Noshing Through Napa Valley

A Gourmand's Guide to the Best Bites in Wine Country

by: Melissa Marrapese

Photos by: Alexander Rubin

Napa Valley is home to world-class wines, breathtaking vineyards, and a host of talented chefs and restaurateurs. Dining experiences range from Michelin-starred restaurants to casual, less-pricey venues in what has become one of the most sought-after food hotspots in the country.

The culinary landscape in Napa Valley is exploding, with top-notch chefs using locally sourced ingredients to create enticing menus and distinctive dining experiences. When parsing through a plethora of options, the question often becomes, “Who is cooking exciting dishes at reasonable prices?” The Clever Root recently explored this question, and as we gathered our top recommendations, we drew inspiration from this Julia Child quote: “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” Fortunately, Napa Valley has that in spades.

C Casa

Located in Napa’s bustling Oxbow Public Market, C Casa serves up a variety of gourmet Mexican dishes, including tacos with duck, mouthwatering grilled prawn, or crab on housemade white corn tortillas. Beyond its seasonal dishes, which put the restaurant’s priority of freshness on full display, C Casa also offers small plates, hearty salads, and eclectic options like goat cheese nachos. C Casa, 610 1st St. #B, Napa, 707-226-7700, myccasa.com

Compline Wine Bar

Compline’s burger with cheddar cheese and secret sauce is best paired with duck fat fries and any number of the wines on their menu.

Enophiles flock to Compline—a new wine bar in Downtown Napa run almost entirely by wine professionals—for its spectacular wine list, wine classes, and food. Compline’s burger with cheddar, red onion and “secret sauce” is about the best the Valley has to offer, especially when combined with a side of duck fat fries(!). Compline even offers a special Co-Owner Ryan Stetins calls “an ode to industry meal” that includes dinner and a glass of wine starting at 9 p.m. As an added bonus, celebrity somm sightings are commonplace. Compline Wine Bar, Restaurant and Merchant, 1300 1st St. #312, Napa, 707-492-8150, complinewine.com

Miminashi

With a menu that changes daily, Miminashi uses seasonal ingredients from nearby farms such as Stone Tree and Kicking Bull to create enticing entrees. Chef and Owner Curtis Di Fede offers a selection of local wines that pair well with top-selling favorites, including bacon fried rice, katsu, and yakitori (skewered) dishes like tsukune (chicken meatballs) and butabara (pork belly). Miminashi, 821 Coombs St., Napa, 707-254-9464, miminashi.com

Mustards Grill

Mustards Grill—and Owner/Executive Chef Cindy Pawlcyn, for that matter—needs no introduction. Named for the mustard flowers that line the region’s vineyards during spring, Mustards features a wide-ranging menu of favorites like tostadas, crispy calamari, barbequed baby back ribs, and a Mongolian pork chop so delicious you’ll make another reservation before leaving the restaurant. The wine list isn’t too shabby, either. Mustards Grill, 7399 St. Helena Hwy., Napa, 707-944-2424, mustardsgrill.com

Cole’s Chop House

Steak at Cole’s is served with traditional sides like white gulf prawn cocktail, iceberg wedge with Pt. Reyes blue cheese dressing, and grilled asparagus.

An immediate Godfather vibe hits you the moment you walk through the door at Cole’s, with its dim lighting, round leather booths, and a darkened ambiance. Order the filet mignon, 21-day dry aged New York strip steak, or cold-water lobster tail from Maine, but don’t even think about leaving without trying the Yukon gold potato with gruyere gratin. Plenty of options are available from local boutique winery, but if wine isn’t your passion, try one of the popular whiskey flights. Cole’s Chop House, 1122 Main St., Napa, 707-224-6328, coleschophouse.com

Acacia House

Chef Chris Cosentino’s Acacia House at Los Alcobas is warm, cozy, and just plain inviting. With ingredients sourced from local vendors, the menu evolves based on seasonally available ingredients. The must-order dishes here are the grilled cheese with taleggio, duck egg and Napa honey, hamachi crudo, or the iberico pork schnitzel with caviar dressing. Acacia House (located in the Las Alcobas hotel), 1915 Main St., St. Helena, 707-963-9004, lasalcobasnapavalley.com

Solbar

Salads at Solbar often feature fresh vegetables and edible flowers from their garden.

Chef Massimo Falsini began his career in Rome more than 16 years ago at the much-acclaimed Trattoria Felice e Testaccio, but today the Solbar Executive Chef calls Napa Valley home. In his words, “Solbar is entirely built on Mother Nature’s will.” The menu is alive, he says, and this is true: Salads often include fresh calendula and wild flowers from the on-site garden. The food is delightful, with the fish tacos, seared day-boat scallops and risotto making a particularly fantastic impression. Solbar (located in the Solage Auberge Resort), 755 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga, 707-226-0860, solage.aubergeresorts.com/dine/

Oenotri

Pizzas at Oenotri are baked in their Neapolitan pizza oven.

Owned by Chef Tyler Rodde, Oenotri really has it all—delicious food, the finest olive oil, and a wine club offering some of Italy’s best. Try the garden lettuce salad, seasonal pasta dish, or any of the pizzas—and if you see truffles on the menu, run, don’t walk, and grab a table! Pitch a tent outside and wait if you must, as Rodde has a knack for cooking just about anything with truffles. While you wait, savor a glass of Soave or Nebbiolo, or explore the Italian-focused wine list for unique offerings. Oenotri, 1425 1st St., Napa, 707-252-1022, oenotri.com

Protéa

Philly cheesesteak gets some Caribbean flavor with Mojo-marinated prime rib, beer-battered onions, and blue cheese caramelized onion aioli.

Protéa, co-owned by chef Anita Cartagena and Dwayne Gosselin, has taken the culinary scene in Napa Valley by storm by cooking up Michelin-caliber food at affordable prices. The constantly shifting menu is exciting, fresh, and well-balanced, and during the roughly two dozen times I’ve dined at Protéa, a particular hallmark quality stands out: consistency. With Puerto Rico swimming in her veins, Cartagena uses her Caribbean heritage to serve favorites like bistec encebollado, spicy shrimp over bomba rice, and the best Philly cheese steak sandwich outside of, well, Philly itself. Protéa also has a collection of delectable wines, including winemaker Heidi Barrett’s Primitivo rosé, to enjoy on the rooftop deck. Protéa, 6488 Washington St., Yountville, 707-415-5035, proteayv.com

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