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Restaurant Recommendations in Napa and Sonoma

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We are planning a five-day trip with three days in Napa (staying in St. Helena) and two days in Sonoma (staying in Kenwood). We are looking for recommendations for meals, lunch and dinner, in both areas.

We've spent a fair amount of time in Napa and have our favorites, but we haven't been in the past couple of years. We'd love to hear recommendations for new and exciting restaurants in the area.

And for Sonoma, we have a blank slate, so we'd love any recommendations.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I like Vineyards Inn. If you're staying in Kenwood, you could walk there.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673401

    1. Lots and lots of existing threads you might want to start with and then ask specific questions from there:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/864395
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919577
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919734
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919754
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919107
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/918177
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/916944
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/916302
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/907044
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/901722

      1. Guidance pls. What are your favorites in Napa and what do you like to eat there? When you say "new and exciting", that covers a very wide territory of cuisines and market segments.

        If you don't like Portuguese there's no point in going to Cafe Lucia/La Salette, or if one of your party dislikes Mexican/Latin then you would probably skip Matteo's. Were you looking for pizza at Redd Wood or upscale Cal-French at Etoile? There's the Glen Ellen Inn with their amazing calamari with a grilled pineapple salsa that knocked my DH's socks off (and he doesn't even like pineapple!), or would you rather pop over the hill for fine Breton cooking at the little French place, Bistro 29 in Santa Rosa?

        Or maybe you hate pineapple and gag at French food...we just don't know, lol.

        8 Replies
        1. re: jaiko

          Fair enough. There are just so many options up there. I'd say stick to French, Mexican, and this general new American/California. I am happy just to hear what people would call their Top Five favorites in either locale.

          One night in Napa we will be eating dinner with a five-year-old, so we need one night of a family friendly option and our dining partner that night is a meat-and-potatoes sort of guy. Some guidance here would be very helpful.

          Our favorites in Napa are Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, and the Bounty Hunter. I like, but don't love, Mustards.

          One night in Sonoma I need a killer birthday dinner place, but he'd prefer a laid-back, comfort food, gastro pub sort of an experience, not so much a fancy meal.

          1. re: christinemmc

            The best French in the valley is Bistro Jeanty, hands down. The rest are sort of Cal-French.

            For your family-friendly night, look no further than Grace's Table. Best food in the valley for its offering and will accommodate every's needs, from meat-and-potatoes to your 5-year old. Your other option for family night is to head to Oxbow Market where everyone can get what they want, from duck tostados at C Casa to oysters at Hog Island to killer pizza at Ca'Momi.

            Here are my Top Five in the valley (not in order):
            1. Grace's Table
            2. Bistro Jeanty
            3. Goose & Gander
            4. Farmstead
            5. JoLe

            For Mexican, look at La Condesa for intriguing and original Mexican cuisine.

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              Any feedback on Cindy Pawlcyn's?

              1. re: christinemmc

                I know people who love it. I'm not a huge fan but - in general - I'm not a fan of Mexican fusion flavors.

                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  Which one has that kind of food please? We've only eaten at her Backstreet Kitchen which we liked a lot.

                  And agree that Goose & Gander is terrific.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Her Backstreet is Mexican fusion. She also has the Wood Grill & Wine Bar which is too mainstream for me and Mustard's which I find pedestrian in its HUGE hunks of meat offerings.

                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                      http://www.cindysbackstreetkitchen.co...

                      I guess I'm not seeing that. Sure a couple of things but overall not.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I think because most of the folks I've dined with have always targeted the tacos, tostadas, tamales, etc - and daily specials - that it is what I have remembered.

                        Honestly, the whole restaurant is mostly forgettable from my standpoint, but I have had friends who adore it.

