Where to Go Next: Napa and Sonoma
F&W’s roundup of the best restaurants in Napa and Sonoma, from an excellent burger joint backed by a top chef to swank resort dining rooms obsessed with local ingredients. For more great restaurants, check out our guide to the best places to eat in the country.
This spring, Doug Keane of Healdsburg’s Cyrus (an F&W Best New Chef 2006) took over this longtime hangout on the town square. The chef prepares perfect burgers that are especially good with his just-funky-enough truffle fries or a slab of Rogue Creamery blue cheese on top (or both). Even better: There’s no corkage fee.
© Angie Silvy
New chef Jeffrey Jake is a locavore: He sources most of his ingredients from within 150 miles of the Carneros Inn’s secluded 27-acre property in Napa. Under exposed wooden beams that mimic the shape of a barn roof, Jake sends out dishes like a delicate tuna carpaccio topped with beets and tiny bits of crispy potatoes. Gillian Balance, the Farm’s noted sommelier, encourages diners to sample a variety of wines, offering much of her 300-bottle list in three- and six-ounce pours. After dinner, guests can play boules (the traditional French bowling game) just a few steps beyond the dining room.
© Steven Rothfeld
Talented young chef Chris Kostow has transformed the food at this famous resort (its dining room was recently remodeled, too). His menu has a local emphasis, as in his Tomales Bay oysters from nearby Marin County, encrusted in rye bread crumbs. Imaginative dishes, like candied satsuma orange wedges topped with panna cotta, reflect his creativity.
© Laurie Smith
Cindy Pawlcyn has been a Napa fixture since she opened Mustard’s Grill in 1983. Her latest venture is dedicated to seafood, with a long menu that includes grilled Monterey Bay sardines as well as a great selection of sushi. (A tiny No Fish section of the menu offers chicken and rib-eye steak.)
This little restaurant on St. Helena’s main street has only 31 seats, 10 of them at the bar, so it’s best to arrive with a reservation or at an off-peak hour (the place is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.). The Cal-Med menu changes frequently but has some signatures: calamari with grilled lemons; eggplant Parmesan in creamy béchamel sauce; and succulent braised short ribs.
(Pictured top, right.) Longtime San Francisco chef and restaurateur David Gingrass had a hand in everything at St. Helena’s 25° Brix, from the staff to the recent redesign (with booths made out of wine barrels). Chef Carlos Cañada, a Gingrass vet, cooks some of the freshest food in Napa Valley using produce from the kitchen gardens, such as his tomato salad dressed with garlicky pecan pesto.
Starting an all-vegetable restaurant in Napa Valley, a region famed for producing the ultimate steak wine (Cabernet Sauvignon), takes either extreme optimism or talent. Jeremy Fox, an F&W Best New Chef 2008, has both. Dishes like his Anson Mills farro with ramp broth have so much flavor that meat starts to seem superfluous.
The formerly neglected downtown in the city of Napa is the Valley's new food frontier. One of its latest draws is the 40,000-square-foot Oxbow Public Market, founded by Steve Carlin, the visionary behind the market at San Francisco's Ferry Building. Read more about Oxbow's exceptional purveyors. Christine Quinlan
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Thomas Keller, one of the world’s great chefs, originally planned Ad Hoc as a placeholder for a burger spot. But the family-style restaurant became too popular to give up (Keller’s burger place will eventually be installed elsewhere). There’s a different four-course dinner menu for each night of the week; Monday’s buttermilk fried chicken is the overwhelming favorite.