March 6, 2023
When traveling to Napa Valley, eating at the best Napa restaurants is a must! With so many tourists and locals, there are simply not enough peak-season peak time reservations to go around. I would recommend months (yes months) ahead…but where to go? We are constantly scouting good restaurants in Napa Valley for our clients at Danielle Gibson Events. Today we are sharing not only our favorite restaurants for dinner but what to order, where to sit, and if they offer private event spaces. Come on, what else can you ask for? (We are not paying the check! -lol)
Our best restaurants are listed in alphabetical order by towns in Napa Valley from south to north.
Nestled in downtown Napa, Angèle’s menu sources produce native to Northern California to create delicious meals inspired by the French countryside.
What to Eat: For an appetizer start with the Pâté de Champagne made in-house and served with mustard, cornichons and yummy Acme Bread Co. baguette. The beef tartare is also excellent and the mussels & fries will have you wiping the bowl with those last few frites! The Classic french menu items are all fantastic but if a burger is what you crave, you won’t be disappointed.
What to Drink: Start with a cocktail from their creative list as you settle in, then pair your meal with one of the many offerings from the Rhone/Burgundy-driven wine list either by the bottle, carafe, or glass. California fans can find an ample selection of hometown favorites here too.
Where to Sit: Ambience abounds here so you can’t go wrong sipping and grazing at the bar with locals or finding a cozy corner in the rustic chic dining room. Either way, you will feel like you’ve been whisked away to Provence. Al Fresco dining is also an option on their outdoor terrace overlooking the Napa River. They also offer a small private dining space near the end of the bar that seats about 12 people.
Inspired by his mother, owner Giovanni Scala and his wife Donna brought their dream to life by creating this classic, Napoli influenced, Napa Valley institution. The many different spaces here make it a favorite for locals, valley visitors, and larger groups looking for private space for up to 50 guests. Book it well out though, BDG is BUSY.
What to Eat: This place is busy for a reason- everything on the menu is great! Pastas are handmade, in-house daily, and the star of the show. We recommend the ravioli with tomato sauce AND lemon cream sauce. (They will do a split for you!)
What to Drink: They feature plenty of incredible Italian wines but a local fave is the Monticello Brothers “Rolando Rosso” Napa Valley red. Save room for dessert and a sip of one of their soothing Amaro selections. Their tiramisu is outstanding, as well as their seasonal sorbets and ice creams…if coconut is on the menu, it’s a must!
Where to Sit: Depends on your mood…the bar is available for dinner, as well as their banquettes for walk-ins, but for the dining room and expansive outdoor patio reservations are required.
Located on Main St. (downtown) Napa in a building that dates back to the 1800s, Bounty Hunter brings an old western saloon vibe that is both cool and inviting. With an incredible variety of snacks, sandwiches, BBQ and sides, we guarantee there’s something on the menu for everyone!
What to Eat: The pimento cheese dip is a great way to get started. Then move to their Smoking BBQ Platter, you get a little of everything and it’s fun to share. The Beer Can Chicken is a signature item of the house and always makes quite a statement when it hits the table. The sauces are great and range from spicy to sweet to tangy so don’t be shy and try them all!
What to Drink: Believe it or not his BBQ joint has been voted “Best Wine Bar in Napa Valley” five years in a row! Choose from a selection of wines on their retail shelves, by the glass, or in a fun flight. You will also find an incredible whiskey program that will wow any Bourbon nut and a great beer selection to boot.
Where to Sit: The restaurant is small with high-top bar tables and a large community table. They also have a nice size bar to enjoy a beverage while you wait for a table. If you are looking for a private spot for a group, they have a private dining room upstairs with a reception area to comfortably accommodate about 20 people.
For over twenty years, Cole’s Chop House has occupied the historic Williams-Kyser Building and has become an integral part of Napa’s downtown restaurant scene. Mention “steakhouse” to any local and Cole’s is sure to be at the top of their list.
