I love a restaurant that says what it is and is what it says. The newly opened ATLAS SOCIAL in downtown Napa is exactly what it sounds like—a vibrant gastrohub for mixing, mingling, and plate-sharing. And when we say social, we mean that you’ll run into at least four people you know on the way to your communal table, where you’ll meet six more people you don’t. The restaurant is owned by local restaurateurs Michael Gyetvan and Christina Rivera (Norman Rose Tavern, Azzurro Pizzeria), who’ve partnered with exec chef Nick Ritchie and GM Pat Jeffries. The idea behind the small plates/big flavors restaurant is to, well, be social and share. Stingy eaters, you’ve been warned.
On a recent night, where “standing-room only” was a euphemism for “packed like sardines,” ordering came easy after seeing the flurry of plates land on the tables around us. Yes to the herb-leaf fries with Meyer lemon aioli, Dungeness crab toast, and the charcuterie plate. Yes to the ricotta dumplings with smoked mozzarella, “angry” shrimp, and braised pork belly tacos. Nope to the twice-fried Brussels sprouts, especially after smelling them go by our table several times. Dagnabbit to the mini rabbit potpie that arrived at a nearby table just as we ordered dessert. Fortunately, the chocolate budino with cherries and bee pollen more than made up for whatever else we didn’t order.
Plates range from $6-$18, with larger platters (for a crowd) between $34 and $42. The wine list is two well-curated pages, ranging from nicely priced local wines ($32) to higher-end cabs ($65-$70, plus a couple of pricier wines). So grab a glass, a seat, and a plate and get social in Napa. 1124 First St., Napa, 707-258-2583.
Even more news from Healdsburg: Superstar chef Kyle Connaughton and his farmer wife will be opening a Michelin-worthy restaurant this fall. Several months ago, rumors began buzzing with the news that a top-notch chef may be moving into winemaker Pete Seghesio’s newly constructed Healdsburg Meat Co. at 131 North St.
Turns out the grapevine was surprisingly accurate. This week it was announced that Connaughton and his wife, Katina, will open SINGLE THREAD FARMS restaurant and inn inside the space later this year. Seghesio’s butchery and a small tasting room for his Journeyman wines will occupy part of the first floor. They will also produce wine inside the Single Thread dining room in a glass-enclosed fermentation tank, making it the country’s smallest licensed winery.
“We really hoped to create a culinary showcase for the area with (this) building and we can’t think of a better pairing than the Connaughtons,” said Pete Seghesio. “They represent the essence of the modern food movement.”
The forthcoming 55-seat restaurant will offer an “experience” that includes personalized tours of the restaurant’s rooftop garden and greenhouse, an 11-course meal, California-centric wine pairings, lush decor, and the option to stay in one of the space’s five suites while being pampered and indulged throughout the evening.
Following a fine-dining trend that’s proved popular from Chicago to Los Angeles and New York, diners will purchase tickets (running about $200 per person) for the meal in advance. Kyle, who spent many years cooking in Japan, compares the luxe dining concept to “omotenashi,” which is a heightened sense of hospitality and anticipation of a guest’s every need.
Katina, who is an experienced culinary gardener, will manage a five-acre farm near Healdsburg, which will drive the menu almost entirely. Also enamored with Japanese culinary techniques, she embraces an ancient farming technique that breaks seasons into 72 five-day farming cycles, known in the expanding culinary farm-to-table cuisine as micro-seasons.
Kyle hasn’t given much detail on the dishes he’ll be serving, but he says they will be uniquely Sonoma County, with influences from his time in Japan, modernist cuisine inspired by his stint at England’s Fat Duck, and the traditional French cooking of Michel Bras. “We’re bringing together farm-driven cooking with innovation,” he said. Sonoma County is about to have a new Michelin-star contender.
Elsewhere, Ralph Tingle of the iconic BISTRO RALPH in Healdsburg wants you to know he’s not going anywhere soon. In fact, he’s opening a new barbecue restaurant at the former CK House Chinese (1525 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg) later this year.
Tingle told BiteClub that Bistro Ralph is still for sale, but it’s business as usual at the restaurant (meaning chicken livers for everyone!). The new space will have a mesquite grill, an outdoor beer garden, and live entertainment. “I’m excited to get all wrapped up in a new project,” said Tingle.
Nearby, Charcuterie has closed, and so far there’s no word on a buyer for the shuttered location. Also, Healdsburg’s 1950s-style eatery, Center Street Cafe & Deli, has closed temporarily— the owners of KIN Restaurant in Windsor will be taking over. The former Frank and Ernie’s steakhouse has reopened as Wild Flowers Saloon, and The Blackbird Cafe & Soda Fountain has replaced Snowbunny, with an expanded menu of panini, bagelwiches, and giant soft pretzels.
Just in time for Fat Tuesday, Michelin-starred chef Brandon Sharp is opening EVANGELINE, a French-Creole-inspired bistro in Calistoga. The space, at 1226 Washington Street, has seen several restaurants come and go, but it was purchased last spring by Sharp’s employers at SOLAGE CALISTOGA resort. In the interim, the historic brick building, with its much-coveted patio space, underwent extensive renovation.
What we’re stoked about is the menu: classic French meets New Orleans Creole. Expect comfort dishes like poulet grand-mere and gumbo ya ya, along with Sharp’s own Croque Marin, which is a croque-madame with millionaire’s bacon (bacon cooked with brown sugar, black pepper, and cayenne).
The 2,000-square-foot space will include eight taps for wine, five taps for NorCal beers, and a cocktail program featuring NOLA-inspired drinks. Expect to pay around $15-$27 for entrées, with lunch and dinner service. Sharp, who is VP of culinary ops for Solage Hotels and Resorts, will act as the restaurant’s managing partner, while Solage vet Gustavo Rios will handle the daily ops. Sasan Nayeri, formerly of Terra in St. Helena, will be sommelier. 11am-9pm daily. 1226 Washington St., Calistoga.