When planning a romantic evening in Napa Valley you don’t need to overthink the small stuff like chocolate and roses. With what looks like little effort, wine country has all the makings for romance: acres of vineyards, seemingly never ending glasses of wine, and eateries that make your mouth water just thinking about them.
Wine may be what made the area famous, but eating in Napa Valley is an anticipated part of any visit. With more than 125 restaurants, Napa Valley has earned more Michelin Stars per capita than any other wine region in the world.
Good wine and good food taste better together. And with the two, romance just seems to come naturally. Whether you’re dining in the cozy courtyard at Celadon, eating at Napa Valley’s first and only “Izakaya-style” (Japanese pub) restaurant Miminashi, or were able to snag a sought-after reservation at The French Laundry, enchanting meals are a daily occurrence in Napa Valley. Some are pricey, but it’s not all about Michelin stars. Delicious dishes are made for every taste, budget, and romantic meal.
There’s something magical about a train ride. Add dining on the train at a table set with china and white linens, and the whole idea becomes even more romantic. The restored Pullman rail cars roll through some of Napa Valley’s most scenic stretches. With brass accents, etched glass and plush sitting chairs, riding the wine country rails is like taking a trip back in time. The Napa Valley Wine Train has three kitchens, and all meals are prepared on the train. Don’t feel like you have to spend the entire trip at your table. Be sure to wander around and see all of the cars.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The Napa Valley Wine Train rolls through some of the most romantic stretches of wine country while pouring wine and serving gourmet meals.
Dana’s expert tip: If your focus is scenery, go for a daylight lunch excursion. If you’re going for full romance, vineyards under the moonlight are impressive.
A food truck for a romantic meal? I know what you’re thinking, but bear with me while I explain. The Bruschetteria Food Truck is part of the Clif Family, the folks responsible for those famous energy bars. The kitchen on wheels is usually parked outside the Clif Family Velo Vino tasting room in St. Helena. The patio is a lovely spot to enjoy lunch and wine in the sun. You can also grab a bottle of wine, order of bruschette, salad, and a warm chocolate chip cookie, (maybe two) and take your order on the road for a picnic. There’s plenty of nearby options like Bothe-Napa Valley State Park or the Bale Grist Mill. Throw down a blanket and dig in.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The Bruschetteria Food Truck serves a seasonal menu based on what’s growing at the certified organic Clif Family Farm and other local purveyors.
Dana’s expert tip: A salad and a bruschette selection is a nice combination for a couple to share, but I’d recommend getting two warm chocolate chip cookies.
Whisk your loved one off to France, without leaving Napa Valley. Dinner at Bistro Jeanty should easily score you some bonus points with your other half. Quaint and charming, it has the feel of an authentic French bistro. The dining room at Bistro Jeanty is small and cozy, but on Yountville’s many mild nights, dinner on the Bistro Terrace is a lovely place for good food, wine, and nice conversation. The menu varies with the season, but French classics like cassoulet, steak tartare and coq au vin standout. The extensive wine list includes great wines from Napa Valley and various regions of France.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Cozy, wine country dining with French favorites like cassoulet and coq au vin make Bistro Jeanty a favorite spot.
Dana’s expert tip: Be sure to ask about the daily specials before you make any ordering decisions.
If you’re looking for a romantic meal that’s lighthearted and fun, think about Ca’ Momi Osteria. The space is sleek and modern, but at the same time comfortable and rustic. Lighting is just low enough to allow the Acunto Napoli wood-burning oven to shine. Imported from Italy, it features a custom mosaic design and is the star of the exhibition-style pizza kitchen. Ca’ Momi Osteria serves authentic Neapolitan style pizza. Cooked for 90 seconds in a 900 degree wood burning oven, it’s served uncut. (Similar to how pizza is served in Italy.) Along with pizza there are a number of authentic, traditional Italian dishes prepared using local, organic products along with those imported from Italy.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Set in a historic 19th century building, Ca’Momi Osteria is a cozy spot to enjoy a delicious Italian meal.
Dana’s expert tip: Dishes are fun to share, but be sure to order a pizza. You’ll be happy if there’s any leftovers.
Hop into one of the cozy booths at Miminashi and start ordering. Don’t be shy. Dishes here are great to share. Favorites include the Roasted Japanese Sweet Potato with miso butter and créme fraîche, and the Vegetable Fried Rice with spigarello, mung bean sprouts, kimchi, ginger, Tokyo negi, scrambled egg. (Bacon or smoked trout can be added for good measure.) Omakase, the Chef’s selection five-course menu, is served family style and changes daily. It’s hard, but try to save room for dessert. Soft cream flavors, Japan’s take on soft serve ice cream, change daily and come with heaping toppings options like chocolate covered waffle pieces, toasted coconut, and miso caramel.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Mouthing watering robatayaki/yakatori, sashimi, and Japanese soft serves generously topped with options including chocolate covered waffle pieces, and sesame honeycomb candy. Enough said.
