In the early 1800s, Mexico owned the land that would become the town of Yountville, California. George Calvert Yount received a land grant of 11,000 acres from the Mexican government in 1836. In the 1850s Yount designed a small public square and called it Yountville. He is also credited with planting the first vineyard in Napa Valley.
Today, Yountville is a small town known for its world-class restaurants and luxury accommodations. The Michelin Guide lists seven restaurants in Yountville that are a cut above the rest. While other fine restaurants abound in Yountville, these seven represent Yountville’s best offerings. You can walk, drive or take the Yountville trolley to most restaurants. Parking in town is free. The mile-long street that runs through Yountville is an experience in itself. Businesses line the road, all with incredible charm and appeal. Yountville planners have created a fantastic destination for everyone.
Pro tip: Flying through airports in the San Francisco Bay Area and Oakland can be hectic. During the day, traffic can be quite heavy and may result in a longer than necessary drive to Yountville. Sacramento International Airport is closer to Yountville and traffic is lighter. The road is nicer and more scenic. Consider flying into Sacramento Airport (airport code SMF).
1. Ciccio Italian Cuisine And Pizza
Italian cuisine with fresh local ingredients and a wood-fired pizza oven? Menu changes made every few days to include locally grown and harvested seasonal vegetables? Yes please! Ciccio appears in the Michelin Guide because of its commitment to quality, atmosphere and service. Their produce comes from the nearby Altamura Ranch and Vineyard owned by Frank and Karen Altamura, the owners of Ciccio.
The restaurant looks like an old store from the outside. It looks like an old store from 1916 because it is! The western look is warm and inviting inside and offers comfort and charm that everyone appreciates. Although the restaurant is busy, it is possible to make a reservation for a meal on the day. Book ahead when your itinerary is firm to secure a table.
Pro tip: The menu changes according to seasonal availability. Check with the restaurant’s website to see their offerings (think cacio and pepe, pork and potato cappelletti, ricotta gnocchi with duck ragout or a delicious wood-fired pizza!).
2. The French laundry has three Michelin stars
Made world famous by chef Thomas Keller, The French Laundry resides in a building that dates back to the 1900s. The establishment operated a French steam laundry business in the 1920s, providing the name of the restaurant to come. Later added to the National Register of Historic Places, the building’s owners have made several renovations over the years.
The French Laundry opened in 1994. Chef Keller has created a fine dining experience using local produce. A large garden directly across the street provides many herbs and vegetables served. Choose from the chef’s tasting menu or a vegetable tasting. The French Laundry has twice been named the best restaurant in the world.
While visiting with my family, we walked around the courtyard and saw the kitchen staff through the windows preparing the evening meal. Several cooks stopped what they were doing and brought small ice cream cones to our grandchildren. We talked to them before they had to go back inside. A memory I won’t soon forget.
Pro tip: A reservation is required. With three Michelin stars, the restaurant is notoriously difficult to book. If you plan to dine at The French Laundry, check availability immediately for the best chance of getting a table.
3. Bouchon Bistro is also a Thomas Keller restaurant
A short distance from The French Laundry, Chef Keller opened Bouchon Bistro just four years later, in 1998. A fun and boisterous French bistro, Bouchon has all the charm of a Parisian restaurant. And it’s a more affordable option than The French Laundry. Bouchon may not currently have a Michelin star, but he did in the past. Food and service are always top notch.
The building is a beautiful red, with lights outside and outdoor tables obscured by bushes out front. Inside are several dozen tables with red and white decor and marble trim. Chef Keller started Bouchon Bistro so his cooks and staff would have a place to go to eat after work – one that reminded them of the New York or Parisian restaurants they loved. It seems to have taken off from there!
Bonus: Bouchon Bakery – Highest quality bread
Next to Bouchon Bistro is Bouchon Bakery. Chef Keller opened Bouchon Bakery in 2003 to supply premium bread to his restaurants. The bakery has been a hit with locals and tourists alike. People line up to buy wonderful muffins, coffee cakes, croissants, cookies and pies. Enjoy espresso and coffee, salads, sandwiches and quiches at this wonderful artisanal bakery inside or outside in the shady courtyard.
