There is more than wine in Wine Country. In fact, some of the best restaurants in Napa Valley are known around the world. From fine-dining firsts, to Michelin stars, and Bib Gourmands, there’s something for everyone here. Here are, in my opinion, the 6 best restaurants in Napa Valley.
The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil
While many know the Inn of the Sun as a luxurious place to rest their heads, others are aware that its beginnings as one of the top restaurants in Napa Valley is really where the gold lies. It’s a culinary legacy, the first of its fine-dining kind. It was founded by French restaurateur, Claud Rouas, in 1981, and has held synonymous with wine country cuisine ever since. The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil features seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors, prepared by Executive Chef Robert Curry, and has become a “must experience” culinary destination for visitors and locals alike.
Dine at The Restaurant for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, with specialty menus for every time of day. From Brioche French Toast, to the lunch menu du jour, to three or four courses at dinner, you’re sure to find something that will invigorate your taste buds and have you dying to try one of many luxurious desserts. Of course, you can’t miss pairing your meal with something from the award-winning 15,000 bottle cellar. While The Restaurant has been given 13 consecutive Michelin Star awards, it won’t just be the flavors that leave you amazed.
Ambiance is just as much a part of the dining experience as the food. Unwind in an intimate dining room, or take in the awe-inspiring vista views on the outdoor terrace. These panoramic views are some of the most desirable in the area. You’ll see neighboring vineyards and stunning sunsets outdoors, and even see some amazing paintings surrounded by one of a kind architecture.
The Restaurant at Meadowood
Considered a modern American restaurant, The Restaurant at Meadowood has been awarded three stars from the Michelin Guide San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country for nine years running. As in popular culture, the creators of this exquisite restaurant attempt to find meaning in every piece of the dining experience. From how they grow and procure products to how the food is prepared, they are relentless in their pursuit to make better food.
The Meadowood resort is one of the best Napa Valley resorts and has a 2.5 acre Culinary Farm which grows unique, seasonal crops using organic and sustainable techniques. Dishes utilize all edible portions of the plant and the plant’s life-cycle, this type of practice cultivates the broader mission of serving as a direct relationship between the natural landscape, the food system, and the community.
Chef Christopher Kostow presents an experience so prestigious that reservations are released on a limited basis, and booking well in advance is highly recommended. While this might make one of the best restaurants in Napa Valley seem like a stuffier atmosphere, dressed-up denim is welcome. You can enjoy the local California cuisine from the chef’s tasting menu, paired with wine selected by master sommelier, Gilles de Chambure, all while comfortably viewing Meadowood resort’s rolling grounds.
The French Laundry
A beautiful, two-story building in Yountville dates back to 1900, and is in the National Register of Historic places. It recently underwent a $10 million renovation with special attention to ergonomics and acoustics. All in the name of providing the best environment for world-class chefs. The French Laundry offers French cuisine that changes on a daily basis. The food is a commitment to classic French style, using the finest ingredients alongside impeccable guest service. Chef Thomas Keller came to Yountville in the early 1990s to fulfill a dream. He accomplished his dream when he founded The French Laundry, in 1994, after renovating the rustic cottage with his wife, Sally.
To offer the best food possible, the chef’s at The French Laundry carefully select suppliers that provide extraordinary products. From their growing methods, to how they raise their animals, nothing is overlooked. Then they highlight the hard work of these partners by executing dishes that elevate the fruits of their labors. A peek at the daily menu might include something as simple as mac and cheese, but you’ll notice hand cut pasta, or a sunny side up quail egg that accompanies Japanese Wagyu Steak.
Like other Napa Valley restaurants, you’re able to plan private events and choose from some of the best The French Laundry has to offer in menu selection to wine pairings. Reservations are a necessity, whether you’re planning to sample the Chef’s Tasting or the Tasting of Vegetables for you and a partner, or if your party of six plus would love to take in the Courtyard across from the culinary garden. The French Laundry is just as much a destination as the Yountville neighborhood it’s located in.
