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Napa/Sonoma/Calistoga Dining Recommendations

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My mom and I are headed out to Napa Valley mid-March to celebrate my birthday (a last minute decision so we do not have any reservations set up). We are in need of some excellent dining suggestions. Mainly looking for Dinner suggestions, but open to any must-not-miss spots. Any help is greatly appreciated as this is our first trip to Napa. We will be staying at the Solage Calistoga and will be renting a car. Also, any advice on the best way to get around the area if one is drinking would be greatly appreciated.

Would love to go to the French Laundry; however, it is out of our price range. In the $75-100pp range is what we would like to spend, but this is flexible. Also, we plan to bring our own wine we get at the vineyards. Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide. Looking forward to a fabulous trip!

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    1. It's hard to go stupidly wrong in the St. Helena/Yountville area. While the area does get a large amount of tourist traffic these days, they are rather well-informed eaters. So I can't imagine you eating anywhere where you will feel like you got conned or ripped off. I've never experienced anything less than a solid meal and solid service.

      On the other hand, (besides the French Laundry) I've never been super duper "wow-d" by a restaurant in the Napa Valley (though my experience isn't as extensive as many on this board), I've had very satisfying meals at Cindy's Backstreet, the Farmstead, and Redd.

      Thomas Keller's franchise is wearing a bit thin (IMHO) but I did like Addendum's fried chicken. I'd be a little wary of Bouchon or Ad Hoc though (again it won't be a tourist trap - it just may be rather unremarkable).

      1. You certainly can't go wrong at Solbar, Solage's restaurant (altho stay away from the Lucky Pig entree; Asian food for non-Asians that just didn't come off well). We've gone twice and both times been surprised at how wonderful the spa dishes are, beautifully made and flavorful.

        The chicken-noodle soup had a superb dark brown broth of roasted chicken bones and dried mushrooms, properly clarified. As good as anything I make at home, and I'm one of those people who always has a 1/2-gallon container of naturally gelled homemade stock in the frig.

        We loved Ca'Momi but would save it for dinner. The food is on the hearty side; if you have some starters you would be wise to share an entree. My spouse couldn't finish his oxtail rigatoni after we had the baccala and the sweetbreads, and he's a big eater (the kind who can knock off a 24-oz rib eye by himself).

        Because the days are shorter (even with DST beginning on 3/02), you might want to go someplace with a pretty view for lunch. We ate at The Grill at Meadowood Resort, and in the daytime it would be charming. At night it's an undistinguished DR; not to mention a nightmare driving that road in the dark!

        The food at The Grill was surprisingly good - second only to Ca'Momi @Oxbow on this trip - with an amazing turnip-macadamia soup and an asparagus flatbread with thin shavings of raw rhubarb that knocked our socks off.

        Service at both was excellent, as is usually the case if you go in the off-season. BTW, the Solbar waiter recommended on our next trip we try French Blue/St. Helena - the long-time Solbar chef de cuisine, Ryder Zetts, moved over to be the new executive chef at French Blue (FB restaurant is NOT associated with Solage Resort per se, but the Solbar restaurant agreed to take over mgmt of FB).

        So French Blue is on our list for next time - if you happen to try it, please do report back.

        Have fun and hope it doesn't rain on you, even if we do need it (smile)!

        2 Replies
        1. re: jaiko

          It might help to know that DST begins on March 9!

          1. re: zinfanatic

            Thanks for the correction - I crossed my dates as DST begins 3/09 and ends 11/02!

        2. Thank you for your recommendations. Has anyone dined at Torc? The menu looks interesting.