When you think of wine country vacations, lazy days of wine tastings, Michelin-starred meals and gatherings at art bars might come to mind. This is what my U.S. Marine husband thought and why he distinctly did not want to go – at first.
After I promised to create an itinerary designed to please his Alpha male temperament, he relented and decided to look forward to a vacation sans children. And I eagerly went about researching the various ways a man, who does not like wine, loves comfort food, has a fetish for log cabins, and would rather join a pickup game of basketball than rub shoulders with elegantly dressed aficionados of the grape, could have a good time.
The Napa Valley has an abundance of dining establishments to select from, rather it be a diner, a pizzeria or an elegant steakhouse. But for my husband who seriously loves his meat and potatoes, I researched extensively to find the best of the best in comfort food and hearty fare. Here are the restaurants I found for him. And I think your hunk of burning love will also appreciate them.
I love compiling best of and my most favorite lists, but don’t take my word for it! Always do your due diligence and check review sites like Yelp.com or TripAdvisor to get a more rounded perspective. By the way, most places take reservations. OpenTable.com is your friend in Napa Valley. I used it every day and for almost every single meal.
Start the day with a hearty home style breakfast
- Boon Fly Cafe, Napa, $$
- Grace’s Table, Napa, $$
- The Model Bakery, Napa, $$
- Napa Valley Biscuits, Napa, $$
Burgers, pizza and deep-fried anything
Try these casual locales for wine country’s best comfort food:
- Oenotri, Napa, $$$, A little pricey but so elegant and simple, your tough guy will appreciate the feng shui esthetic and delicious food. Get there early for a quiet lunch à deux.
- The Red Grape Pizzaria, Napa, $$
- Papa Joes, Napa, $$
- Bistro Don Giovanni, Napa, $$$
- Ad Hoc – Famous chef, Thomas Keller’s (owner of The French Laundry, Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery) neighborhood restaurant for casual fare, this place constantly tops everybody’s best buttermilk fried chicken list.
The Fremont Diner, Sonoma, $$, This run down, dive-ish diner is a Napa Valley staple with chickens running wild and flies galore. But the food is delicious, the service down-home hospitable and the experience, memorable. Everyone goes there at least once. Enjoy the view while you wait, this place is always packed.
Boon Fly Cafe, Napa, $$
Emmy Lou’s Diner, Napa, $
- Bounty Hunter Wine Lounge & Smokin’ BBQ, Napa, $$
- Red Rock Cafe & Back Door BBQ, Napa, $$
- Hog Island Oyster Co., Napa, $$$, (the oyster po’boys are tops!) (inside Oxbow Market)
- Cole’s Chophouse, Napa, $$$$ – Steaks are like bud-dah. And the sides are awesomer.
So, you didn’t go to Napa, not to have at least one fine dining experience. Here are a few not to be missed spots. Put on your Sunday best and eat a meal, of which, even Chef Ramsay would approve.
Michelin-starred restaurants (make reservations two to three months out).
- The French Laundry, Three stars, Yountville, $$$$
- Meadowood Restaurant, Three stars, St. Helena, $$$
- Auberge du Soleil, One star, Rutherford, $$$$
- Solbar, Calistoga, One star, $$$
Fancy-schmancy but not Michelin-starred. But then again, so what? You’ll still find some of the best gourmet fare at these establishments.
- Farm, Napa, $$$
- Brix, Napa, $$$
- Mustard’s Grill, Yountville, $$$
- Grace’s Table, Napa, $$, Also serves a wonderful breakfast or brunch.
Tired of the bouquet swirling? Head to a bar: Dive, sports and pool – yes, Napa has’em all
- The Green Door, Napa, $ Awesome or horrible depending on the day. Dive bar? Definitely. Enter at your own risk.
- Henry’s Cocktail Lounge, Napa, $ Say it with me: Dive, Divier, Diviest
- Stone’s Sports Bar & Lounge, Napa, $ No food and no credit cards. Just drinks and big screens. Happy?
- Billco’s Billiards and Darts, Napa, $$ 60+ beers on tap plus bottles, bar food and lots of locals
In need of a good, strong cup of coffee? Your welcome.
Even though there is a centrally-located, ubiquitous coffee chain in Napa, try some of the locally owned coffee shops. You won’t be disappointed.
- Molinari Caffe, Napa, $
- Ritual Coffee, Napa, $$ (inside Oxbow Market)
- Blend Cafe, Napa, $$ (inside the Meritage Resort)
Got a sweet tooth?
Sate your appetite for chocolate, cupcakes and ice cream at these best-of-the-best locations:
- La Foret, $$$, Napa
- Anette’s Chocolate Factory, $$, Napa
- Sweetie Pies, $$ Napa
- Three Twins Ice Cream, $$, Napa