We don’t know what “affordable” means anymore either, but we scoured wine country to find some hidden and not-so-hidden gems with amazing eats that punch above their weight. Below are just a few of the more affordable restaurants serving inspired food at prices that feel more in line with 2019 than 2023.Read More
14 Affordable Wine Country Restaurants
Don’t sweat getting stuck with the check at these wine country restaurants
Matheson’s Wednesday Family Meals
Only on the Mezzanine level, only for groups of four or more, and only on Wednesdays, diners can delight in a four-course, family-style meal where chefs Dustin Valette and Nate Davis share family recipes that are a step above what might be on your table at home. A meal might include a first course of house-made milk bread and wilted spinach with cured egg yolk and give way to a mid-course of pimento mac ‘n cheese before four entrees descend on the table: whole roasted prime rib with green peppercorn sauce, steelhead pave with feta and farro, chilled asparagus with cured lomo and duck fat potatoes. If there’s still room after this Southern-inspired meal, chefs top things up with red velvet cake. Get the whole shebang for $48.75 per person ($195 per table).
This see-and-be-seen perch overlooking Healdsburg is well-known for its cocktails ($15) and expansive tapas menu (don’t miss the ricotta doughnuts). But Mondays are the only day you can get oysters for one dollar each. The special is on as long as the Rooftop is open, or from 3 to 8 p.m. Twelve Marin miyagis and a side of truffle fries slide in at a cool $24. A fine meal, indeed.
Scoop up a half-pound burger with tomato marmalade and pommes fries for $20 any day of the week. But this restaurant just south of Healdsburg Plaza delivers special menus on other days of the week, too. On Sundays, a three-course seafood dinner includes Marin oysters to start, an entree of halibut with corn risotto and basil pistou, and your choice of any menu dessert for $49. Wednesdays are Fried Chicken + Fixin’s, when $27 nets you a wing, a leg, and a thigh plus herbed potatoes, cheddar scallion biscuits, and a Napa cabbage curtido, while on Thursdays, a three-course Moroccan menu comes in at $39.
The student-chef-run fine dining restaurant on the Culinary Institute of America’s St. Helena campus is a must-visit destination. Local produce sourced from the school garden is featured in the three-course ($55) and four-course ($65) dinner menus. Recent menus have included papaya with tomatillo jam and myoga serrano, kombu cured market fish with peach agua chile and fermented melon, sous-vide American Wagyu with Oaxacan mole, and roasted beets and tomato tartelettes with strawberries and basil ice cream. Sommelier-matched wine pairings are available.
Pizzeria Tra Vigne
Pizza is the name of the game at this local’s spot near downtown St. Helena. You could come in at dinner when a large margherita sets you back a Jackson and big plates of spaghetti and meatballs ($23) and chicken parmesan with spaghetti marinara ($19.25) are happy companions with a family-sized salad (Caesar $23.95). But may we suggest happy hour? Available from 4 to 6 p.m. daily, the menu includes $5 tap beers and well drinks, two-buck BBQ spiced smoked chicken wings, and $1.50 oysters on the half-shell. At those prices, a greenback with Hamilton’s face on it is all you need.
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At this, chef Thomas Keller’s other Yountville restaurant, a four-course, family-style dinner is de rigueur, chef’s opportunity to cook the American comfort food of his childhood. Well, not exactly. His mixed green salad is gussied up with raspberries and pickled red onions, the pork chop with whole grain mustard cream and buttermilk whipped potatoes. And the cheese board comes with a pretzel from Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Wrap it all up with vanilla panna cotta and the $64 price tag may feel as comforting as the cuisine.
