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Martini House (St. Helena), Jole (Calistoga) or Something Else?

My husband and I are visiting Napa Valley (from NYC) in October and can't decide whether to go to the Martini House or Jole for dinner -- or perhaps even try a different restaurant. We already have one dinner scheduled at Solbar.

We're pretty flexible when it comes to price range and ambiance, and enjoy our food trucks and holes in the wall just as much as the French Laundries of the world.

Suggestions?

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Martini House
1245 Spring St., St. Helena, CA 94574

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  1. Ubuntu, Frank Bruni liked it and reviews remain very favorable even with new chefs.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/19/din...

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    Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
    1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

    6 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      That's a great review. "You don't walk out on Angelina. You stay until she makes you go."

      It sounds like a wonderful restaurant. Might be a bit far to drive from Calistoga after a full day of wine tours, though?

      1. re: duckie

        30 miles and 60 minutes from Calistoga taking the scenic, less trafficked and multipli-vineyarded Silverado Trail.
        http://www.silveradotrail.com/

        1. re: wolfe

          I'd like to hit this up on the way back down to SF / Berkley on Sunday, but I think perhaps we should stay closer to Calistoga on this particular night since we're both New Yorkers and not good at long distance driving like Californians are. To us, a 60 minute drive is a long one!

          But I do appreciate the recommendation very much, Wolfe. It's a great one.

          1. re: duckie

            Mah nishtanah, ha-laylah ha-zeh. ;-)

            1. re: wolfe

              You are of course correct about the driving. There is a current post where Steve H. is driving from Tomales Bay to Yountville, 60 miles and 1 1/2 hours to Ad Hoc.
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7330...

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              Ad Hoc
              6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

              1. re: wolfe

                Because we're from NYC? :)

                Shana Tova Umetukah, if you celebrate!

      2. We enjoy the atmosphere at the bar for an after dinner drink at the Martini House. Jolie has the more interesting dining experience, in my opinion, at least partially because of the ability to sample and share the small plates.

        Have you thought of Bottega in Yountville, Michael Chiarello's restaurant?

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        Martini House
        1245 Spring St., St. Helena, CA 94574

        Bottega
        6525 Washington Street Suite A9, Yountville, CA 94599

        3 Replies
        1. re: Bill Greenberg

          Bottega wasn't on my radar, before -- thanks so much for the suggestion and the other helpful comments!

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          Bottega
          6525 Washington Street Suite A9, Yountville, CA 94599

          1. re: duckie

            After several recent dining experiences at Bottega, I'd say the quality of the food and service is below Martini House and Jole.

            By the way, if you are interested in Ubuntu or any restaurant south of St. Helena, the
            roads of the entire valley are laid out like a ladder -- two long straight sides and short cross-valley drives as the ladder "rungs." Very nearly a grid, and so easy to drive and navigate. Silverado Trail (one of the long straight sides) is particularly pretty, and except for one short curvy section between Lodi and Dunaweal Lanes is a straight shot as well from Calistoga to Napa.

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            Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
            1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

            Martini House
            1245 Spring St., St. Helena, CA 94574

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Thank you, Maria Lorraine. I appreciate (and trust) your comments very much. I am drawing heavily on your winery suggestions for the area, as well, from your previous posts since I think we might share similar tastes in wine.

              I'm incredibly enamoured with Ubuntu and plan to hit it up for lunch on the way back down to SF/Berkley.

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              Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
              1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

        2. Big thumbs up for Jole, Matt is serving up some innovative and tasty food. He had one of the hottest and best restaurants in Philadelphia and simple has continued that in Calistoga.
          Also don't miss Matts better half Sonja who is in charge of making those great desserts.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tom246

            Ok, you have me almost completely sold with the word "innovative." I took a look at the menu and thought the dishes sounded pretty run-of-the-mill. That was my only real source of hesitation for heading there. Thanks a bunch, Tom!

          2. My wife and I just got back from Napa, and for the second year in a row we had one of the best meals of our lives at Ad Hoc. It takes ~30 minutes to get there from Calistoga (which is where we stayed).

            Hole in the wall for lunch - La Luna Market in Rutherford. Great Tacos - very authentic. We were the only non-hispanics there.

            If you like Oysters, go to the CIA on Wednesdays. One of the founders of Hogs Island Oyster Co. is there shucking them fresh.

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            Ad Hoc
            6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

            3 Replies
            1. re: Indy_Foodie

              Oh wow, La Luna definitely sounds interesting to us. I've actually decided to go to JoLe just out of pure laziness and also because we're not sure how much we'll want to eat after a full day of drinking and noshing at/around vineyards. JoLe seems like it'd be most flexible in terms of quantity and it's also really close to where we're staying... which means we can indulge in a mud bath before dinner. I'm going to find a vineyard to visit in Rutherford so we'll have an excuse to lunch there!

              Thanks, Indy.

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              JoLe
              1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 94515

              1. re: duckie

                From La Luna, head toward Silverado Trail and hit Frogs Leap. It's a fun tour with a great story about the winery (make an appt.)

                1. re: Indy_Foodie

                  La Luna is right between our Mondavi and Mumm stops. It'll be a perfect place to stop for an al pastor taco it sounds like. Thanks, again! Feel slightly sheepish that my own searches didn't turn this place up.

