This Once Sleepy Town in Napa Valley Has One of the Highest Concentrations of Michelin-rated Restaurants in the World

How the town of Yountville at the southern end of Napa Valley became a "Culinary Capital."

The rows of Cabernet Sauvignon stretch as far as the eye can see. This is my first visit to California’s Napa Valley and like most first-time visitors, I am hopping from one storied winery to another, packing in as many tastings as I can in two days. But Napa isn’t just about wine. It also offers a plethora of fine dining establishments, galleries, theaters and hotels. Tiny Yountville has become the choice destination in the valley. But it wasn’t always this way.


Quick history


In 1838, George Calvert Yount, a settler from North Carolina, planted California’s first vine in Yountville, the town that today bears his name. Soon other transplants, lured by the promise of fertile land and wide-open spaces, followed. For years Yountville, nee Sebastopol, was a sleepy little hamlet with a railroad depot, a small hotel and a veterans home. Many of the residents were migrant workers, living in the area and toiling in the vineyards. That all changed in 1994 with the opening of The French Laundry.


“When I came here [in 1988] there were just a handful of restaurants,” says Bob Hurley of Hurley’s restaurant. “That was at a time when people were coming up here for the wine. It was when the winemakers were having a renaissance. When I joined Domaine Chandon we were getting fish twice a week, produce twice a week. There were no services up here. It was like we were on mars.”


French Laundry opens


“When Thomas [Keller of The French Laundry] came he made it the preemptive restaurant in the valley. That was a big statement. Pretty soon, we were being recognized. People were fighting for our business. Purveyors were seeking us out. People were fighting to come to the restaurants, too. It got even more exclusive and the quality went up. Yountville became a destination for food.”


Yountville is now the undisputed culinary capital of Napa Valley. Of course, much of that is due to The French Laundry, Keller’s culinary mecca on Washington Street. But let’s face it: most casual travelers can’t get a reservation unless they’ve booked it months in advance. If you aren’t one of the lucky diners, console yourself with a trip around the restaurant’s culinary gardens. Missing out on a nine-course tasting at the Laundry doesn’t mean you’ll have to eat at McDonalds. On the contrary, Yountville has a number of fine dining options that, although not as unique as the Laundry, will still satisfy any gourmand.


Here are a few we recommend (sans The French Laundry):


Ad Hoc

If dining at a Keller establishment is a must, two other options exist in Yountville. Ad Hoc is much less expensive than the Laundry but still gets stellar reviews for its four-course menu of ever-changing selections featuring local ingredients.

Keller opened Ad Hoc in 2006 as a casual dining venue to showcase the American comfort food of his childhood. The name Ad Hoc literally means “for this purpose,” and derives from Keller’s original purpose for the restaurant—to temporarily fill a space while his team developed a different restaurant concept. Yet from the start, Ad Hoc was loved so much by the locals and visitors to the wine country alike that it stuck around and is now one of the most popular restaurants in the valley.

The daily-changing four-course menu, featuring classic American dishes like fried chicken, pot roast and barbeque, is handwritten nightly on chalkboards throughout the restaurant. All courses are served family-style to increase both the conviviality of the Ad Hoc experience and to further recreate the casual comfort of home. The wine list also features many of the local vintners—many of whom can be seen frequently dining at the low key restaurant.






Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 944-2487



Four years after opening “The Laundry,” Keller followed up with Bouchon, which offers authentic French bistro fare with Keller’s unfailing attention to detail in both ingredients and presentation.

The seasonal menu and raw bar selections change throughout the year, while staples like roast chicken, leg of lamb, and trout amandine remain as consistent. The Vin en Carafe program at Bouchon features selections made exclusively for the restaurant from top wineries in Napa Valley and France.




6534 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 944-8037


Bistro Jeanty

With its yellow walls, wooden tables and framed retro posters hanging intermittently among copper pots and such, Bistro Jeanty feels every bit the part of a classic French bistro. “The food,” you say. Favorites like coq au vin, boeuf Bourguignon, and as the Michelin Guide describes “rich milk-fed veal chop with chanterelle mushrooms and Camembert sauce” are as good as they sound. Lighter fare, including garden-fresh frisée salad, and daily specials highlight the abundance of local produce that Napa Valley has at its doorstep.




Bistro Jeanty
6510 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 944-0103



Bottega showcases bold Italian flavors with a refined twist. Celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello has created a menu of micro-regional Italian cuisine, selecting the best dishes from across Italy and anchoring them with artisanal, heritage, or house-made ingredients.

Chiarello and his team carefully select the purveyors for produce, meat and fish, and focus as much as possible on local sources. Pastas, cured meats, fresh cheeses, cured olives and the like are all made in house.

Try the Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs, or for more classic Italian fare the Ricotta Gnocci, Salsa Pomodorro alla Nonno cannot be beat.