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Glen Ellen Star
For 10 years running, chef Ari Weiswasser’s restaurant has earned Bib Gourmand designation from Michelin. Translation? The weekly Neighborhood Night (every Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m.) sells out well in advance. The menu changes with the seasons but look for kampachi crudo with calamansi leche de tigre followed by radiatori a la gricia with guanciale and romano beans in the coming weeks. The restaurant also offers complimentary corkage for all guests. The eye-popping $45 price tag attracts everyone from winemakers eager to share a special bottle to locals out for date night.
the fig cafe & winebar
In Glen Ellen at the Fig Café, the three-course menu is $42 and includes dishes such as heirloom tomato tart with parmesan and arugula; Mt. Lassen trout, pearl barley, roasted onions, and basil pistou; and lemon butter cake for dessert. The team even uses its downtown-adjacent Sonoma catering space for themed pop-up events like Fried Chicken Night, BBQ, or Italian. Called Suite D, it’s all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink (beer and wine) with gratuity included for $45.
Though it’s hidden in a north Napa strip mall, Ben and Ali Koenig’s ode to global flavor is sought out for its casual vibe and elevated comfort food. Raves flow in for the Papa K burger ($13.40) — it’s topped with pork belly and underpinned with a “skirt” of crispy cheese — and the Caribbean Chicken Bowl, paired with jicama slaw and plenty of vegetables. But you’re here for the seasonal menu, which, at this time of year, is Back 2 School-themed. Sharpen your pencil for a Sloppy Joe on a potato bun ($11.75). Tune up your calculator with a chili cheese dog ($10.95), and organize your binder before a bowl of chocolate soft serve ($5.65). The menu shifts once you pass your first algebra test.
Lunch Box at Copia
The CIA is in on the take-out game, using the former ticketing booth at Copia as the pick-up window for its lunch offerings. Menus change frequently but a bowl of seared tuna Niçoise salad with rare tuna, baby lettuces, and all the fixings rolls in at $15. A Philly-style hoagie with layers of Italian deli meats and pepperoncini is $14. Make an excuse at the office to pair it with a cup of frosé ($8) and hang out in the gardens or the backyard amphitheater all afternoon.
Napa Yard - Oxbow Gardens
This expansive outdoor offering from chef Daniel Tellez (Copita, Taco Rouge) includes seasonal fare from Garden Kitchen (open through October) and Beer Garden (open year-round) menus. A plate of shrimp ceviche with chips ($15) and a kale and strawberry salad ($13) make a meal. You may want to come just for the Coney Island Dog ($15), however. The large, all-beef frank arrives topped with caramelized onion, bacon, cheese sauce, and mustard with a side of homemade chips. It’s a filling repast that puts stadium dogs to shame.
the girl & the fig
When was the last time you went anywhere and said: “That was a really good deal?” asks Girl & the Fig president John Toulze, who understands the appeal of affordable dining. At the company’s flagship restaurant, the Girl & the Fig, the prix fixe Plats du Jour remains affordable at $48 for three courses such as fig tartine with Pt. Reyes blue crema and pistachio-honeycomb crumble; pan-seared half-chicken with roasted corn and warm tomato vinaigrette; and Gravenstein apple tarte Tatin with house-made vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Wednesday through Friday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., the happy hour menu at chef-owner David Bush’s restaurant serves $8 negronis and blood orange margaritas, a half-dozen oysters for $12, and two tacos of the day for $7. Bush designed a dinner menu with the same affordable approach. So, while the rib eye steak clocks in at $63, it serves two, and comes with a side of crispy fingerling potatoes. A plate of crab-stuffed deviled eggs ($15) is made with house-made yellow curry. It makes a complete dinner when paired with a Caesar salad ($13).
The herby focaccia that creates a lofty yet sturdy foundation for puffy sandwiches at Christian Caiazzo’s Petaluma restaurant makes a chicken cutlet or tomato burrata sandwich seem more than the sum of its seasonally appropriate parts. Though a sandwich makes a meal all on its own, 16-ounce bowls of vegetable minestrone or Italian sausage and bean soup scream not so much “girl dinner” as “family dinner.” Buy them together for $24, and with the change left in your pocket, sample one of the bakery’s many treats. Morning buns, cornettos and raspberry almond muffins lead off the menu at $5.50 while a thick slice of veggie frittata comes in at $8.