transition, so I personally wouldn't worry too much about the food taking a significant tumble.


                2. re: jf123

                  I'm watching with interest as well. I'm just starting to plan for this fall and we are considering the Carneros Inn. I ran into a winery chef on line the other day on a photography forum of all places.

                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                    Doc: The Carneros Inn is a very good choice for a couple. Excellent breakfasts every day at the Boon Fly Cafe and weekend brunch for hotel guests at the Hilltop. Lunch, cocktails and dinner at the more upscale Farm. Spa is terrific and view from the Hilltop pool is wonderful. Fitness facility + lap pool are great for athletes in the group.

            2. Tera In St. Helena for dinner. Model Bakery in St helena or The Calistoga Roastery for Breakfast.

              1. In St Helena...Taylor's Refresher for a casual lunch...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sharpish

                  While Taylor's Refresher may be the favored spot for tourists, nearby Sunshine Foods is a locals' "secret". Their specialty and hot-off-the-grill sandwiches are way better than anything I've gotten at Taylors.


                  Sunshine Foods
                  1115 Main St St, Helena, CA

                2. Please let us know where you end up (wineries too) and how everything was!