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Top 10 restaurants in Napa Valley
Known first and foremost for its incredible wines produced from award-winning family-run vineyards, Napa Valley is also an excellent place for dining. Good food and good wine always go hand-in-hand, so it’s not surprising that the 100+ restaurants in the world-famous Californian county have collectively received more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region on the globe. This makes narrowing down the top 10 restaurants in Napa Valley more than a little bit challenging, but we’ve done it!
With a broad spectrum of restaurants specialising in everything from authentic Japanese cooking and classic French cuisine to New American comfort food and sustainably-farmed seafood, there’s such a huge variety of restaurants out there that you never have to eat the same type of food twice during your visit if you don’t want to. This is our pick of the top 10, chosen to help you get as excited about Napa Valley’s food scene as we are.
Where: 610 Main Street, Napa
The scene: The freshest quality ingredients, innovative cooking techniques and stunning presentation combine at this Morimoto venue in Downtown Napa where traditional Japanese speciality dishes are prepared in a creative way with locally-sourced American produce. The menu offers a stellar range of raw seafood, sushi and sashimi, along with excellent hot entrees which include a fantastic variety of hearty steaks. Some popular dishes are: the raw tuna pizza with anchovy aioli and the Hamachi tacos served with creamy avocado. But the star of the show is the ever-changing Morimoto omakase which is definitely worth the financial splurge. The grey-dominated décor with colourful pops of yellow, comfy armchair seating and long tables give the restaurant a business lunch feel, but you get plenty of couples and groups of friends making reservations. For something a bit more relaxed and casual, try the Momosan Lounge where you can sip premium sake and nibble on light bites, like sticky pork ribs with a tamarind glaze and maki rolls.
Signature dish: Morimoto omakase, a multi-course tasting menu that lets you try a selection of the very best dishes Morimoto Napa has to offer.
Goose & Gander
Where: 1245 Spring Street, St. Helena
The scene: Goose & Gander specialises in modernised American comfort food dishes and ingenious bar-style food served in the main dining room with a British pub feel, the quaint and cosy basement and the sun-dappled outdoor patio. The seasonally-driven menu is bursting with drool-worthy dishes, from artisan cheese platters and charcuterie boards to roasted half chicken with parsnip stuffing and duck confit cassoulet with braised bacon. As you’d expect from a restaurant in wine county, Goose & Gander boasts an exceptional selection of wines available by the glass or bottle, along with incredible featured cocktails like the must-try Cucumber Collins. Visit late on a Sunday morning to sample their delicious brunch offerings which cover everything from wood-roasted cauliflower with spiced yogurt to house-cured red trout benedict with salmon roe.
Signature dish: The G&G burger, made from grass-fed beef, gruyere cheese, bacon, remoulade and pickles, served with duck fat fries. Add bone marrow or foie gras for the ultimate indulgence.
The French Laundry
Where: 6640 Washington Street, Yountville
The scene: Owned by the highly acclaimed chef Thomas Keller, the French Laundry is set inside a stunning building that dates back to the 1900s and proudly features on the National Register of Historic Places. Exquisite French cuisine with an intriguing American twist is served inside this rustic two-storey stone cottage in the form of two tasting menus which are changed daily. Not one ingredient is ever repeated in each tasting menu. This culinary tactic is designed to leave you craving more, before the next other worldly mouthful comes along and makes you totally forget about the last. Each formal dining experience lasts three to four hours and although it can be a nightmare to get a reservation, the result is invariably an astonishing meal you’ll be telling people about for the rest of your life. After all, there’s a reason Anthony Bourdain called it “the best restaurant in the world, period”.
Signature dish: With the daily-changing tasting menus, there’s no signature dish.
Where: 1345 Railroad Avenue, St. Helena
The scene: One of the leading fine dining establishments in Napa Valley since 1988, Terra Restaurant is set inside a historic field stone building, creating a romantic French countryside cottage feel. The family that owns the restaurant also runs their own winery, Quixote Winery, so you can expect the wine list to be truly outstanding. The dinner menu features a selection of New American sweet and savoury dishes with subtle Japanese influences. Promoting creativity and flexibility, there is no set menu. Instead, you combine the dishes available to create your own four-, five- or six-course prix-fixe menu. The delicate dishes are served in relatively small portions, allowing you to sample a wide range of flavours, aromas and textures at each sitting. There’s also an extensive gluten-free menu just as lengthy as the standard menu and a small selection of delicious and reasonably priced cocktails that pair well with the food.
Signature dish: Broiled sake-marinated black cod served with a shrimp dumpling and shisho broth.
Where: 500 Main Street, Suite G, Napa
The scene: A popular favourite amongst locals and tourists, this riverfront Napa Staple serves upscale American cuisine in casual, relaxed surroundings. Dining options include the cosy main dining room where the atmosphere is reliably convivial, classy and warm and the outside courtyard, perfect for a relaxed meal al fresco. From crispy pork belly served with stir-fried soba noodles to wild king salmon served with sautéed spinach and beurre blanc, the menu at Celadon is loaded with flavour, despite its relatively small size. But having a limited selection of hot and cold starters, salads and main courses allows the chef team to fully focus on perfecting every plate that leaves the kitchen. The desserts, which range from the sweet chocolate mousse cake with fresh berries to the savoury macadamia-crusted goat cheese served with port-poached figs and crostini, are definitely worth leaving room for and come with suggested dessert wine pairings on the menu.