What to Eat: A classic steak house that always serves up a fantastic meal with genuine, inspired service. Choose from classic appetizers – Oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, etc. (you get it) and then a steak grilled just the way you like it. For sides go with the Yukon Gold Potato and Gruyère Gratin and do not forget to save room for the Pecan Pie for dessert.
What to Drink: Spend the money to pair a big Napa Cabernet with your steak, or opt for the smaller pour (for a smaller price) of something you wouldn’t necessarily splurge on. Nationally recognized as a “Great Bourbon Bar of America,” you will be impressed with their rare and extensive collection.
Where to Sit: The bar and small bar tables are always full, but if you have the patience to hang around it will be worth seeing the local scene and vibe. They have a large two-story dining room with upstairs seating that looks down on the main dining room. This upstairs could also be a location for a somewhat private dinner. Like many they have erected a spacious outdoor tent that looks like it will be around for a while and feels both safe and comfortable.
Compline is a haven for friends and family to come together and enjoy a warm cozy evening with delicious food and of course, a bottle of wine. This welcoming atmosphere is the perfect place to spend your evenings, especially in the upcoming warm months.
What to Eat: We love everything on the changing menu, but we sometimes save our burger and (duck fat) fries craving for Compline.
What to Drink: Pair your meal with one of the many wines they have in both the retail shop and on the list, from around the world. (They now have a tasting room down the street that is a must-visit for wines around the world!) Ask for suggestions with the wine! They have curated a diverse selection of wines and trained the staff to fluidly help you navigate through them. Their stemware and service is a treat too, you’ll feel fancy!
Where to Sit: They have a small bar where you can enjoy dinner, as well as a dining room, but I most enjoy their lounge area which features a glass garage door opening up to their outdoor dining courtyard.
Owned by Mick Salyer, Zuzu and La Taberna both are hugely successful due to his 30 years in the restaurant business. Dedicated to providing guests with the best Spanish experience, Salyer combines Spanish influenced food with only the freshest, local ingredients. Pick either restaurant and you’re guaranteed a great time!
What to Eat: Both restaurants serve tapas driven cuisine, so try a little of everything. They always have new additions to the menu so ask about the specials. At Zuzu, definitely try the paella at your table.
What to Drink: When eating Spanish food, drink Spanish wine. They have many choices and are knowledgeable about their list, so ask questions to find the best option for your palate. They do not offer spirits but feature an inspired selection of mouth-watering vermouth-based cocktails. At La Taberna, try drinking from the Porron!
Where to sit: Both restaurants don’t take reservations and their dining rooms are small. La Taberna is on the more casual side as the seating is all pub tables and bar seats (like a traditional tapas bar), whereas Zuzu has dining tables and a bar. Both restaurants boast an outdoor seating area.
Ask a local how to get into the speak-easy that is hidden between the two restaurants.
When thinking of Oenotri, the first word that comes to mind is “fresh”. During peak season, up to 80% of the produce featured on their menu is harvested daily from their own small farm.
What to Eat: If you haven’t got your wine country cheese and charcuterie fix yet, definitely try their house-cured salumis. Their take on prosciutto is “melt in your mouth” buttah. Thank me later.
Pizza – either be safe with a margarita or get crazy and order one of their special combinations or just pick toppings and DIY.
Pasta – Their offerings are always changing, but they are always delicious and all pastas are made in-house.
What to Drink: For wine pairing, ask the Sommelier to pair an Italian wine with your dinner for you. They have a large selection of Italian wines at all price points. So maybe skip the Napa wine, haven’t you had enough Napa wine by now?
Where to Sit– The bar is always available for dinner and also where the cool kids congregate (but small, so timing is key). The surrounding dining room has great energy that emanates from the open kitchen and wood-fired pizza oven. Always a great vibe that will nourish your food soul.
With a proud emphasis on the lack of “pomp and circumstance”, TORC’s menu brings plenty of “foodie firepower” in a relaxed environment in downtown Napa.