Pro tip: Parking is available in a large lot across the street for Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery. Parking is easier to find on weekdays. Expect long lines at Bouchon Bakery on weekends.
4. Ad-hoc + addendum
In 2006, Chef Keller opened Ad Hoc, a casual dining experience focused on American comfort food. Ad Hoc was to be temporary while its team developed a new restaurant concept for the building. But it was such a hit with locals and visitors that they kept it. The last Thomas Keller restaurant was born. Ad Hoc is referenced in the Michelin Guide.
The menu changes daily and features classic American favorites like pot roast, grilled flank steak with braised bok choy, fried chicken, and great chopped salads. People appreciate the presentation of family-style dishes. Ad Hoc gives the feeling of being at home with family and friends. The sign on the front of the building reads: “For temporary relief from hunger”.
Pro tip: Order the menu of the day and add additional dishes to complete your meal. Sign up to receive the MENU OF THE DAY.
Editor’s note: Addendum is an outdoor dining experience on the Ad Hoc property which is currently closed but could be in full swing during your visit.
5. Mustard Yellow Flower Blanket Inspires Grill Mustards
Each year the vines of Napa turn bright yellow with mustard flowers. The yellow flowers inspired the name of the new restaurant. A Michelin Guide list boasts the must-try fresh vegetables and desserts at Mustards Grill.
A two-acre organic garden provides most of Mustards Grill’s vegetables, such as beets, purple potatoes, watermelons and chives. The products are picked a few hours before being served fresh and ready for the table. Fish, ribs, steaks, chops and meatloaf also adorn the menu. According to the menu, the Mustards Grill menu offerings are ‘Deluxe Truck Stop Classics’.
Pro tip: Beware, as the menu says, “SORRY, EVERYTHING IS DELICIOUS”.
6. La Calenda Mexican Restaurant
Chef Keller has struck again by opening this Oaxacan restaurant run by Chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, who grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico. La Calenda is a family restaurant that serves traditional dishes of the best quality. Listed in the Michelin Guide, La Calenda is a fun and lively place to grab a beer or cocktail and enjoy stone-ground tortillas, tacos al pastor, enchiladas verdes and a (fabulous) tres leches cake for dessert.
A friendly bar with four big-screen TVs offers sports all the time. The fast service makes this restaurant a good choice for a great quick lunch.
Pro tip: Sitting on the terrace is very comfortable. An efficient built-in heating system provides a warm and relaxing outdoor experience under the patio cover on chilly nights.
7. North Block Restaurant
Led by Chef Nick Tamburo (formerly of New York’s Momofuku), North Block has found a spot in the 2021 Michelin Guide. The restaurant is inside the North Block Hotel and offers guests an exceptional place to dine. The seasonal menu features meat and vegetarian dishes and wood-fired pizzas.
Dip into homemade sourdough bread and creamery butter while you wait. A 45 minute wait is not uncommon for some dishes as they are cooked to order. Your server will let you know. Choose bone-in ribeye with roasted bravo radishes and mustard greens, or try yellowfin tuna toast. Pacific halibut is served hot and moist, with baked celeriac, Buddha’s hand and chervil – a crowd favorite. Dine indoors or on the patio for maximum people watching.
Yountville is a unique and carefully planned town. The quaint look of the old buildings and the luxurious design of the new ones offer a charm not often found in most places. All businesses in the city strive to provide excellent service and a welcoming atmosphere. Yountville is a destination in itself and wants people to come back again and again. Seasonal decorations create a festive mood with every visit. Overnight stays or just dinner reservations to enjoy a great meal are fun, relaxing and should be on everyone’s bucket list!
Planning a getaway to Yountville? Here’s why he made our list of 6 Scenic Towns to Visit in Northern California.