The city of Calistoga has matured into a center for fine dining, with a number of
excellent restaurants that meet a full range of your food requirements. Conveniently,
many are located downtown either within walking distance from hotels or just a
short hop by car. Here are three of the best.
Brannan’s Grill – For a Predictably Classic Dining Experience
Brannan’s Grill was the first “classic” grill in Calistoga, and remains the gold
standard for a dining experience. You’ll find it at the very center of town on
Lincoln Avenue, the town’s main strolling and shopping street. Upon entering
Brannan’s spacious dining room, diners will feel instantly at ease, enjoying the
warmth of natural wood, snuggling into the comfortable seating throughout and
bellying up to the old-world Brunswick Bar.
The food and beverages are under the direction of owners Ron Goldin and Mark
Young, who have presided over the restaurant since 1998. They have assembled
a crew of service people who are second to none, friendly yet efficient.
Predictably great food
The menu is honest and straight-ahead; one that seems simple yet is pleasingly
complete. Start with several farm-to-table appetizers, add a choice of locally
sourced salads and plunge into a tempting collection of entrees from King
salmon to Alaskan halibut and grilled pork chop to chicken-fried quail. There
is even a delectable cioppino. Yet, perhaps the main reasons to try Brannan’s
are the steakhouse classics, big and mouthwatering cuts of Akaushi flatiron,
Akaushi rib-eye, filet mignon and New York strip steaks with all the trimmings.
Predictably outstanding beverages
The wine list is full of excellent selections, all reasonably priced. And the beer and
cocktail list is as complete as you can get. Open seven days a week with a
not-to-be-missed happy hour.
Brannan’s Grill is located at 1374 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga.
The Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery – Location, Location,
Location and Food, Food, Food
The Calistoga Inn Restaurant can put you at ease with its casual comfort but it can
blow you away with its food. Whether you spend a glorious day sitting next to the
river, under a big oak tree on the Back Forty patio, or in the Vintage Dining Room
just off the patio in the evening, you’ll enjoy your meal … as well as your beer and
wine. The service is always exceptionally friendly, yet exceedingly sharp.
Given the great location, the food is way better than it has to be
Under the direction of executive Chef Nicolas Montanez, the kitchen turns out some
very interesting, and delightful foods: oysters, clams, mussels and crab cakes, as
well as all kinds of organic salads, burgers, risotto and even a hanger steak for
lunch. For dinner there are entrees like rib-eye or porterhouse steak, Jamaican
jerk chicken, country paella and Skuna Bay salmon. These are multiplied by
offering diners a selection of separate menus for brunch, three-course lunches
and three-course dinners, as well as American, wine country and Italian buffets.
With such a great number of choices, you can surely find something you’ll like.
Given the food, the wines and beers are better than they have to be
The wine list is impressive and well thought-out; the beers are another story – a
great story. Under the direction of Brew Master Brad Smisloff, the beers are
award-winning and genuinely incomparable.
Calistoga Restaurant & Brewery is adjacent to the river that runs through town at
1250 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga.
Evangeline – An Elegant Side Street Setting
Evangeline is a flavorful blend of California fresh meets French cuisine in a lovely
New Orleans Creole indoor/outdoor setting. The result is a thoroughly delicious
and satisfying dining experience that says, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”
Under watchful eyes
The restaurant is under the direction of six-time Michelin award-winner Brandon
Sharp, with longtime friend and Executive Chef Gustavo Rios doing the daily
food preparation. And what very great food he creates. The menu is imaginative,
the bar selections and wine list are really excellent, and the ambience is quite
charming. Because most of the dining area is outside on the garden patio, the
restaurant provides efficient heaters for very cold evenings. The service is leisurely
but cheerful, and it gives you the time to enjoy the dazzling food and wines.
Superb food choices
The menu features some amazing small appetizers, such as freshly pickled collard
greens, carrots and turnips, and delicately sliced onions. Other winners are the
crab and asparagus salad, the duck rillettes with toast and pepper jelly, hearty
soups and a perfectly dressed salade maison. All foods items are sized to be shared.
Entrées include a poulet grand-mere with whipped potatoes, poisson eau fou, a
perfectly done Petrale sole in a light white-wine broth with vegetables, a pork
shoulder, a lovely piece of salmon and other mainstays. There are enough choices
that even a gluten-free vegetarian will have no problems eating. Desserts are all
good, but be sure to save room for the tarte tatin with vanilla bean ice cream; it’s
a great finish to a great meal.
The bar is a cozy little place with an outstanding offering of cocktails. The wine list
is very well developed, and you should have no trouble selecting from a number
of local wines. There is no corkage for the first bottle of wine.
Evangeline is tucked into a spot a half-block north of Lincoln Avenue, the main
street, at 1226 Washington St., Calistoga.
These three restaurants stand out above the crowd in downtown Calistoga;
they’re reason enough for an overnight – or longer – stay in this charming,
up-valley Napa town. (For fine dining at Calistoga’s spa resorts, see “Your
—By Thomas Pickering
Napa Valley resident Tom Pickering is a grizzled 25-year veteran of writing about
food and beverage. He has traveled to Ireland, Scotland, England, France,
Italy and China to write about everything from the perfect pint of Guinness and
single-malt Scotch whiskey to pasta truffles and tongue of chicken. Tom
currently writes winery newsletters, websites and general copy for a range