Best Places to Eat in California’s Napa Valley

Pair your favourite Napa wine with Valley-fresh fare for a sumptuous supper with your sipper

Credit: Natalie Walters

When you need a little sustenance to fuel your Napa Valley wine tastings, here’s where to chow down on food that’s as good as your vino

California’s Napa Valley is world renowned for its wine. The dry daytime heat and cooler evening temperatures are the perfect climate for growing grapes – especially reds and chardonnays. This ideal combination of weather and wine also makes it a desirable travel destination, and since every fine glass of wine deserves to be paired with a great meal, the restaurant scene in the Napa Valley is poised to match the region’s wine making excellence.

Deciding to visit this culinary capital is the easy part, but choosing where to grab a delicious dish can be an overwhelming task.

Here to help guide your dining experience are five of Napa Valley’s best restaurants, each chosen for its originality, fresh flavours, use of local ingredients and that extra special quality that sets them apart.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Best Spanish Tapas

The restaurant selection in downtown Napa has slimmed considerably since wineries started opening their own eateries just down the road. But one place that hasn’t experienced a set back is the bustling Spanish tapas restaurant Zuzu.

Candlelit tables, finely dressed waiters and an elegant bar make for a classy setting, while the hip music and hustle and bustle of the busy kitchen creates a vibrant atmosphere.

Sourcing all produce, meat and fish from local purveyors and growing what it can in their own gardens, Zuzu takes the term farm to table to heart. The kitchen is small and efficient; stocking only what is needed for that night’s dinner rush. This philosophy keeps the menu fresh and showcases how the Napa Valley is good at growing more than just grapes. One bite of the goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms and you’ll instantly fall in love with this chic little eatery and the flavour it packs into its tiny tapas dishes.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Best Mexican

Tangy, spicy, fresh and flavourful – all words you’d associate with a top-notch Mexican joint, and Maya in downtown Sonoma covers them all.

Stocked with a healthy selection of tequila, its margaritas are strong, tart and an excellent reason to stray from your glass of wine (just this once). Or, if you’re really attached to those grapes, the sangria, whether white or red, is fruity and smooth.

Aside from its beverage selection, what really sets Maya apart is, of course, the food. Its dishes are influenced by the Mayan region and so exhibit a slightly different flavour profile than your typical Mexican restaurant fare. Melt-in-your-mouth braised pork, carnitas with beans and rice, zesty tortilla soup and flash-fried baby artichokes are some of the standout menu items, but whatever you choose, it’s the fresh ingredients that make the difference.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Best Patio

For sweeping views of the valley and the rows upon rows of grape vines that blanket it, there is no better place than Auberge du Soleil. This hotel and winery is built into the hillside high above the valley bellow. Choose between either the bistro or the restaurant for your meal.

The bistro offers an assortment of bites from a tasting menu, while its fancier counterpart is a three-course dining experience. Both share the expansive wrap-around veranda and the stunning views it affords, making for a breathtaking evening in either setting. Both eateries boast an extensive wine list that includes some fine vintages at a surprisingly reasonable price. Or, if you’d prefer a change of taste, the bar whips up an assortment of classic and signature cocktails to suit your palate. Excellent Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and a fabulous vista make this top spot a Napa Valley favourite.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Best Bakery

Colourful macarons, decadent éclairs, buttery croissants and a plethora of other mouthwatering confections await visitors at Bouchon Bakery.

This elegant French boulangerie has been such as hit it is rarely seen without a line snaking out the door. Sprung from the sweeter side of American chef Thomas Keller, whose fine dining restaurant Bouchon can be found right next door, the bakery exhibits a mastery of French pastry making that is sure to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth, and the macarons are simply divine. Look for the yellow awning along Yountville’s Main Street.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Best French Fare

Just down the street from the Bouchon bakery, another eatery is serving up authentic French fare, but savoury instead of sweet. Bistro Jeanty covers all the classic French staples including such favourites as steak tartarre, escargot, boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin.

The mood is light and the décor charming. Inside, vintage placards adorn the walls and white-jacketed waiters weave between the clustered tables, while outside, the covered patio offers welcome refuge from the relentless Napa sun. Portions are ample but not overwhelming. Add a glass of wine from its varied list, which includes an assortment of local bottles, and you’ve found yourself a great spot for lunch or dinner.The Michelin Star it’s been awarded three years in a row makes plain the excellence of this delightful bistro.