It’s no secret that Napa Valley runs on tourism, but with the devastating fires, many local businesses have taken a big hit in the midst of what is supposed to be the busiest time of the year. Some had to close their doors for days, while many lost a slew of existing reservations as tourists cancelled their plans. The long term impact? Still unknown.
Yet likely affected the most during all of this, was the town of Calistoga, which was under mandatory evacuation for five long days, from Oct. 11-15. Even when residents were able to return to their homes, the town was still not open to visitors.
One of the easiest ways locals can help keep Napa Valley running is by supporting our local businesses, and Calistoga especially could use a hand. So, take a quick drive up to this charming town, enjoy a meal — we’ve got 10 tasty suggestions for you here — buy some wine from one of the local tasting rooms and browse the quirky shops. It’s really a win-win.
— Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery
Even after days of being closed down, the folks at the Calistoga Inn were focused on helping brave first responders, offering their hotel rooms and beds to firefighters, who otherwise would be sleeping in tents. It’s that generosity that should be toasted with a refreshing pint from Upvalley’s only brewery. They also have great pizzas, like the unique Smoked Salmon (olive tapenade, goat cheese, pickled red onions, mushrooms, summer squash and pea shoots).
1250 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, www.calistogainn.com
— Buster’s Original Southern Barbeque
Nothing can lift your spirits during terrible times like Southern comfort food. Pile up a plate with your favorite cooked meats—tri-tip, brisket, pulled pork, ribs, pork loin, chicken breasts and hot links—plus handmade sides, like baked beans, macaroni salad and coleslaw. You’ll leave feeling grossly full, but better.
1207 Foothill Blvd., Calistoga, www.busterssouthernbbq.com
— Cafe Sarafornia
If Calistoga staple Cafe Sarafornia has managed to stick around for 120 years, surely, the Tubbs Fire isn’t going to bring them down. Still, they lost business like everyone else. Sarafornia serves up breakfast all day, and is really one of the only authentic diner experiences—complete with milkshakes—that you can find in all of Napa Valley. I love the Brannan Benedict (topped with guacamole, bacon and Sarafornia red-eye sauce).
1413 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, www.cafesarafornia.com
This cute bistro is my go-to Calistoga spot for a romantic date night. Evangeline serves up French fare with a “Creole soul,” so you can order the traditional croque madame or Coq au Vin, or something more original, like the Shrimp Etouffee (blackened gulf shrimp, etouffee sauce, delta rice and hush puppies). Seating is super limited, and they only allow reservations for outdoor seating, so maybe try a weekday.
1226 Washington St., Calistoga, www.evangelinenapa.com
— Calistoga Kitchen
As of August, the adorable Calistoga Kitchen is under the new ownership of four locals: Jennifer Bennett, owner of San Francisco’s Zazie, and Shaun McGrath, Jenna Hodges and Kaitlin Jones, all formerly of Sam’s Social Club. They’re currently only open Thursday-Saturday, offering brunch and dinner. I haven’t made it over there yet, but the chicken and everything-spiced ricotta dumplings are calling my name on a cool evening. New businesses are especially vulnerable in times like these, so let’s all welcome them to the neighborhood.
1107 Cedar St., Calistoga, www.calistogakitchen.com
— Sam’s Social Club
I love going to Sam’s for two reasons: brunch and cocktails. They take the classic Egg in a Hole (also known as Egg in the Basket) to a new level, with parmesan-crusted house brioche, mushroom fondue and arugula, plus make it perfectly acceptable to eat churros for breakfast. The Watermelon Mule is a fun twist on my personal favorite cocktail, the Moscow Mule, and I recently found out they also brew their own beer.
1712 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, www.samssocialclub.com
— Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar
To the right of the Mount View Hotel & Spa, the casual Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar serves elevated bar food, like fried chicken sliders and something called a Jagerschnitzel (pork schnitzel, herb spaetzle, hunter’s mushroom sauce). It’s a great place for a weeknight meal and to catch the local sports game. They also serve brunch daily. The Huevos Montelenos features crispy tostadas with a medly of goodness: refried black beans, ham, peas, sunnyside up eggs, roasted tomato and habanero salsa.
1475 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, www.johnnyscalistoga.com
For a fancier night out or a special occasion, head to the left of the Mount View Hotel where at Veraison, you can delight in French delicacies like wild frog leg lollipops or veal sweetbreads. That’s just to start—for the main course, good luck choosing between dishes like soft shell crab, rabbit loin and leg, lamb breast roulade and daube de boeuf (braised short rib with caramelized heirloom carrots and horseradish creme fraiche). And for dessert? I like the sound of seared foie gras, with sea salt ice cream, strawberry balsamic gastrique and toasted brie.
1475 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, www.veraisoncalistoga.com
— Brannan’s Social Dining & Cocktails
Brannan’s Grill recently got a new name, and a new chef, so if it’s been a while, now’s a good time to revisit. Chef Colin Curtis came from Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa (which sadly burned down in the fires), and the revamped menu features locally-sourced small plates, like tomato soup shooters with grilled cheese sandos, smashed avocado bruschetta and smoked and crispy fried pork riblets. For dessert, order up the Boylan Root Beer Float, with rum-vanilla ice cream and torched marshmallow.
1374 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, www.brannansgrill.com
Don’t feel bad if you can’t pronounce half of the menu items at Michelin-starred SolBar at Solage, or if you haven’t heard of many of the ingredients—it all still tastes amazing. Dinner features dishes like gnocchi with braised Five Dot Ranch oxtail or a sauteed Marin salmon with fennel crema. For brunch, forget french toast and waffles. You can do things a little differently with crispy crab cakes or yellowfin tuna sliders.
755 Silverado Trail N., Calistoga, www.solage.aubergeresorts.com