6525 Washington St. (V Marketplace)
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 945-1050



Lucy Restaurant & Bar (at Bardessono) 

Lucy Restaurant & Bar offers fresh, innovative, garden-inspired cuisine that embodies the Bardessono’s modern aesthetic and eco-spirit—which has earned accolades for its commitment to sustainability and the environment. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the hotel/restaurant’s two gardens, one onsite and one a short distance away from the property. Lucy’s Garden is a small green space located on the south side of the property. Here, culinary gardener Noel Lopreore works her magic on two large and two small vegetable and herb beds. The garden is mainly used for herbs and root production but Lopreore grows 18 different varieties of basil as well. The garden is certified organic through the CCOF, making Bardessono the first hotel with that distinction.

Bardessono also leases a quarter acre of land from the Hill Family (the hotel shares farm usage with the nearby French Laundry). The Hill Family Farm has been certified organic for more than 20 years and Bardessono’s portion has two orchards at which peaches, nectarines and citrus fruits grow. The farm also boasts an 8000-square-foot mixed vegetable garden, a 30-year-old black mission fig tree, apple and pear trees and a mulberry tree. Lopreore operates a year-round greenhouse at which she cultivates many of the crops, some of which change season to season. In 2010, the hotel focused on 300 different types of tomatoes as well as black and white garbanzo beans, cucumbers, squash, sun chokes and three different types of corn.



“Through the gardens we lower emissions by not trucking in the amount of food we grow. We also compost our kitchen scraps and use these in our gardens which lowers the need for trash pickup and adding to the landfill,” says Lopeore. “Besides all the environmental benefits, it provides our chef with the unique opportunity of being able to request unusual items like the Bhut Jolokia, which we grow on site. The Bhut Jolokia is the hottest pepper in the world.” See our full review.






Lucy Restaurant & Bar (at Bardessono)
6526 Yount St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 944-2345


Notable Closures…RIP


Unfortunately some of most popular restaurnats in Yountville over the past 10 years have closed. Here are a few notable ones—including two from acclaimed chef and restaurateur Richard Reddington.

Hurley’s (closed 2018)


Located in the center of Yountville, Chef Bob Hurley’s menu is a great example of California cuisine; fresh, local, seasonal and perfectly paired with wine. It’s lively bar and expansive outdoor patio is a favorite among local winemakers or anyone who enjoys al fresco dining in Napa Valley while the cozy dining room, enhanced by a stone fireplace and large windows with year round ambiance.

Menu favorites include the Oakwood Grilled Ribeye Steak and the Braised Wild Boar with truffle polenta. And if you find yourself hungry after 9pm, Hurley’s a special late night menu of burgers, sliders, appetizers, and their famous truffle oil fries mixed with bacon, garlic and melted fontina cheese.




6518 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 944-2345

Redd (closed 2018)

Yountville has perhaps the world’s highest per capita concentration of Michelin stars – the Napa Valley town has only 3,000 residents but six stars. One belongs to chef Richard Reddington, whose REDD restaurant has, since its opening in late 2005, been a favorite of those looking for innovative cuisine in a casual setting. Before REDD, Reddington had stints at San Francisco’s Masa’s and Jardiniere, as well as Napa’s Auberge de Soleil. The menu is contemporary American, though with decidedly international influences: pork belly is served with a soy caramel sauce, while the braised and roasted lamb is seasoned with garam masala.

The restaurant eschews the formality of the town’s most famous restaurant, the French Laundry, for a sun-filled room in minimalist white and a courtyard where the sounds of a fountain accompany meals. It is no wonder that while the French Laundry has made a name for itself as a “special occasion” restaurant, REDD is a favorite of locals, where you may find yourself seated between a vintner and a chef on his night off when you pull up to the bar and order some fish tacos.




6480 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 945-0447


Redd Wood (closed 2020) 


in 2012 Reddington opened a second restaurant – the even more casual Redd Wood, located in the North Block Hotel. Picture windows with the restaurant’s name in gold letters overlooking the northern end of Washington Street, Yountville’s main drag. If the décor is old world – with dark woods, brass fixtures and tiled floors – the California sun still fills the room. While REDD’s menu is heavy on French and Asian influences, Redd Wood is an osteria meets pizzeria. Charcuterie is prepared in-house while roasted main dishes like quail (served with polenta, spinach and apricot agrodolce) emerge from the wood-burning oven. Perhaps needless to say, but the arugula, mushrooms, spinach and other produce that top the pizzas are all locally sourced, as are the cheeses. Main courses range from $26 to $31, but with pastas from $15 to $18, the restaurant is refreshingly more accessible than many of the town’s starred options.




Pizza at Redd Wood in Yountville. Photo credit is Nick Vasilopoulos.


Redd Wood
6755 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 299-5030