Winecation: The Alpha Male’s Guide to Napa – Where to Eat

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

Homemade english muffin at The Model Bakery.
Homemade English muffin at The Model Bakery.

Burgers, pizza and deep-fried anything 

Try these casual locales for wine country’s best comfort food:

Hamburgers

Best burger in Napa? Andie's Cafe
Best burger in Napa? Andie’s Cafe

Pizza

Pizza at Oenotri.
Pizza at Oenotri.

Fried Chicken

Ad Hoc's famous buttermilk fried chicken...Yeah.
Ad Hoc’s famous buttermilk fried chicken…Yeah.
  • 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.

Diners

FremontDinerFront.w.Truck.July2010Web
Fremont Diner – Seriously, this is what it looks like.
  • The Fremont Diner, Sonoma, $$,  This run down, dive-ish diner is a Napa Valley staple with chickens running wild and flies galore. But the food is delicious, the service down-home hospitable and the experience, memorable.  Everyone goes there at least once.  Enjoy the view while you wait, this place is always packed.
  • Boon Fly Cafe, Napa, $$

Barbecue

Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin' BBQ
Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ

Seafood

My favorite dish at Hog Island Oyster Bar/Oxbow
My favorite dish at Hog Island Oyster Bar/Oxbow

Steak

Beef Wellington at Cole's Chop House
Beef Wellington at Cole’s Chop House
  • 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).

Yeah, it's that kinda place. Be prepared to come out your pocket...but it's totally worth it.
The French Laundry: Yeah, it’s that kinda place. Be prepared to come out your pocket…but it’s totally worth it.

Fancy-schmancy but not Michelin-starred. But then again, so what? You’ll still find some of the best gourmet fare at these establishments.

Find dining at Farm.
Fine dining at Farm.
  • 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 

Unwind in Napa with a craft beer and a game of pool.
Unwind in Napa with a craft beer and a game of pool at Billco’s.
  • 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.

Macchiato in hand, relax at Molinari Caffe
Macchiato in hand, relax at Molinari Caffe

Got a sweet tooth?  

Sate your appetite for chocolate, cupcakes and ice cream at these best-of-the-best locations:

Peanut brittle made w/a splash of beer – what the what? Yeah. And it’s goooood. At Anette’s.

Next up:  Winecation: The Alpha Male’s Guide to Napa – What to Do

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