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An overhead array of sandwich and bigs of chips. Delicious Dish

11 Affordable Wine Country Restaurants

Where to find meal that won’t break the bank in Napa and Sonoma

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What does “affordable” mean these days? Hopefully it means delicious eating that leaves you feeling the money you spent to eat and be looked after by a dedicated hospitality team was worth it.

Of course, Northern California’s wine country is a big place with an abundance of exceptional eats. But when it comes to affordable options, the pickings can feel slim. We scoured the Sonoma and Napa valleys, looking for deals that don’t skimp on quality or portion size. Below are just a few of the more affordable restaurants serving inspired food at prices that feel more in line with 2019 than 2022.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Agave | Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar

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Though it is tucked into a plaza with a Safeway and a Starbuck’s not far from downtown, Glen Ellen Star and chef Octavio Diaz’s handmade signature mole negro de Oaxaca ($19) are worth seeking out. The dish offers an impossible one-two punch of bright chile heat and earthy spices layered with chocolate’s tempered sweetness. Or try the tlayuda ($16), an oversized, round tostada acts as a crispy underpinning for layers of black beans, tomato, and fresh cheese and an optional salsa verde. Pair it with a chile ancho margarita ($12) and refresh your palate after an afternoon of wine tasting.

Mole negro on a white plate with a side salad. Agave

Evangeline

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Available in summer during Calistoga’s Concerts in the Park series is a fried chicken stunner of a dinner ($55). The 10-piece takeout bucket easily feeds four and includes three sides like cucumbers with espelette, beets, and burrata, or biscuits with cinnamon honey butter. If chicken isn’t your thing, the Creole-inflected bistro menu includes a wagyu burger ($21) and gumbo ya-ya ($25) with andouille sausage and holy trinity (that translates to onions, green bell pepper, and celery).

An overhead view into a box with a bucket of fried chicken, biscuits, and other sides. Evangeline

Gatehouse Restaurant (The Culinary Institute of America)

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One of the beautiful things about having a culinary school in St. Helena is the student-chef-run fine dining restaurant, Gatehouse on campus. Local produce sourced from the school garden is featured in the three-course ($40) or four course ($50) lunch menu. (Dinner prices skew higher at $55 and $65.) Recent menus have included achiote mushroom nacatamal with pipian, prawn and kimchi okonomiyaki with chili honey, and pan-seared halibut with fennel soubise and meyer lemon beurre blanc. Sommelier-matched wine pairings are available.

The Culinary Institute of America

Mitote Food Park

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Just off the 101 and Highway 12 exchange at the edge of Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood, food trucks gather daily to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture through food and music. A small bar serves local beer, pulque, and tepache. Look for regular trucks, including Charro Negro and their beachy food (surf and turf burritos with chorizo and shrimp or aguachile with scallop and tamarind) or birria everything from Gio and Los Magos, among others.  It’s a casual setting but the flavors are inspired

Tortillas on a flat top grill. Mixiote

Even though the price tips above $50 for a four-course meal (it clocks in at $58 to be exact), fans of Thomas Keller’s refined fare can delight in comfort food classics served family-style. The meal might start with a classic iceberg wedge salad with buttermilk ranch dressing before transitioning to smoked beef brisket with collard greens, baked beans, and apple cider vinegar BBQ sauce. The third course is cheese, such as Meadow Creek Dairy Appalachian cow’s milk served with rhubarb mostarda and caraway crackers. No meal could be complete without dessert – how about lemon posset with strawberry sauce and white chocolate mousse? 

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Glen Ellen Star

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Beloved in equal measure for his wood roasted whole cauliflower and brick chicken, chef Ari Weiswasser turns every Wednesday into a community celebration. It’s Neighborhood Night, y’all, when the nightly dinner menu is available but a special two-course, $39 meal attracts locals for seasonal salads or rigatoni cashew e pepe (get it?).  The menu changes every week according to the availability of seasonal produce but the complimentary corkage for every diner shifts the vibe from “mellow” to “party.”

A bowl of pasta topped with cheese and a basil leaf. Glen Ellen Star

Delicious Dish

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After years cooking energy-packed meals for Microsoft and Dropbox, Delicious Dish chef-owner Lauren Cotner pivoted to family-friendly meals at her restaurant not far from downtown Sonoma. Generous salads and sandwiches come in around $15 with flavors around the world (think a banh mi-inspired poke bowl with ahi tuna, pickled daikon and sriracha aioli, or a crab melt with locally sourced Dungeness on brioche). The “out the door” dinners come in around $20 per person and, like the roasted chicken with accompanying butter lettuce salad and olive oil mashed potatoes, are stick-to-your-ribs hearty.