Signature dish: Moroccan braised lamb shank served with golden raisin and toasted almond couscous.
Where: 1180 Rutherford Road, Rutherford
The scene: Proudly serving Napa Valley since 1994, the Rutherford Grill is where local winemakers rub shoulders with visitors while enjoying incredible Napa wines along with fantastic modern American cuisine. Here you can sip on a perfectly-balanced glass of local wine on the sun-dappled patio before heading indoors and getting comfy at a family-style booth while you soak up the casual, friendly atmosphere. The menu is bursting with classics like cheeseburgers on house-made buns and slow wood-fire roasted rotisserie chicken served with wild rice, making it the perfect place to go for quality comfort food with a creative flair. The wine list is almost never ending, loaded with a huge selection of red, white, rose and sparkling wines from the Napa region and further afield. But if you’d rather bring your own bottle, you can do so without having to suffer any corkage fee.
Signature dish: USDA prime fillet – aged centre-cut beef tenderloin cooked exactly how you like it and served with creamy mashed potatoes and seasonal green vegetables.
Where: 6510 Washington Street, Yountville
The scene: Mirroring the quaint bistros of France where everyone welcomes you by your first name, Bistro Jeanty is the only French-owned and French-operated restaurant in Napa Valley. Step inside this charming eatery and you’ll feel immediately transported into another world. From the white linen delicately placed over the tables and the colourful retro artwork to the rustic pot and pan decorations and the heavenly smells swirling through the air from the kitchen, every tiny detail at Bistro Jeanty has been expertly designed to make you think of France. As you’d expect, the menu is largely French with a few American favourites and seasonal variations peppered throughout. Escagots with garlic butter, steak tartare with croutons and duck cassoulet all feature on the menu which concludes with delicate French cheese platters and rich, divine desserts. The lengthy wine list boasts a wide choice of local Napa labels and classic French bottles from the various regions of France.
Signature dish: Creamy tomato soup served in flaky puff pastry.
Galpao Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse
Where: 1990 Trower Ave, Napa
The scene: Inspired by the Gaucho culture and the traditional dining style of the Brazilian cowboy, Galpao Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse is best visited on an empty stomach. The gourmet selection includes 17 different cuts of meat which cover everything from lamb and chicken to beef, pork and fish. Not even cowboys survived on meat alone, which is why the excellent steakhouse also boasts an extensive salad bar with 40 different gastronomic delights including imported cheeses and artichoke hearts, plus robust side dishes like mashed potatoes and caramelised bananas served tableside. The contemporary space is refreshingly modern and upscale without even a hint of pretentiousness. The crisp white tablecloths and suited waiters that suggest fine dining contrast harmoniously with the customarily buzzing and upbeat atmosphere created by hungry diners full of anticipation. If you’re not up to the challenge of an all-you-can-eat meal, visit the bar where you can enjoy smaller portions of the items served in the main dining room.
Signature dish: Bottom sirloin marinated with Galpao Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse’s signature spices.
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
Where: 738 Main Street, St Helena
The scene: Set on a real working ranch, Farmstead is a rustic, intimate restaurant with such a magical romantic atmosphere that it’s often used for weddings. But when it’s not providing the perfect backdrop for the words “I do”, it’s one of the best places in Napa to sample soul-satisfying Cal-American cuisine. The farm-to-fork menu starts with a wonderful array of sharing platters including cheeseboards, charcuterie plates and mini sandwiches followed by a huge choice of starters and main courses. All the dishes focus on fresh, local ingredients cooked simply, allowing the honest flavours to shine through. And whenever beef or lamb appear on the menu, you can be sure they’re from grass-fed and sustainably-farmed animals. The eclectic wine list features bottles from all across Napa, including several from the ranch’s own vineyard. But if you’d rather bring your own, you’ve simply got to pay a minimal $5 corkage fee which is donated to charity.
Signature dish: Potato gnocchi served with smoked turnips, mushrooms, fall squash and pumpkin seeds.
Hog Island Oyster Company
Where: Oxbow Public Market, 610 1st Street, Napa
The scene: A stylishly modern oyster bar that attracts seafood-loving diners from all over the state, Hog Island Oyster Company serves hand-raised shellfish in cool, contemporary surroundings. The inside dining room is dominated by a giant floor-to-ceiling window which provides unparalleled views of Napa River, but that’s not where the outstanding food comes from. The oysters served up here are all grown and harvested at Tomales Bay, where clean cool water with an abundance of plankton results in oysters so rich, sweet and plump you’ll never be able to stop at just one. The menu features a wide variety of that day’s raw and baked oysters which include a sampling from other US regions, as well as Tomales Bay, along with crisp salads and all kinds of seafood specialities, like seafood chowder, seared local king salmon and oyster po’ boys.
Signature dish: Raw Hog Island Sweetwater (Pacific) oysters grown sustainably in Tomales Bay.