Dana’s expert tip: Save room for dessert. Whiskey butterscotch, cookie crumble and rainbow sprinkles are just a handful of the toppings you can have atop Miminashi’s soft cream, Japan’s name for soft serve ice cream.
Celadon is the type of place that if you didn’t know it was there, you might walk right by without realizing what you were missing. Tucked in a shaded, garden-like walkway just off the Napa River, Celadon is located in the Historic Napa Mill. Diners have the option to sit in the courtyard or the dining room, but with weathered brick walls and a fireplace, the rustic courtyard is especially cozy. The courtyard is also a comfortable place to actually talk, a tall order in many restaurants these days. Nice for lunch or dinner with your sweetheart, along with Asian sticky ribs, you can expect options like fried calamari, a grilled double cut pork chop, filet mignon, and pappardelle pasta.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The courtyard, complete with worn brick walls and fireplace, is the perfect setting for a romantic meal.
Dana’s expert tip: You can drink more than just wine in wine country. Mix things up a bit with a glass of Celadon’s Sangria.
Goose & Gander is a favorite spot for locals and St. Helena visitors. A bit off the main drag, when you arrive it feels a bit more like entering someone’s home than a restaurant. The menu changes with the season, but favorites like the Martini House mushroom soup, and the G&G burger, are always available. The dining room has a rustic, pub-like atmosphere with leather chairs and dark wood accents. The fireplace adds to the intimate feel at lunch and dinner, but on a nice day head outside to the patio. Along with a yard full of blooming possibilities, there’s a pond loaded with colorful koi fish.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Goose & Gander serves memorable dishes and drinks in a cozy setting, perfect for a romantic night out.
Dana’s expert tip: Skip the wine and try one of Goose & Gander’s featured cocktails. There are a half-dozen to choose from.
Casual, relaxed, and quiet enough to carry on a conversation, the Farm makes date night easy. Located at Carneros Resort and Spa, an upscale property in southwest Napa, Farm serves dinner seven days a week. Couples are welcome to sit inside, but the sheltered pavilion is a nice change of pace. Heat lamps keep diners warm and cozy when chilly temperatures prevail. The a la carte menu includes the likes of oysters, roasted scallops, and orecchiette pasta. The dinner tasting menu is a seasonal five course tasting menu that shines light on one single ingredient. Finding inspiration from the resort garden, possibilities include the likes of corn, English peas, pears, and beets. Couples in the mood to truly indulge should consider the wine pairing.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Farm offers delicious food and drink options, but being able to sit outside on a starry night makes it a given for a romantic meal.
Dana’s expert tip: Decisions, decisions. Tackle the nearly 40-page long wine, beer, and handcrafted cocktail list. Then figure out what’s for dinner.
Congratulations, if you’ve snagged reservations at The French Laundry, you don’t need to do much more to impress. Opened in 1994, Chef Thomas Keller’s Michelin three-star restaurant is the spot many Napa Valley visitors dream about eating. Serving classic French cuisine, the nine-course menu changes everyday. Two tasting menus, a Chef’s Tasting Menu and a Tasting of Vegetables, are offered daily. If a meal here is on your wish list, you have to be organized to succeed. Reservations must be made well in advance. (No walk-in guests.) Men are required to wear jackets for both lunch and dinner service, so be sure to pack and dress appropriately. The French Laundry is a member of Relais & Chateaux, Relais Gourmands and Traditions & Qualité.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The French Laundry is a Michelin three-star restaurant. Reservations are hard to get, but guarantee an amazing meal.
Dana’s expert tip: The wine list is long, covering wine regions from around the world. Taking a look before you’re seated in the restaurant, can help ease the decision process.
Auberge du Soleil offers all the romance and deliciousness of France in California’s Napa Valley. Diners can chose between three and four courses. Appetizer and second selections include chilled Maine lobster, cow’s milk burrata, sunchoke risoto, and seared yellowfin tuna. Main dishes range from Japanese Wagyu, to spiced local lamb, and potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms and pea shoots. Try to save room for dessert. There’s everything from lemon pie, to caramel poached pears, and homemade sorbet. The dining room is comfortable and quiet, making conversation easy. If you can’t make it for dinner, consider going for breakfast or lunch. You won’t be disappointed.
Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Everything you’ve heard about Auberge du Soleil is true. Expect an incredible meal and fantastic service.
Dana’s expert tip: To up the romance quotient, request a table close to the fireplace.