Stacked sandwiches wrapped in checkered paper. Delicious Dish

The Grove at Copia

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The onsite restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa extension in the Oxbow District is run by executive chef and CIA graduate Sayat Ozyilmaz. Shareable dishes are the norm here and the Sunday Night Supper where the three-course prix fixe ($49) recently celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year, included wood-fired lamb roast, fava bean and dill rice pilaf, beet borani, and semolina halva. A Lunchbox menu features midday meals (crab roll, garden wrap, hearty kale salad) all priced between $11 and $16 and a beautiful garden setting in which to enjoy your meal.

A table of food including chicken and a salad. The Grove at Copia

Hog Island Oyster Co

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You already know 6 oysters ($21) and a glass of Champagne make a fine meal but for those days when you need a little something more, steamed Manila clams ($20) to the rescue. Though the preparation changes with the season, the current look is garlic ginger butter, chorizo, chicory greens, and green onion. Add a side of pasta ($2) and a briny repast at the Oxbow Market location of the famous Marin Oyster Company becomes something more.

Steamed clams in a bowl. Hog Island Oyster Co

the girl & the fig

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As she has for some 27 years in the same downtown Sonoma location, the Girl & the Fig founder-proprietor Sondra Bernstein understands the power of a good tasting menu. Called Bistro Plats du Jour, the Provençal-inspired 3-course $48 menu changes frequently but steak tartare with caperberries and lavender sea salt, wild flounder meunière with lemon-caper brown butter, and salted fig caramel trifle with candied cocoa nibs and Italian meringue make regular appearances.

Duck confit on a white plate. Courtesy the girl & the fig

Sausage Emporium

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Craft beers on tap from the likes of HenHouse Brewing, Sonoma Spring Brewing Co, and Crowns and Hops target the discerning IPA drinker — but it’s the meal deals that bring in the crowds at this downtown Sonoma favorite. Running from late March through April, the meal deal makes a great order including a Scotch egg with side of Emporium fries, chipotle creme dip, and a craft beer or glass of Emporium wine for just a Jackson (that’s $20 for those who no longer use cash).

A Scotch egg cut in half. Sausage Emporium

Agave | Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar

Mole negro on a white plate with a side salad. Agave

Though it is tucked into a plaza with a Safeway and a Starbuck’s not far from downtown, Glen Ellen Star and chef Octavio Diaz’s handmade signature mole negro de Oaxaca ($19) are worth seeking out. The dish offers an impossible one-two punch of bright chile heat and earthy spices layered with chocolate’s tempered sweetness. Or try the tlayuda ($16), an oversized, round tostada acts as a crispy underpinning for layers of black beans, tomato, and fresh cheese and an optional salsa verde. Pair it with a chile ancho margarita ($12) and refresh your palate after an afternoon of wine tasting.

Mole negro on a white plate with a side salad. Agave

Evangeline

An overhead view into a box with a bucket of fried chicken, biscuits, and other sides. Evangeline

Available in summer during Calistoga’s Concerts in the Park series is a fried chicken stunner of a dinner ($55). The 10-piece takeout bucket easily feeds four and includes three sides like cucumbers with espelette, beets, and burrata, or biscuits with cinnamon honey butter. If chicken isn’t your thing, the Creole-inflected bistro menu includes a wagyu burger ($21) and gumbo ya-ya ($25) with andouille sausage and holy trinity (that translates to onions, green bell pepper, and celery).

An overhead view into a box with a bucket of fried chicken, biscuits, and other sides. Evangeline

Gatehouse Restaurant (The Culinary Institute of America)

The Culinary Institute of America

One of the beautiful things about having a culinary school in St. Helena is the student-chef-run fine dining restaurant, Gatehouse on campus. Local produce sourced from the school garden is featured in the three-course ($40) or four course ($50) lunch menu. (Dinner prices skew higher at $55 and $65.) Recent menus have included achiote mushroom nacatamal with pipian, prawn and kimchi okonomiyaki with chili honey, and pan-seared halibut with fennel soubise and meyer lemon beurre blanc. Sommelier-matched wine pairings are available.

