What It Is: Nestled among several wineries like Beaulieu and Inglehook, Rutherford Grill has been a favorite of locals and tourists since 1994.
What Our Inspectors Say: “As the crowds filter out of neighboring Beaulieu Vineyards and other Highway 29 wineries, they head straight to this upscale chain, which boasts long lines at even the earliest hours. Kudos to the amiable host staff for handling them smoothly. The dark wood interior is clubby yet accommodating, and a large patio offers drinks for waiting diners.”
What to Order: You’ll find straight-forward American fare at Rutherford Grill, like cheeseburgers with fresh ground chuck, a French dip boasting thinly-sliced roasted Prime rib and a slow wood-fire roasted rotisserie chicken. Steak lovers will revel in the USDA Prime aged center-cut beef tenderloin served with creamy pomme purée and seasonal green vegetables.
What It Is: Food Network celebrity chef Tyler Florence’s wildly popular FiDi tavern that’s “become a standby for business types doing deals or enjoying post-work cocktails.”
What Our Inspectors Say: “Complete with dark wood and leather furnishings, a private billiards room, and bustling bar, Wayfare Tavern has the air of a gastropub-turned-private club.”
What to Order: Roasted bone marrow with blackberries and watercress, and the Prime beef tartare with dijon dressing are winning starters. The Prime beef Bavette steak arrives with Parmesan polenta fries, garlic herb butter and Bordelaise sauce.
What It Is: A modern steakhouse that sources many of its ingredients from local purveyors throughout the Napa Valley.
What Our Inspectors Say: “The classic steakhouse gets a wine country twist at this standby, where the G&Ts are designed to specifications and the dry-aged USDA Prime steaks hold equal standing with the 'vegetable cocktail'—a stunning edible still life of local produce.”
What to Order: Start with the Press charcuterie board with Cara Cara orange marmalade and house mustard before moving into the “Steaks from the Almond & Cherry Wood Grill” portion of the menu. Side sauces—including house steak sauce, horseradish cream and Béarnaise—are free of charge; extra condiments include truffle butter, eggs from local Rudd Farms and house beef jus.
What It Is: Touting themselves as having “a meticulously curated beef program with emphasis placed on highlighting small farms from the U.S., Australia and Japan,” Alexander’s Steakhouse has three locations throughout California and one in Tokyo.
What Our Inspectors Say: “This behemoth and swanky flagship steakhouse is housed in the suburban Main Street Cupertino center. But make your way inside to unearth this sharp and stylish dining room done up with sleek grey hues, beautiful floral arrangements and thick white linen-topped tables. Pricey steaks emerge from the glass enclosed dry-aging room to sate the executives doing deals over their meals.”
What to Order: Treat yo'self and order the omakase, priced at $295 per guest. The tasting menu is started with Osetra caviar with vadouvan cauliflower panna cotta with King crab and moves into dishes including seared dry-aged Kagoshima with crispy shiitakes, yuzu and Perigord truffles, seared foie gras and Japanese A5 Wagyu.
What It Is: New York-based Charlie Palmer's eponymous steakhouse inside the boutique Archer Hotel in downtown Napa.
What Our Inspectors Say: “Service is superb, as you would expect of any restaurant in this chain. The sleek interior features dark woods, stone columns and tables that are on the small side for a steakhouse.”
What to Order: "The kitchen focuses on classic fare, such as freshly shucked oysters, Caesar salad with fried quail eggs and steaks with a choice of standout sauces, particularly the Béarnaise," add inspectors. "After dinner, head to the rooftop, where a bar and expansive lounge surrounding fireplaces attract long weekend lines."
Images courtesy of Alexander Steakhouse.