PRESS restaurant is located in St. Helena, and is considered a quintessential piece of wine country dining. Like many of the best restaurants in Napa Valley, PRESS is committed to sourcing only from the best purveyors. They hand select USDA Prime dry-aged beef, sustainable seafood, and vegetables from local farms. Their passion for the culinary arts and the land, people, and vines of Napa Valley is represented in everything they do.
The steaks they’re known for are grilled on an almond wood grill, and while it’s considered a modern steakhouse, you can also partake in oysters and wild caught shrimp. But what sets PRESS apart is that they have the largest collection of Napa Valley wines in the world. With a celebration of current vintages and wines dating back over 50 years, they understand exactly what visitors to and lovers of wine country are looking for.
The patio overlooks the Mayacamas mountains, and the private Edge Hill Room has views of the front courtyard and vintage wine press. Other private dining experiences include the Wine Cellar, their most exclusive and luxurious option, which is in the middle of three glass-encased wine rooms, with a private sound system that allows for a customizable experience unlike any other.
Morimoto Restaurant, Bar & Lounge
Chef Masaharu Morimoto has brought his native Japanese cuisine and made it desirable to the American palate. In 2010, Morimoto Napa was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best U.S. Restaurant Openings,” and it isn’t hard to see why. From delicious land and sea options, to the traditional sushi, every taste bud can find something here.
Upon entering the restaurant, you won’t step directly into the dining room, first you’ll find yourself among accessories that Chef Morimoto is famous for. Knives, dishes, and glassware are among the options available. Beyond the retail space is a modern open dining floor plan with contemporary seating. Mounted around the room are 50 year old local cabernet grape vines that are stripped down to reveal their veins, ensuring the Napa essence isn’t lost. Morimoto Napa offers riverside dining with a beautiful terrace, wrought iron chandeliers, and a color scheme meant to invoke a soothing atmosphere.
It is highly recommended to order Omakase for your table, as it is a multi-course tasting menu designed to help you experience the full essence of Morimoto’s cuisine. The restaurant features a raw bar, cold and hot appetizers, and entrees like Duck Duck Goose and Seafood Toban Yaki. The lounge has a more relaxed feel and a full sushi menu if you desire a taste of the traditional Morimoto cuisine.
Anyone looking for authentic Mexican cuisine in Napa Valley can look no further than Gran Eléctrica in downtown Napa. Chef Ignacio Beltran comes from Mexico and keeps his menu rooted in Mexican cooking techniques. With fresh hand-pressed tortillas, house-made crema and queso fresco, and spicy chorizo which is made on site, it’s no wonder Gran Eléctrica has been recognized as one of the best of the best.
Every year, after Michelin Stars are awarded, a “Good Little Restaurants” guide is published featuring “Bib Gourmands,” delightful little restaurants selected by Michelin guide inspectors for great value for money. Gran Eléctrica brought this pedigree with it upon its move to Napa Valley, proving that delicious, fine food doesn’t have to be expensive.
Alongside its house-made delicacies, the traditional Mexican restaurant has adopted wine country’s most sought after beverage. Featuring natural wines from California producers by the glass or half bottle, diners can pair their favorite rosé with tacos at brunch. Of course, there is Tequila and mescal when you prefer not to stray too far from tradition. My favorite is their cucumber margaritas. I actually taught the wonderful waiters at Casa de Mita in Punta Mita where I vacation every year, how to make them – Gran Electrica style.
Dine at the Best Restaurants in Napa Valley
There is so much to experience here. Restaurants in Napa Valley, have superb specialties for everyone, from fine dining to great value cuisine. Be sure to pair your cuisine with some of Wine Country’s best, by taking advice from the expert sommeliers at each top restaurant in Napa Valley. And, as always, when you’re ready to turn your vacation destination into home, I’m ready to help you make that a reality.