Narrowing Napa Valley’s restaurants down to a few must-try options is nearly as impossible as singling out a handful of the region’s best wines. We couldn't include all the worthy contenders, but you can’t go wrong with these five:
1. La Toque
Chef Ken Frank heads this Michelin-starred restaurant where diners create their own multi-course experience by choosing three (or four) savory dishes plus a dessert. Selections are then served family style, allowing you and your dining partners to share a broad range of seasonal dishes such as bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, stuffed quail, and Florida frog legs. For an additional fee, the sommelier will pair wines to each course. Or, you can choose your own bottle from the more than 2,000 available selections.
Napa has its fair share of stellar resort restaurants, including the restaurant at Auberge du Soliel, with its incredible views, and Solbar, the on-site restaurant at Solage Calistoga. But, the restaurant at Meadowood gets the nod here for going above and beyond. Chef Christopher Kostow creates a specific menu for each table, taking into account guests likes, dislikes, and allergies (just try to find a menu on their website). The Michelin-starred restaurant is also known for its 9-course chef’s tasting menu that can be paired with wines from the 1,200-label cellar.
3. Ad Hoc
Intimidated by the thought of ordering from a custom menu? Thomas Keller, the man behind The French Laundry since 1994, has created another Napa Valley prix fixe institution with Ad Hoc. No ordering required. Just relax as the staff serves dinner family style. Two of the most popular dishes, fried chicken and barbecue, are available Thursday through Saturday for lunch at Addendum, Keller’s nearby food-to-go restaurant. A budget-friendly alternative to Ad Hoc, you can eat lunch at picnic tables in the surrounding garden.
Located in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, Hog Island Oyster Company offers a more relaxed and casual dining experience. As the name implies, the focus is on oysters – raw oysters, grilled oysters, and oyster po’ boy sandwiches – but the restaurant also serves fresh seafood, organic salads, and chowder. Don’t miss happy hour on Tuesday and Wednesdays when the restaurant offers half-priced oysters on the half shell. Hardcore fans of the shellfish can head to nearby Tomales Bay, where the company harvests its oysters, to buy fresh from the boat.
If you’re looking for something a little different, consider ZuZu. A weathered tin roof, faded colonial floor tiles, and the lively beat of Latin music set the stage at this downtown Napa eatery, featuring modern twists on tapas inspired by Spanish, Portuguese, and Mediterranean cuisines. You’ll find house-cured anchovies, braised pig tails, albondigas (pork meatballs), paella, and ceviche on the menu. Pair these small plates with limited-release wines from California, Spain, Italy, Portugal, South America, and New Zealand, many under $30.
Is your favorite Napa eatery on our list? If not, tell us about it!