What to Eat: Order small plates instead of an entree. Our favorites are deviled eggs, pakora, hamachi crudo, lobster risotto, and coconut basmati rice. Anything seasonal on this menu is always done creatively with stand-out flavors.
What to Drink: Start with a fabulous cocktail from their list of creative offerings. Their wine by the glass program is strong and the bottle list flexes even more muscle, so serious winos get ready to rumble!
Where to Sit: Enjoy a variety of seating options indoors and outdoors. As the weather warms up we recommend reserving a spot in their backyard patio or enjoy eating in the front of the restaurant, or as they call it “sidewalk shenanigans”!
We have some new additions in town! I haven’t had the chance to write about them yet, but I definitely recommend going to Scala (from the owners of Bistro Don Giovani) and Rutherford Family Pizza (this one is outside of downtown Napa).
Thomas Keller’s take on casual comfort food, can you go wrong? Named by The San Francisco Chronicle and Food & Wine Magazine as one of their top restaurants to try in any region, visiting Ad Hoc is simply a must.
What to Eat: Ad Hoc has one menu a night, which makes it easy, no choices! Oh but there are choices that you don’t know about. They offer a special addition every night that you can add to the meal. If they are offering the caviar as an add on, don’t hesitate, and have it with champagne. They also offer a fish dish for you pescatarians, ask your server. The daily menu is a four-course prix fixe for $56. And don’t skip the bread, it’s worth the carbs.
What to Drink: Start with a cocktail, they have some creative options to choose from, and then wine. The team has made it easy for you, they pair the wines with each course. If you are into pairing, it’s the way to go.
Where to Sit: Unfortunately their outdoor patio is really small, so anywhere in the mid-sized dining room is a good seat. If you are a party of 2 and don’t have a reservation sit at the bar and enjoy the option of ordering a la carte.
The only French-owned and operated restaurant in the Napa Valley, guests here are guaranteed an authentic meal, prepared by the owner himself, Chef Phillippe Jeanty. Be prepared to post a few snaps to Instagram because their presentations are beautiful!
What to Eat: They have lots of French standards on their menu and a large selection of specials every day. The classics – French onion soup, tomato soup in a pastry puff, escargot, pâté, coq au vin and steak tartare, to name a few. Oui Chef!
What to Drink: French restaurant = French wine all the way. We also recommend drinking your dessert, they have a sweet dessert drink menu that will tempt everyone at the table.
Where to Sit: The dining room is split into two sections, each with its own charm. You can also grab a chair at their bar or sit outside under their large, covered patio. Tres Bon!
Another Thomas Keller classic, you just can’t go wrong here. Their menu has a few winning staples, but they do offer a few seasonal features as well. Regardless of what you order, everything is delicious as you would imagine Thomas Keller’s French bistro to be.
What to Eat: Go big and start with oysters and finish off with a dessert. Eat the bread, it’s worth it. I recommend sharing plates so you can try as many of these delicious flavors as possible
What to Drink: Get your bubbles on! Bouchon boasts an extensive selection of Champagne to set that sexy tone and stimulate the palate. Or enjoy a classic cocktail followed with a bottle (or glass) from their large selection of French and California wines.
Where to Sit: Anywhere you can, lol! Reservations are not always easy to come by. You can eat at the bar, but it’s small. There are a few tables outside in the courtyard next to Bouchon Bakery where you’ll enjoy some of the best tourist-watching Napa has to offer… Sante’!
Owned by Chef Christopher Kostow, Ciccio is the place to go for a relaxed evening with friends. Locals love this place for good reason, their hospitality and warm atmosphere are guaranteed to bring you back on future trips!
What to Eat: Their menu is always changing but I like to eat a little bit of everything. Start with a salad, they always focus on fresh, unique ingredients. For your main, they are known for their pasta and pizza, but when in doubt, ask your server for suggestions because they won’t steer you wrong. If the Pork Milanese is offered that night, order quickly before it sells out!
