Nibble+squeak Guide to Wine Country: Napa
As lovers of all things food and wine, we are always keeping tabs on the best spots in Napa and Sonoma to sip and savor. While the tried and true classics remain at the top of our list, we also enjoy discovering new-to-us wineries and restaurants — especially those that are welcoming to pipsqueaks-in-tow! A short drive from San Francisco (45 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge), Northern California wine country makes for an easy day trip, relaxing long-weekend getaway or luxurious family holiday… whether you’re coming from the Bay or farther away!
Where to Eat
The idea for Ad Hoc was simple—a comfortable place for the community and families to dine. Five days a week they offer a four-course family-style menu that changes daily, accompanied by a small, accessible wine list and a fun twist on classic cocktails.
Addendum is the “addition or footnote” to the Ad Hoc family, serving boxed lunches to-go Thursday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. For $17.50, guests have a choice of either our famous buttermilk fried chicken or barbeque pork ribs or pulled pork sandwich, each accompanied by two house-made sides. Perfect for a family picnic in Napa!
Situated in the town of St. Helena, Chris Cosentino’s award-winning restaurant curates an unforgettable culinary experience. The local, sustainable menu reflects the bounty of Napa Valley and pairs perfectly with an extensive wine and cocktail list. Trust us — you’ll definitely be ogling the menu filled with Napa Valley dream foods. Open for breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner.
A French country restaurant and bar offering refined bistro fare, wine and cocktails on the Napa riverfront in the heart of downtown Napa. Try snagging a table on the riverfront patio to celebrates the region’s beautiful weather and relaxed atmosphere. Plus the kids will appreciate the water views while sampling fried Deviled Eggs and homemade ice cream.
This St. Helena neighborhood spot has a delicious kids menu and the best brunch. We recommend the omelet, lemon ricotta pancakes or pork belly banh mi. For health-conscious foodies, Archetype offers a spa-like menu that includes 20 vegan & vegan-optional choices.
A Napa stalwart for Italian bistro fare — with indoor fireside (perfect when visiting in the Fall/ Winter) or outdoor, fountain-side seating (and we all know there is no better way to enjoy Napa Valley than outside in the fresh country air). This unassuming place dishes up some excellent homemade pasta; and inspiration from the bounty of local farms and their own restaurant garden helps create a daily changing menu that keeps locals and visitors coming back for more.
French Chef Philippe Jeanty has been in the valley since the ’70s, when he came to work in the first Moët & Chandon restaurant in Napa. His eponymous bistro in downtown St. Helena is everything we love about a country French bistro – quaint and charming with simple and delicious food. Ask to sit outside on the idyllic outdoor patio.
This place can get a little bit touristy (thanks to the popularity of Chef Michael Chiarello and the Food Network) but the service is consistently good and the food undeniably delicious — Be sure to try the rabbit ragu, it’s a classic. Bottega remains on SF Chronicle’s Top 100 Restaurants list year after year; We always stop by when visiting Napa to have a nice meal and do a little shopping at the marketplace.
Another mandatory stop when in Napa, Bouchon is Thomas Keller’s take on casual French bistro food. Everything is delicious but we are partial to the brunch menu ourselves. Their omelet, steak frites and salmon tart will transport you to Paris! Bonus: pop next door to the bakery for world-famous handmade viennoiserie, confections, pastries, tarts and cookies.
Located in the iconic red barn at Carneros Inn, brunch is the main attraction at BFC – both for visitors and locals. The kids will get a kick out of their famous green eggs and ham; plus the staple favorites like triple stack of griddle cakes and breakfast tacos. They don’t take reservations so be early or prepared for a wait during peak hours (but their bacon Bloody Mary makes it worth it). They also offer made-to-order cinnamon doughnuts or scones if you want to just grab something to-go.
A relative newcomer on the Napa scene, The Charter Oak, is the new chapter for Christopher Kostow and Nathaniel Dorn, of three Michelin stars fame for the Restaurant at Meadowood. Despite its pedigree, The Charter Oak has a more casual family-style menu, with Chef Katianna Hong at the helm, elevating the art of simple Californian fare. It’s becoming a popular spot so we suggest making reservations.
Eat well with the locals at this St. Helena spot, turning out pasta done right and other beautiful Northern Italian dishes. The lunch, dinner and brunch menu are constantly changing but always delicious. Everything is served with love but you can’t visit and not try their homemade pastas.
the FARM, Carneros Resort’s other (and decidedly fancier) dining option is known for its farm-to-table cuisine, showcasing simple, elegant food based on the natural abundance of the Napa Valley Wine Country. There is also a five-course tasting menu for those looking to splurge.