                  I guess La Mixteca is still around, but under new ownership and no longer good?

            2. Try Boskos(Italian) on Lincoln Ave in downtown Calistoga. Good food, good wine, good people.

              6 Replies
              1. re: brucepm

                I cannot second this, I'm sorry. The food is Italian-American, and not a good example even of that. I do like the shiitake-caramelized onion pizza but consider it the only good thing on the menu.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Having just spent our honeymoon in Napa two months ago based mainly on the suggestions here, I think you're in exceptional hands. The Bay Area Chowhounders are passionate about their food and patient beyond belief in answering follow-up questions!

                  I think Ubuntu is an excellent suggestion for something distinctly Napa. While I'm not usually a huge fan of vegetables or bread, these are two items that I think are done better in Napa than nearly anywhere else in North America. While we didn't make it to Ubuntu, if you can have a fantastic reputation as a vegetarian restaurant in Napa - it must be fantastic.

                  The two that I would recommend for lunch that we visited are Etoile (Yountville) at the Domaine Chandon winery and the Grill at the Meadowwood (St. Helena) on your way in and/or out on your trip to Napa Valley. It would be a bit of a drive for dinner, but as a lunch stop, I think either (or both!) would be perfect.

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                  Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                  1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                  1. re: Tony Calgary

                    I'm reading about these, now, Tony. Thanks. It's a shame we have such a short trip.

                    Congratulations to you, by the way!

                2. re: brucepm

                  Appreciate the suggestion, bruce -- and Maria Lorraine's input, too. I will look it up and read about it.

                  Really, I'm incredibly grateful to all of you for helping out yet ANOTHER tourist. I know you get a lot of these posts mostly asking about the same sorts of things. And I appreciate the wide range of responses. On my own, home board, I sometimes get a little annoyed with seeing the same two or three restaurants recommended over and over and over and over again no matter what the situation. It's great to see the breadth of experiences, here.

                  1. re: duckie

                    If you're staying in Calistoga, please remember that the local grocery store, CalMart, has a wonderful gourmet cheese selection, great SF Bay Area breads, and a fairly good deli department with prepared salads, good sandwiches to go, even a hot station.

                    Other faves: the hamburger at Hydro, the microbrews at Calistoga Inn, right on the river, and the enchiladas at the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant Puerto Vallarta, right next to CalMart.

                    For wineries nearby, Chateau Montelena makes wonderful wine in a picturesque setting. Other Calistoga recs are Vincent Arroyo and Araujo.

                    Best of all is Schramsberg, the bubbly house just south of Calistoga, which makes some of the best (if not the best) sparkling wine in the US. The tour maybe a bit pricey, but it's well worth it. Beautiful setting also, and the caves are straight out of France. Don't miss it. Have a lovely time.

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                    Calistoga Inn
                    1250 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      I think I culled the CalMart rec from another one of your posts. It's on my itinerary -- if only to pick up some snacks to bed down the belly while wine tasting. I'd actually love to just pack a picnic lunch and visit one of the state parks one afternoon, too.

                      We're visiting Arroyo (another one of your prior recs, echoed by several friends). Hadn't previously looked into Montelena and Araujo, but I will -- thank you!

                      I tried to book a tasting at Schramsberg, but the weekend we're visiting is already fully booked, unfortunately.

                      Thank you, as usual, Maria. If you ever come out to the east coast, I hope to reciprocate!

                3. I just wanted to thank you for the recommendations, post trip. We visited Sol Bar, JoLe, La Luna Market and Cal Mart (for snacks). JoLe was our favorite overall for food, with great seared scallops, chicken liver and coconut cream pie. But Sol Bar was a very close second with its wonderful golden tomato soup. La Luna had very good tacos al pastor and the cashiers and counter men were awfully nice. Cal Mart was more decently priced than I expected for some basics like cheese and crackers. In general, we liked food in the Napa Valley a lot more than comparable establishments we've tried in San Francisco and East Bay (including Chez Panisse Cafe and Ame).

                  We went to Vincent Arroyo and Elyse for tastings, which we loved. The people at Elyse were so nice and genuine and the zinfandels we tried there were especially to our taste. Arroyo is small, but there were so many people there that it felt a little more like a big, industrial winery than a small operation. But the wines were very good.

                  Just to see what a big operation is like, we also went to Mondavi and Grgich. The good part about Mondavi was that the tour included a bit where you could taste a variety of grapes side by side. The bad part was that our tour guide at least was very boring and spent the entire time telling us about his own vineyard in France. The basic tour, which you can get for free in a lot of other places, and the tasting of three wines was not worth the $25, we did not think. At Grgich, we just did a tasting. Wines were ok, but the person who hosted the tasting was a bit too much of a salesman.

                  I think we need to come back next year to try more of the smaller wineries and Schramsberg and Ubuntu and Puerto Vallarta and....

                  We will be back!

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                  Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                  1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                  JoLe
                  1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 94515

                  Puerto Vallarta
                  301 Main St Ste A, Suisun City, CA 94585

                  1. Is the Martini House closing at the end of October. I read that in another post on CH.

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                    Martini House
                    1245 Spring St., St. Helena, CA 94574

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Littleman

                      If you don't trust Chowhound, whom do you trust.
                      http://sf.eater.com/archives/2010/10/...