Critics’ choice: Great dining for day-trippers
Miminashi Napa, Calif.
“It seems like every time Bay Area chefs travel to Japan, they come back energized,” said Michael Bauer in the San Francisco Chronicle. That’s what appears to have happened to Curtis Di Fede, who when last in Napa was being celebrated for his southern Italian–inspired fare at Oenotri. A three-year break allowed him to travel the world, though, and his new project—a Japanese-style pub, or izakaya—has given the small wine-country hub an impressive new dining destination. The “breathtaking” interior offers a contemporary take on a poplar wood–lined pagoda, and the menu honors tradition, “but with enough flair to create excitement.” Di Fede is again serving Paine Farm squab, here plated with mustard greens, pole beans, and warm peaches, and his Snake River Farms zabuton, a wagyu short-rib steak, is “one of the best beef dishes I’ve had in some time.” Raw offerings might include Arctic char or coins of Monterey Bay octopus, and the 23 sakes and offbeat wine list support the menu beautifully. Even the fried rice, which changes nightly, has layers: You pause mid-mouthful “to see what happens next.”821 Coombs St., (707) 254-9464
Field & Main Marshall, Va.
At this reborn 19th-century tavern in rural Virginia, “some of what you eat and drink is bound to have come from someone sit-ting near you,” said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. The community connections are that strong at Neal and Star Wavra’s new restaurant, which sources much of its menu and wine list locally and then regularly welcomes the producers as dinner guests. You could make a whole meal of first courses like the sorghum-berry risotto with goat cheese and the sweet scallops atop charred cabbage. Several of chef Anthony Nelson’s entrées spend time over a wood fire in the 10-foot-wide hearth, and “the beef in particular makes extraordinary eating, be it blushing slices of roast beef or thick rib-eye steak.” If you want a quick, casual meal, stop next door at the Wavras’ sandwich shop, which serves house-made sausages, hot dogs, and meatballs. Not that the multi-room main operation is staid. At Field & Main, “table-hopping turns out to be as much an activity as chewing.”8369 W. Main St., (540) 364-8166
Phoenicia Diner Phoenicia, N.Y.
“Expect to find more places like Phoenicia Diner dotting the Catskills in the near future,” said Robert Sietsema in NYEater.com. A refurbished roadside joint just northwest of Woodstock, it’s been only partly made over since its decades as a standard diner ended in 2011, but it packs in both oldtimers and Millennials for its simple but exciting breakfast and lunch fare. Since buying the diner, ex-Brooklynite Mike Cioffi has added a bit of extra chrome, rippled glass, and a logo featuring a snazzy 1960s station wagon loaded with camping gear. The menu “divides almost 50-50 into revamped diner classics and modish modern fare,” with bespoke cocktails and local beers and wines available, too. But standbys like French toast and tuna sandwiches get “locavoric, eco-minded, seasonal” upgrades, and even bistro-style items like avocado and salmon tartine won’t push anyone’s total bill beyond $15. The Phoenicia Diner is beloved by hicksters— you know, those urban hipsters who are moving to small towns to find cheap rents. But Cioffi has created an establishment that can be enjoyed by just about anyone who passes by. 5681 NY-28, (845) 688-9957