Here is another farm-to-table classic in Napa. With a large dining space and casual vibe, Farmstead is our choice for larger groups – and it’s especially kid-friendly. With a general store, cafe, gardens and fried chicken Tuesdays, this place is definitely a family favorite.
No trip to Napa is complete without a stop at Gott’s (note: there is also a location in St. Helena). Your kids will love the ice cream milkshakes… and to be honest, it’s a guilty pleasure of most adults we know as well! This is sure to be the most delicious “diner” food you will ever eat.
This laid-back spot is a great dining option in Napa when you’re traveling with kiddos. Cindy Pawlcyn’s ‘Deluxe Truckstop’ has been a Napa Valley landmark for over 30 years, drawing locals and visitors alike. You must try the Mongolian pork chop and Dungeness crab cakes… and be sure to leave room for dessert!
If you are looking to break up the local California cuisine, Morimoto in downtown Napa is one good option. The vibe here definitely evokes an urban, high-end, zen-like experience so we suggest stopping by for lunch or making an early dinner reservation with your sushi-loving kiddos.
Another great Italian option, right in downtown Napa, Oenotri is serving up delicious and authentic pastas and pizzas that your little ones won’t get enough of! Their sauteed corn with salumi, garlic and basil was unbelievably good and be sure to order a couple of pastas and pizzas for the table to share.
Famed chef Richard Reddington’s second, more casual outpost, Redd Wood is a superbly stylish Italian-inspired eatery. Open all day, Redd Wood is the perfect stop for a pre-wine tasting breakfast, quick snack between activities, a relaxed family meal. The kids will love their perfectly blistered wood-fired pizzas or house-made pastas with locally sourced ingredients.
We are big fans of Solage Calistoga and Solbar is the elevated California-fare restaurant situated on this beautiful resort. The kids will enjoy the outdoor garden and seating area, as well as the yummy kids menu and homemade ice creams.
Another new-ish kid on the block is Two BIrds/ One Stone, a laid-back spot adding a unique Asian twist to Napa’s culinary scene. It certainly delivers a refreshing break from traditional Napa cuisine with its California take on Japanese yakitori. The menu comprises of small-to-large plates, designed to be shared — so order a bunch for the entire family to enjoy!
When you’re looking for something quick yet satisfying, delicious yet affordable, look no further than Tacos Garcia, a food truck set up in the parking lot of Pancha’s bar. This a great option when the family is just in need of a low-key meal that’s easy on the wallet (the regular tacos will only set you back two dollars) and/ or on-the-go in Napa.
For when you have a baby-sitter
This place needs no introduction. Indeed it has been a pilgrimage-worthy destination for years, putting Napa Valley – and it’s now infamous Chef owner Thomas Keller – on the map. Most recently, the Michelin Guide San Francisco awarded The French Laundry their highest rating of three stars for the twelfth year in a row. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.
The Resort at Meadowood is hands down one of the most luxurious places in the world; so it should come as no surprise that The Restaurant is just as decadent. A traditional nine-course tasting menu that has been Michelin-starred several years in a row, we love Meadowood for a special occasion.
Note that there is a more casual dining option at Meadowood, The Grill — presenting a daily menu featuring ingredients fresh from the Meadowood garden, including a wonderful kids menu and is open for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch.
While the entire valley is becoming more and more relaxed, we wanted to share some of the more kid-friendly wineries that we have visited:
- Robert Sinskey (Yountville)
- Frog’s Leap (Rutherford)
- Castello di Amorosa
- Clos Pegase (Calistoga)
- Cosentino Winery (Yountville)
- Dutch Henry Winery (Calistoga)
- Honig Vineyard & Winery (Rutherford)
- Jamieson Ranch Vineyards (American Canyon)
- Raymond Vineyards (St Helena)
- Swanson Vineyards (Rutherford)
- V. Sattui Winery (St Helena)
There is never a wrong time to visit Northern California wine country. The food, wine and weather are gorgeous year round and we always leave feeling well rested and well fed. And don’t be intimidated by the fancy wineries and at times indulgent atmosphere. The Valley has always represented “causal cool” and increasingly the Napa/ Sonoma experience can be best enjoyed with pipsqueaks-in-tow! Continue on for our guide to Sonoma wine country.