What to Drink: Start with a Negroni, they spin a few different takes on this classic so be sure to pick the one that suits you.
Where to Sit: The dining room is cozy and warmly spaced with tables and booths. The bar is small, but you can eat dinner there if you get lucky. A perfect place for a casual private party
Dedicated to the guest experience and great service, R+D Kitchen delivers great food and beverages with amazing consistency.
What to Eat: You might be surprised to see that R+D has sushi on its menu. They do, and it’s good. Actually, everything on their menu is. You can bank on that Hillstone consistency and service, coupled with style and location. The portions are generous and come out of the kitchen tasting just as you remember and expect.
What to Drink: They have a large selection of Napa wines by the glass that are always a large pour and come accompanied by a smile. They also make great classic cocktails with one of the best margaritas in the valley.
Where to Sit: They have a large bar where you can eat dinner as well as a medium size dining room with lots of cozy booths. Their outdoor space is a perfect gathering place for a pre-dinner cocktail or after dinner in an Adirondack chair by the firepit with views of their vegetable garden.
Highly Honorable Mention
The French Laundry, of course! It’s difficult to reserve a table and a Michelin three-star expensive experience. Believe the hype, but don’t take my word for it, you can Google all the good reviews and his lounge for caviar and champagne.
Founded in 1981, Auberge du Soleil is considered by many as Napa Valley’s first fine-dining establishment. With an emphasis on the importance of utilizing fresh ingredients, the menu is filled with delicious French-inspired foods.
What to Eat: The lunch menu can be approached more casually with a burger and fries, a seasonal pasta dish, or a classic country-style pate. If you’re feeling fancy, the dinner experience can be the quintessential, world-class, multi-course experience that you create a lasting memory.
What to Drink: Their spirits program is top notch and they stir up some clever cocktails as you would expect. They also have an extensive selection of wines from around the world (over 15,000!) so they will certainly have something special to pair with whatever you choose to eat.
Where to Sit: Sit on the terrace for an unrivaled vista of the Napa Valley. The restaurant and the bar both have terraces that offer incredible views of the wine country landscape. If you can’t get a reservation on the terrace for lunch, head over to the bar terrace at noon when it opens for a first come first served approach to the terrace seating. If you can’t sit on the terrace, have a drink at the bar and wait, it’s worth it. (Grab the seat at the bar that has a window to the outside view in the meantime!) Even if it’s a cool day you can sit outside since they have built-in heaters on the deck.
Cindy Pawlcyn helped shaped the way Napa Valley eats and practically coined the term Wine Country cuisine. Her iconic restaurant, Mustards Grill has served Napa’s savviest locals and visitors for over 30 years and continues to be one of the go-to places in the Valley.
What to Eat: Corn tamales, ahi tuna crackers, seafood tostada and the Mongolian pork chop. As they say on their menu, “Sorry, Everything is Delicious”, and that’s true!
What to Drink: So many wines, so little time. Stay in the state of California, but try a few half bottles, they have an extensive list and it will give you the opportunity to pair with your courses.
Where to Sit: They have a bar, medium size dining room and outdoor seating in the garden. If it’s warm out, head to the garden.
When it comes to American comfort food, Rutherford Grill has everything you can imagine. All of it is served with their trademark consistency and unmistakable flavors that the valley has grown to crave.
What to Eat: The artichoke when it’s in season, spinach and artichoke dip, cornbread, and the French dip with a side of horseradish cream. There are many more items to choose from that are fantastic and fun. The ribs are amazing and the portions are large. Don’t be shy and share a few things if you’d like to taste as much as possible!
What to Drink: Napa wine. They will have interesting bottles that you might not find elsewhere.
Where to Sit: Sit at their large bar and meet Napa industry locals having lunch, and maybe going back to work…maybe not? They have a medium size dining room and an outdoor bar that’s fun to have a cocktail while you wait to be seated.