        2. Lunch in Sonoma
          El Molino
          VJB in Kenwood serves great coffee and nice salads & pizza good for lunch - esp mid week at w'ends little crowded

          Might want to check out Sante at Mission Inn for fancy dinner
          Have been hearing good things again about harvest moon on square in Sonoma
          Hop Monk has perfectly good but nothing special pub offerings but can be pretty busy
          Check local papers also for special events - Ramekins does special theme dinners at times as does The Grange - could be a more fun and unique event

          1. For your 2 days in Sonoma, if you are staying in Kenwood you have few options. I haven't been to the Vineyards Inn in a long, long time, so can't comment on it current status. A very fun, casual place is Cafe Citti. Sort of a "Italian" pub feel (you order at the counter, but they have table service). The wine list is mediocre at best, but they often don't charge corkage, so if you are wine tasting, buy an extra bottle for dinner there. I love their ravioli and roast chicken. The Caesar salad is often "hot" with raw garlic and is an acquired taste (not one I have acquired, but DH likes it). Kenwood Restaurant is being remodeled by new owners, and doesn't seem to be open yet.

            However, Kenwood is close to Glen Ellen. I like the Fig Cafe (no corkage). Glen Ellen Star is new and hot, but I have only been there once so can't comment in any depth. We did like it the one time we ate there.

            Kenwood is also half way between Sonoma (I like La Salette and Cafe LaHaye best in town) and Santa Rosa (I like Bistro 29 and Willi's Wine Bar really well but there are lots of options since it is the "big city" of Sonoma County).

            1. Doce Lunas is in Kenwood. We thought it was a decent 1.5 - 2 star, but we have friends who love it (they're more budget-constrained than we are). An old-fashioned Hawaii-meets-Continental menu; generous portions, low prices. The kind of place where the waiters and cooks chat with the customers about local city politics and PTA mtgs:
              Doce Lunas
              8910 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452
              (707) 833-4000

              Sonoma is so big, especially with the traffic jam that will occur when the new Graton Casino opens Nov 5 (today) off Hwy 101, that one really has to stay within reasonable drivetime of where your hotel is. I prefer to stay up in Windsor and eat in Healdsburg and Sebastopol, where I like the restaurants much better than Sonoma, city of, itself.

              Our favs in the Healdsburg/Sebastopol area are: Hole in the Wall, K&L Bistro, Bistro 29, and Bravas Tapas. Bravas is superior to Willi's; they are both owned by Stark Group. Hole/Wall is very plain and simple, but the food is amazing. Bistro 29 is Breton cuisine.

              K&L makes the best vinaigrettes and an updated Crepes Suzette around - I am fussy to the point of being anal about improperly dressed salads and unbalanced vinaigrettes. K&L always flawlessly matches the type of vinaigrette to the type of lettuce, one of those small attentions to details that shows a kitchen with meticulous execution.

              We also like Le Bistro in Petaluma which is Continental/French, but that's on the southern end of Sonoma Cty.

              1. I wanted to thank everyone for their feedback! We had a great time. The highlights were:

                Ciccio in Yountville: super pizza and to-die-for good roasted cauliflower. Wine list was specific to one winery, Altamura, but we had a nice bottle.

                Farmstead: Absolutely killer happy hour, with magical little cheese biscuit/ham sandwiches and pretty good wine on tap.

                Pawlcyn's Wood Fire Grill: Totally a good meal and 100% kid friendly, but nothing super exciting.

                Girl and the Fig: lovely, lovely birthday dinner.

                Winery highlights, for both excellent wines and excellent experience, included: Peter Michael (if you can get an appt, do it!), Outpost (on Howell Mountain), Thomas George (wonderful and affordable), 7&8, Sherwin Family, Alpha Omega (I love their proprietary red blend).

                1. We just got married up in Sonoma, so we tried a few places. I love the Girl and the Fig! It's good for lunch or dinner, if you go for lunch the pork belly sandwich is really good.

                  Also, we didn't get to stop here but the Harvest Moon Cafe was raved about by most locals that we met. It's on our agenda to try next time. I would also recommend Cafe La Haye!

                  For breakfast we ate at El Dorado kitchen and it was quite good. We also had beers and appetizers at Hopmonk Tavern which was very casual but had a great beer menu if you like beer. Gotta try Pliny the Elder (also available at Girl and Fig).