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Jun 12, 2008 05:13 AM

One Meal in Napa Valley

Visiting in July and will have the opportunity for one dinner. If you had to pick one place to go these days, what would it be? Who is turning out the best food in a relaxed, unpretentious setting for stiff, but not stratospheric, prices?

TFL is not an option (went to Per Se in May and so have blown my Thomas Keller budget for the year), and we've been to Mustards, Cindy's Backstreet Boys Kitchen, Bistro Jeanty, and Bouchon. Don't want to go to Ubuntu or Ad Hoc. Thanks for your help.


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  1. Don't want to go to Ubuntu or Ad Hoc
    Why not?

    6 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Good question - Ubuntu would have been my first go-to suggestion.

      1. re: wolfe

        I don't want to go completely sans meat at Ubuntu or play prix fixe roulette at Ad Hoc.

        1. re: LPM

          Who is turning out the best food in a relaxed, unpretentious setting for stiff, but not stratospheric, prices?
          OK, but you are doing your palate a disservice

          1. re: LPM

            Double book Ad Hoc with something else and look at AH's menu the day before or just call them. I don't know their cancellation policy.

            I'd book Redd if you can. They're next door to Ad Hoc so you can figure on showing up to one place at the least.

        2. If you are willing to go up-valley there is always Terra or Martini House in St. Helena.

          1. I live in Napa and always recommend Bistro Don Giovanni and Rutherford Grill, the Grill being particularly unpretentious and reasonably priced. A couple of places in downtown Napa that are always good: Annalien (Vietnamese) and Celadon. Have fun!

            1 Reply
            1. re: hulagrrrl

              For a one-night deal, I would hardly recommend Rutherford Grill -- it is nothing other than a glorified Houston's (okay, it IS a Houston's). Okay for a local hang-out, but nothing to write home about or make as a special occasion meal.

            2. One night in July for stiff prices, great food, relaxed atmosphere...?
              Redd in Yountville
              Martini House and Terra in St. Helena
              Just opened w/no reviews yet - so research, the revamped Brix, now 25 degrees Brix. As they are so new who knows, but the setting is lovely and on-board consultant, David Gingrass knows his stuff.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Madge

                Ubuntu is the bomb. I love blood and organ meats, but have never ever been unhappy with food i have eaten there, and have had 5 meals there in the last year. Chef Fox is way creative, but if you are too close minded how bout driving the hour to Berkeley and eating at Chez Pannisse Cafe. Upstairs, nice setting, same wine list as downstairs, choice of menu, not too expensive... I have eaten there and the the "real" Restaurant and the Cafe is better. It would be a meal you wont forget...

                1. re: wineweasel

                  Ate at Chez Panisse Cafe a few years ago and loved it. But considering the alcohol units I hope to consume, I don't want to drive to Berkeley.

                  If I had more time, I would visit Ubuntu as the write-up in the NYT intrigued me. I have noticed that many on CH are lukewarm, at best, on Ubuntu, but that does not factor into my decision. I was a vegetarian for 10 years, so I'm neither close-minded nor close-paletted. I simply want to experience all of CA's bounty at my meal -- not just its veggies and grits.


                  1. re: LPM

                    Seriously as others have said ... you are really doing a dissevice to yourself for not trying Ubuntu ... especially since you liked Chez Panisse.

                    And ... my god ... you will be her in JULY ... prime produce season ... this is just silly, IMO. This is NOT a vegetarian restaurant ... listen to that carefully again ... this is NOT a vegetarian restaurant.

                    If you order a dish at a regular restaurant with cheese or dairy rather than meat ... well, what's the problem? Most of the restaurants you mention in your original post suck compared to Ubuntu.

                    The few ... few ... people who reported about not liking Ubuntu mainly didn;'t like that style of restaurant in general ... they would not have appreciated Chez Panisse. One or two regular hounds that SHOULD know better ... I think might have been over-hyped and were expecting dishes to be served by angels singing praises.

                    And if you don't believe Chowhound look at Yelp where out of over 70 reviews at this time, it earns a 4.5 stars.

                    Let's recap
                    - Number 2 in a NY Times list (you can search the details, but #2 on a list)
                    - More positive than negative reports on Chowhound
                    - Outstanding postive report on Chow
                    - Four and a half stars on Yelp

                    And you are rejecting it ... why?

                    If you read any report ... the majority of people ... including me ... went there either kicking and screaming or highly skeptical ... and left fans.

                    If you think you'd want to go to Manressa which is considered by some better than French Laundry ... serious thought should go into Ubuntu.

                    1. re: rworange

                      So do you think I should go to Ubuntu?


                        1. re: LPM

                          I think Ubuntu's menu is small, but the flavors are amazing. I have never been disappointed by a meal yet. You should at least give it a try.

                        2. re: rworange

                          I love what can be done with a meatless menu. i've been blown away by raw food. But I've been disappointed with monotonous textures and flavors at Ubuntu. It depends on the menu -- checking first (a la advice on Ad Hoc) is a good idea.

                  2. If you're not feeling Ubuntu, don't go to Ubuntu, especially if it's going to be your only dinner in Napa Valley. I think that saying that you're doing yourself a disservice not going there is a little overkill -- I liked my meal there, but it's not life changing. If you had two dinners, I'd say go for it, but since you only have one, why go somewhere that you don't want to go? I think that it's a good idea to make a reservation at Ad Hoc, see what the menu is the day before, and cancel if it isn't to your taste. I'd also definitely recommend Terra or Redd.