Opened in 2017 by 3 Michelin Star holding Chef Christoper Kostow, Charter Oak was created to pay homage to his love of the Napa Valley. This restaurant serves a dual purpose as a community hotspot and local watering hole as well as a world-class dining destination for our foodie friends visiting from all over.
What to Eat: The menu is highly seasonally driven so enjoy the top-notch ingredients and the inspiration chef is working with at the moment. The double patty cheeseburger is downright decadent and delish so there’s always that to fall back on if you’re in burger mode…burger never fails!
What to Drink: The cocktails here are as inspired as the food menu so maybe step a little out of your comfort zone and experience something truly unique. They also feature a few drinks in a “punchbowl” style for fun and festive crowd pleasers. Cheers!
Where to Sit: The main dining room is handsome and spacious accenting the high ceilings and exposed brick wall. An expansive courtyard patio wraps around most of the restaurant and is definitely the place to be for a sun-basked, boozy brunch.
Located in downtown St. Helena, Cook St. Helena is chef/owner Jude Wilmoth’s love letter to his home town. A local favorite, this place is a must-go if you find yourself nearby!
What to Eat: Burrata, chopped salad, mussels with sausage in spicy tomato broth, braised short rib, and homemade pastas (changes frequently). Save room for our favorite desserts, the mundae and the flourless chocolate cake.
What to Drink: Go for the small family owned Napa wine producers on their wine list. No spirits here but the wine program is diverse and inspired. Perfect for the venue!
Where to Sit: The bar! It’s a long bar where everybody knows your name.(literally, welcome to St. Helena!) The rest of the room is small and intimate. The table in the front window is always fun and offers some great downtown sidewalk scene surfing.
Do you love Farmer’s Markets? us too! Housed in a former nursery barn, the restaurant at Farmstead makes you feel like you are dining in the middle of your local market. Don’t forget to stop by the general provisions store after your meal!
What to Eat: Much of their menu is sourced from their ranch and farms where they have an impressive herd of Scottish Highland Cattle. We always enjoy the mini ham sandwiches, kale salad, Dungeness crab roll (when in season), meatballs, and anything from the smoker.
What to Drink: Most of the wines by the glass are their own productions under their Long Meadow Ranch (LMR) label. They are solid wines and the bottle list is more diverse if you’d like more choices. Full bar program with awesome margaritas too!
Where to Sit: The “farmstead” is quite expansive with outdoor seating, indoor seating, and lots of event space for weddings and parties. All of them are good choices. They also have a tasting room on the property so keep that in mind for a casual and fun wine tasting before or after lunch.
For 15 years, PRESS has been delighting locals and visitors alike with its take on Napa Valley cuisine. A go-to place in the evening for wine industry locals, you know your meal will be delicious.
What to Eat: There’s a new chef in town with a new team, so I haven’t had the chance to try them out just yet. The food was always on point, so I would only imagine it still is.
What to Drink: PRESS is known for its extensive Napa wine list that was curated by Kelly White and Scott Brenner. A majority of their list is older vintages, so treat yourself and try one!
Where to Sit: The dining room is beautifully designed around the focal piece fireplace, but it gets real at the bar. Rub elbows with the best wine industry folks in Napa at the bar. There is also banquet seating by the bar that works well for groups too.
Located at the base of Mt. Lincoln, Sam’s is the place to go in Calistoga. With weekly specials inspired by the farmers they partner with, Sam’s is a great way to tap into what’s happening up-valley.
What to Eat: Ricotta crostini, grilled octopus, and the slow-roasted Prime Rib on Saturdays. With an ever-changing seasonal menu, ask your server for suggestions. Also a great place for brunch on the weekends.
What to Drink: Napa wines, by the glass or the bottle with a fun bar program to boot!
Where to Sit: The large dining room/bar area is a well designed room to enjoy dinner, but if the weather is nice, sit outside on their patio or maybe start with drinks around the fire pit. They have event space at the restaurant available for private dinners as well as at, Indian Springs the resort where they are located. See the party we hosted at “The Alley” event space at the restaurant.
-Danielle Gibson Events