Ten new hot spots to head north for now.
Napa and Sonoma Wine Country just keeps getting more delicious, with a flurry of fabulous new restaurants hitting the scene. Here are 10 treasures well worth the drive, tempting you with creations ranging from poutine doused in short rib gravy to Neapolitan-inspired pies.
1. The former French Blue has been reborn under the talented Auberge of Calistoga team. The Euro-luxe look remains mostly the same, but now dishes shine with more Cal-artistic fare, like peanut-crusted soft-shell crab over hearts of palm with green tomato relish. Try the fresh-from-the-ocean Bodega Bay king salmon roasted on wine barrel staves and then plated with crème savoy spinach, artichokes, almonds, and sunchokes. 1429 Main St., St. Helena, (707) 968-9200, archetypenapa.com.
2. It may be a chain joint, but there’s no denying that the burger shrine next to downtown’s Bounty Hunter is pretty, with its industrial-mod design, and has something for everyone via all-natural beef patties, specialty hot dogs, fresh-cut french fries, desserts, and craft beer and wine. 967 First St., Napa, (707) 927-5373, burgerfi.com.
Cadet Wine and Beer Bar
3. It’s a dream team: Former French Laundry sommelier Aubrey Bailey and Colleen Fleming—whose family runs Kelly Fleming Wines—come together for this hip downtown wine and beer bar, offering more than 150 boutique bottled wines, four wines on tap, six draft beers, and more than 30 bottled beers. For tasty pairings, the kitchen sends out salumi and prosciutto from a hand-cranked Italian slicer. 930 Franklin St., Napa, (707) 224-4400, cadetbeerandwinebar.com.
4. Cook St. Helena now has a sibling: Cook Tavern is a modern American gastropub right next door. It’s so new, the dust has barely settled on the 1891 building’s renovation, which uncovered original stone and brickwork, and added a zinc bar. Chef-owner Jude Wilmoth is keeping things more casual here than at his other Michelin Bib Gourmand Cal-Med restaurant, but the food is still top notch. Think poutine smothered in short rib gravy, fried mortadella sliders, and sandabs and fries, a new take on fish-and-chips. 1304 Main St., St. Helena, (707) 963-8082, cooktavern.com.
Eiko’s at Oxbow
5. Fresh and shiny new at Oxbow Public Market, this shop woos with a gorgeous array of seafood by the pound, grab-and-go Japanese deli fare, Japanese beer, and sake selections. The centerpiece is a sit-down sushi/sashimi bar with a similar menu of salads, bento boxes, and noodle dishes found at big sister Eiko’s Modern Japanese Cuisine in nearby Napa Town Center. 610 First St., Napa, (707) 515-7026, eikosnapa.com.
Five Dot Ranch Cookhouse and Five Dot Ranch Smokehouse
6. Diners at top Bay Area restaurants already love Five Dot boutique beef. Now, they can get the cuts seared or smoked straight from the source, at these two new Oxbow Public Market eateries, offering everything from a breakfast rib sandwich on a bacon pecan waffle topped with a fried egg, to a sandwich with BBQ beef braised for 24 hours. All you have to do is decide how slowly or quickly you want to enjoy your meal: The Cookhouse is full service with beer and wine, while the Smokehouse is a seasonal, weather-driven alfresco café on the Oxbow River Deck. 610 First St., Napa, (707) 224-5550, fivedotranch.com.
Jax White Mule Diner
7. Every downtown needs a neighborhood diner, and thanks to owner J. B. Leamer, Napa locals are digging in to hearty breakfast dishes such as fried chicken smothered in gravy, as well as lunch plates including a big beef and pork sausage burger buried in bacon, cheddar, onion strings, and barbecue sauce, with a side of Tots. 1122 First St., Ste. A, Napa, (707) 812-6853, jaxwhitemulediner.com.
Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar
8. Good-bye boring old chocolate: Hello Japanese purple yam (ube) and apricot-thyme wild blueberry. These are just a few flavors shining in the sumptuous, sweet creations from Ozzy Jimenez and Christian Sullberg, who also own the decadent Moustache Baked Goods just a few blocks away. Farm-to–waffle cone and pie-tin artistry are the draws here. Try delicacies including an Albion strawberry and corn ice-cream sandwich, or a Seascape strawberry and local ginger pie still warm from the oven. 116 Matheson St., Healdsburg, (707) 395-4426, thenoblefolk.com.
The Farmer and the Fox
9. Edwin and Stacia Williams wanted an anchor destination for their sprawling new winery, mercantile, deli, caves, and tasting room estate that celebrates the couple’s Cairdean Vineyards. Welcome to their wood-, leather-, and marble-trimmed European gastropub under the direction of celebrity chef Joseph Humphrey. The theme is jolly good fun British and Scottish bites. Try the Scotch eggs decorated with horseradish and cress; game pie; and grilled fish with a croquette-like riff on “Rumbledethumps”—the Scottish specialty of sautéed cabbage and onion capped in mashed potatoes and cheese baked golden brown. 3111 St. Helena Hwy. N. (in Cairdean Estate), St. Helena, (707) 302-5101, farmerandfox.com.
10. Chef Mark Hopper has worked in the big city of Las Vegas (Bouchon), the fair-size city of Larkspur (Farmshop Marin), and now the tiny town of Sebastopol. But this industrial-chic gourmet pizzeria in the Barlow culinary and arts center is a restaurant all his own, focusing on Neapolitan-inspired pies covered in fresh ingredients from West Sonoma County. The meatball Parm is especially magical, smothered in imported Corbari tomato sauce, fat-and-juicy sliced house-made meatballs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, and real Italian water buffalo mozzarella. 6750 McKinley St., Sebastopol, (707) 861-3897, vignettepizzeria.com.