Smoke Be Damned, Napa's Luxury Restaurants Are Seeing High Demand

Posted: Sep 14, 2020

Wildfires, a pandemic, and Armageddon-orange skies don’t seem to deter diners from venturing to some of the most luxurious restaurants in Napa. The only county in the Bay Area to allow indoor dining, and one of the few with high-end outdoor options, its fine dining restaurants are seeing higher demand than ever.

“I think people feel at least that they’ve gone without things they’ve otherwise wanted,” said Christopher Kostow, chef of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, which had a wait list of 140 people last Saturday in the midst of hazy air and a record-breaking heat wave. “They make a trip to go to Napa they’re not going to settle with being told they can’t have that experience. They embrace it.”

If anything, the end-times combination of pandemic, power outages and smoky air may be giving diners even more reason for a fine dining escape if they can afford it. Napa restaurants were allowed to resume indoor dining after the county reached Tier 2 in the state’s new classification system for COVID-19 risk, after a brief spell of being open earlier this summer. Even though the county’s restaurants can operate at only 25% capacity, those at the higher price point are finding it worthwhile.

At Torc, a destination restaurant in downtown Napa, chef Sean O’Toole said his restaurant is seeing a high demand for indoor service, however limited. An $850 special tasting menu at the French Laundry in Yountville sold out faster than it has in the past. And on Wednesday, when skies turned a disturbing shade of orange, Kostow didn’t notice a downturn in reservations at Meadowood — where the waitlist for a table is significantly longer than it was before the pandemic. The restaurant plans to start indoor operations later this month.

By Justin Philips and Tara Duggan
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