8 Restaurants to Try in Calistoga
Eat your way through Napa Valley’s overlooked dining destination.
Calistoga has long had a bit of an underdog reputation when it comes to dining in Napa Valley. But this sleepy Wine Country town has many options—ranging from innovative new restaurants to downtown mainstays specializing in the classics—that make it a dining destination in its own right. Here are our favorites to hit between Calistoga’s sublime wineries and tasting stops.
Best Start to the Day
Ask locals for the best breakfast in town, and they’ll point you to Cafe Sarafornia, where patrons spill out from the doorway as they wait for a table on a bustling weekend morning.
Whimsical decor (think giant butterflies and poppies) provides the background for hearty breakfast staples. The hashes—corned beef for meat lovers, seasonal vegetables for vegetarians—are particularly impressive, as are the gravy-smothered biscuits and eggs.
Don’t miss the daily specials on a chalkboard, beneath a scrawled quote from Calistoga’s founder, Sam Brannan. Brannan allegedly botched naming the town, after drinking too much wine, and his mistake also provided a name for this breakfast hot spot. “I want it to be the Calistoga of Sarafornia,” he declared. (Brannan meant to say the “Saratoga of California,” after the famous Saratoga Springs in New York.) cafesarafornia.com.
Sam’s Social Club
Since opening a year ago, Indian Springs’ new restaurant has been garnering nonstop buzz—and for good reason. Chef Kory Stewart, who logged time at Michael Mina and Town Hall, sets a strong foundation for each plate by sourcing peak-season produce from local farms.
Whether he’s putting out seasonal dishes such as house-made ricotta and seared foraged mushrooms with corn, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini; or a heritage pork porterhouse with Romano beans and farro verde; or favorites such as the breakfast churros made with candy cap mushrooms, Stewart allows the ingredients to shine through masterful preparations and simple presentations.
The outdoor patio, with its twinkling fairy lights and fire pit, is an especially nice place for a meal and the restaurant’s house-brewed IPA. samssocialclub.com.
Best Oldie but Goodie
All Seasons Bistro
Owners Alex and Gayle Dierkhising have been serving Calistoga for close to four decades—first at Silverado Tavern and now at All Seasons Bistro. Their commitment to the local community and Napa Valley producers shows.
The restaurant—where above the bar you can find bidder paddles from almost every wine auction held by Auction Napa Valley—specializes in small-production, handcrafted wines, which complement globe-spanning dishes such as seafood risotto with roasted fennel and a rich lobster bisque finished with truffle oil. Save room for the warm dark chocolate torte topped with house-made ice cream. allseasonsnapavalley.net.
Best Carbo Load
Warm service and hearty portions have made Boskos Trattoria a local favorite since opening in 1983, but the restaurant hasn’t rested on its reputation. The old dessert counter is long gone, replaced by a wood-burning oven that churns out blistery Napoletana-style pizzas with premium toppings such as prosciutto di Parma and fresh-pulled mozzarella.
All of Boskos’ pastas are made by hand daily, and sauces get a dash of authenticity from Cortopassi tomatoes grown from seeds brought over from Italy. Try a combination of the two in “the Godfather,” spaghetti with a mix of Italian sausage, bell peppers, roasted eggplant, garlic, and onions in a spicy tomato-herb sauce. boskos.com.
Best Bar Seat
This newer addition to the downtown dining scene, run by Michelin-starred Brandon Sharp of Solbar, melds French and Creole flavors with an inventive bar program.
Most diners flock to the 90-seat patio, but try sitting at the marble-topped bar instead. It’s the perfect place to experience the restaurant’s energy and house-infused spirits, such as the mint-tinged bourbon in the Evangeline mint julep and the Vesper Evangeline’s saffron-flavored gin.
To accompany the drinks, try the Instagram-worthy tuna niçoise tartine—served open faced on toasted pain de campagne—or the poulet grand-mere: juicy roast chicken served on a bed of whipped potatoes and ladled with chicken jus. evangelinenapa.com.
Best Bet for Carnivores
Open since 1998, Brannan’s Grill has built a reputation on its meats, and for good reason: The restaurant offers four steak house classics, ranging from an eight-ounce flatiron to a hefty 14-ounce rib eye.
Grab a seat in one of the large leather booths or at the Brunswick bar, and warm up to the main course with oysters on the half shell (especially nice during the 3 to 6 p.m. daily happy hour) served on crushed ice with mignonette and cocktail sauce.
For your main, go big with the rib eye—which comes with spinach and your choice of a twice baked potato, mac ‘n’ cheese, or french fries—and get a feel for the surrounding AVA with a flight of three local wines. brannansgrill.com.
Best Outdoor Dining
Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery
The sound of laughter and clinking drinks frequently floats out from Calistoga Inn’s convivial patio, which is the town’s de facto hangout on a warm afternoon.
Attached to a charming turn-of-the-century hotel and within a stone’s throw of the Napa River, the patio’s casual beer garden with its cedar-planked picnic tables is the perfect place to linger over burgers, wings, and a flight of beers from the award-winning microbrewery.
For a sweet finish to the meal, try matching the red ale from Napa Valley Brewing Company (the first commercial brewery in Napa Valley after Prohibition) with the peanut butter pie; to end on a savory note, opt for the beer and cheese pairing. calistogainn.com.
Located inside Solage Calistoga hotel, Solbar could easily rest on its reputation, which includes six straight years of garnering a Michelin star. Instead, the restaurant embarked on a $1.1 million renovation, completed last year, which includes an expanded outdoor patio for year-round dining, a new Chef’s Atrium for private parties, and a gussied up lounge and dining area divided by reclaimed wood partitions and oversized multipaned windows.
But not all of the action is happening at the front of the house. Brad Cecchi joined executive chef Brandon Sharp (who also launched Evangeline) in the kitchen as the new chef de cuisine, continuing the restaurant’s focus on seasonally driven dishes inspired by local ingredients. For spring, start with a chilled carrot-ginger soup accented with puffed wild rice, spicy blue crab, and avocado; then move on to a flatiron steak salad served alongside grilled asparagus and charred onions with a horseradish ravigote.
Finish the meal with a pistachio Pavlova, which also capitalizes on the local bounty: Swanton Berry Farm organic strawberries, a crème fraîche sorbet, and Genovese basil top the airy dessert. solagecalistoga.com/dine.
Best Annual Fest
The town’s reputation as a culinary contender is growing, in part thanks to Harvest Table, Calistoga’s amped-up iteration of alfresco dining.
For the event, a 1,000-foot-long table transforms Calistoga’s downtown into an outdoor dining extravaganza, with approximately 16 restaurants, 35 local wineries, and 800 diners coming together to celebrate Wine Country’s bounty. Tickets to this year’s September event go on sale in July. visitcalistoga.com.