One of the notable highlights of my trip to Napa was a visit to a new spot for me, The Charter Oak at 1050 Charter Oak Avenue in St. Helena Napa, California. This was previously Tre Vigne, one of Napa’s favourites.
This family-style dining experience serving approachable, seasonal food, with the hearth the heart of the restaurant. The owner/chef is Christopher Kostow, of the three-star Michelin restaurant, The Restaurant at Meadowood. Charter Oak is unlike that iconic restaurant, more the antithesis of it, and features few or no garnishes. Serving grilled meats, and farm vegetables, local wines and creative cocktails. They serve large, family-size sharing portions. The food is well prepared, quality food, served without the frills. The chef is Katianna Hong, who was chef de cuisine at Meadowood.
The restaurant decor is industrial chic, with raw exposed brick walls, communal tables, sparse designs, worn plank floors, and a large tall hearth that is focal point of the restaurant. There is a large black and white photo, that is floor to ceiling in dimension, of a 1902 train wreck that happened right outside the restaurant doors. One interesting feature is the self-service drawers at each table. There is also a lovely courtyard and balcony dining.
Whereas Meadowood is known for its meticulous dining, here the kitchen emphasizes the bounty of the valley. Almost everything they serve, they grow. So their “raw vegetables from our farm”, are a triumph of flavour. The crispy potato “tostones”, served in a browned butter, are taste bud pleasing, the summer tomatoes in their juices – sweet perfection, and the hearth roasted oyster mushrooms were earthy and exquisite. In fact, they excel in all their vegetable dishes. But the meat and seafood dishes were also standouts, like the smoked and grilled beef short ribs, or the simply grilled salmon. Even the homemade sourdough bread and butter is a crowd-pleaser.
There is a wine list for every budget.
The Charter Oak is a great way to immerse yourself in the bounty of the region. A great place to dine with a family or group of friends.