The Culinary Institute of America

Mitote Food Park

Tortillas on a flat top grill. Mixiote

Just off the 101 and Highway 12 exchange at the edge of Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood, food trucks gather daily to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture through food and music. A small bar serves local beer, pulque, and tepache. Look for regular trucks, including Charro Negro and their beachy food (surf and turf burritos with chorizo and shrimp or aguachile with scallop and tamarind) or birria everything from Gio and Los Magos, among others.  It’s a casual setting but the flavors are inspired

Tortillas on a flat top grill. Mixiote

Ad Hoc

Ad Hoc

Even though the price tips above $50 for a four-course meal (it clocks in at $58 to be exact), fans of Thomas Keller’s refined fare can delight in comfort food classics served family-style. The meal might start with a classic iceberg wedge salad with buttermilk ranch dressing before transitioning to smoked beef brisket with collard greens, baked beans, and apple cider vinegar BBQ sauce. The third course is cheese, such as Meadow Creek Dairy Appalachian cow’s milk served with rhubarb mostarda and caraway crackers. No meal could be complete without dessert – how about lemon posset with strawberry sauce and white chocolate mousse? 

Ad Hoc

Glen Ellen Star

A bowl of pasta topped with cheese and a basil leaf. Glen Ellen Star

Beloved in equal measure for his wood roasted whole cauliflower and brick chicken, chef Ari Weiswasser turns every Wednesday into a community celebration. It’s Neighborhood Night, y’all, when the nightly dinner menu is available but a special two-course, $39 meal attracts locals for seasonal salads or rigatoni cashew e pepe (get it?).  The menu changes every week according to the availability of seasonal produce but the complimentary corkage for every diner shifts the vibe from “mellow” to “party.”

A bowl of pasta topped with cheese and a basil leaf. Glen Ellen Star

Delicious Dish

Stacked sandwiches wrapped in checkered paper. Delicious Dish

After years cooking energy-packed meals for Microsoft and Dropbox, Delicious Dish chef-owner Lauren Cotner pivoted to family-friendly meals at her restaurant not far from downtown Sonoma. Generous salads and sandwiches come in around $15 with flavors around the world (think a banh mi-inspired poke bowl with ahi tuna, pickled daikon and sriracha aioli, or a crab melt with locally sourced Dungeness on brioche). The “out the door” dinners come in around $20 per person and, like the roasted chicken with accompanying butter lettuce salad and olive oil mashed potatoes, are stick-to-your-ribs hearty.

Stacked sandwiches wrapped in checkered paper. Delicious Dish

The Grove at Copia

A table of food including chicken and a salad. The Grove at Copia

The onsite restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa extension in the Oxbow District is run by executive chef and CIA graduate Sayat Ozyilmaz. Shareable dishes are the norm here and the Sunday Night Supper where the three-course prix fixe ($49) recently celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year, included wood-fired lamb roast, fava bean and dill rice pilaf, beet borani, and semolina halva. A Lunchbox menu features midday meals (crab roll, garden wrap, hearty kale salad) all priced between $11 and $16 and a beautiful garden setting in which to enjoy your meal.

A table of food including chicken and a salad. The Grove at Copia

Hog Island Oyster Co

Steamed clams in a bowl. Hog Island Oyster Co

You already know 6 oysters ($21) and a glass of Champagne make a fine meal but for those days when you need a little something more, steamed Manila clams ($20) to the rescue. Though the preparation changes with the season, the current look is garlic ginger butter, chorizo, chicory greens, and green onion. Add a side of pasta ($2) and a briny repast at the Oxbow Market location of the famous Marin Oyster Company becomes something more.

Steamed clams in a bowl. Hog Island Oyster Co

the girl & the fig

Duck confit on a white plate. Courtesy the girl & the fig

As she has for some 27 years in the same downtown Sonoma location, the Girl & the Fig founder-proprietor Sondra Bernstein understands the power of a good tasting menu. Called Bistro Plats du Jour, the Provençal-inspired 3-course $48 menu changes frequently but steak tartare with caperberries and lavender sea salt, wild flounder meunière with lemon-caper brown butter, and salted fig caramel trifle with candied cocoa nibs and Italian meringue make regular appearances.

Duck confit on a white plate. Courtesy the girl & the fig

Sausage Emporium

A Scotch egg cut in half. Sausage Emporium

Craft beers on tap from the likes of HenHouse Brewing, Sonoma Spring Brewing Co, and Crowns and Hops target the discerning IPA drinker — but it’s the meal deals that bring in the crowds at this downtown Sonoma favorite. Running from late March through April, the meal deal makes a great order including a Scotch egg with side of Emporium fries, chipotle creme dip, and a craft beer or glass of Emporium wine for just a Jackson (that’s $20 for those who no longer use cash).

A Scotch egg cut in half. Sausage Emporium

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