Restaurant Review – April 2011

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review April 2011

Cole’s Chop House …
A Carnivore’s Paradise
(as our grandson says)

By Dorothy and John Salmon

One of our favorite people in the entire world is Greg Cole, owner of Cole’s Chop House and Celadon in downtown Napa. Long before most restaurateurs believed in downtown Napa, Greg Cole was pioneering Napa’s Renaissance. Greg deserves many accolades for jumping in early and helping to create what has now become a foodies dream in downtown Napa.

Greg Cole travels back and forth from Celadon to Cole’s Chop House and you will always see him smiling. He came to Napa in 1985 and worked with Chef Philippe Jeanty at Domaine Chandon, then worked at Pasta Prego and Ristorante Piatti. He even did a stint of winemaking at Robert Sinskey Vineyards to perfect his knowledge of Napa’s wines. In 1996, he and his wife, Beth Fairbairn, opened Celadon, offering their signature “Global Comfort Food.” In 1998, Greg was selected as one of the 24 “hottest young chefs” in America by the Wine Spectator.

When you walk into Cole’s you are greeted by one of two friendly Managers, Eric Keffer or David Palagi. Cole’s Chop House is located in one of Napa’s oldest stone buildings, built in 1886 with hand hewn native stone, an open truss ceiling and Douglas Fir floors. The building once housed the livestock exhibits for the late 1800’s fairs, so we think that it is appropriate to now be a famous Napa steak house.

The downstairs area is beautiful, full of fun and laughter, and home to one of the trendiest Honduran mahogany bars in town. From May to October, you can dine outside on the patio adjacent to the Napa Creek and the Main Street scene in downtown Napa. If you are lucky, you might even catch Congressman Mike Thompson walking past, since his office is close by.

According to husband John, who was born and raised between the Chicago Stockyards and the South Chicago Steel Mills, Cole’s is a Classic American Steak House. Since no dinner is complete without meat and a glass of scotch (or Cabernet here in Napa) it is his favorite. The menu features 21- day, dry-aged, prime steaks, Certified Angus Beef, formula fed veal, New Zealand lamb and fresh seafood. All of the “sides” are amazing. Our favorites are the creamed spinach and the hash browns. Cole’s has an impressive wine list emphasizing Cabernets from some of the best wineries of the Napa Valley.

The upstairs mezzanine dining area accommodates groups as large as 45. A beautiful velvet drapery divides the room from the downstairs dining area, creating an intimate and elegant space that harkens back a hundred years. So, it is not surprising that Cole’s Chop House is our go-to place for those special occasions when you want a great steak. We (and Napa) were recently visited by Tom Torlakson, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Tony Wagner, author of “The Global Achievement Gap.” We selected upstairs at Cole’s for dinner. As usual, Greg was on hand to welcome our distinguished guests and, of course, to make sure that the food was as remarkable as always.

For this dinner party of about 24 guests, we chose Cole’s Chop House Group Dining Menu.  The first course is either a Grilled Mexican White Prawn Cocktail or Maine Peekytoe Crab Cocktail. The salad course offers the Chop House Caesar Salad or the Classic Wedge of Iceberg Lettuce, with cherry tomatoes and Maytag blue cheese. For an entrée, we could choose from a Double G Brand Natural Petite Filet Mignon, or a 10 oz. Atlantic Salmon Filet, or the Eden Farms Certified Berkshire 12 oz. Center Cut Pork Chop. The side dishes were served family style and included Roasted Potatoes, Creamed Spinach and Sautéed Mushroom Caps. For dessert, we could choose either a Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee or a Warm Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce. The Group Dining Menu we chose was $80 per person and well worth the price.

We paired our dinner with great wines from Vineyard 29 and Jones Family Vineyards, compliments of Chuck McMinn and Rick Jones. Prior to dinner, the group had the opportunity to hear both Tom Torlakson’s hopes for California’s students and Tony Wagner’s observations and suggestions for Napa County’s education future.  Tony Wagner’s visit was sponsored by Napa’s local education non-profit, NapaLearns, with a special assist from its Directors Chuck McMinn and Rick Jones.

When you are planning a special dinner, Cole’s Chop House should be at the top of your list.  If you are looking for a special night out with your one and only, Cole’s also has one of the hottest bars in town with incredible drinks, desserts and ambiance. It is a trendy hangout for visitors and locals alike.

If you want to learn more about Greg and pick up some food and wine advice, you can listen to him on Tuesday mornings on KVON 1440AM from 9 to 10 a.m. You can also catch him on Karen MacNeil’s PBS series “Wine, Food and Friends.” Greg was named 2005 Business of the Year by the Napa Chamber of Commerce and you can also see him at many local fundraising events serving up his incredible food.

Cole’s Chop House
1122 Main Street in downtown Napa.  (707) 224-6328
Dinner is served nightly. Sunday-Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 5 10 p.m.
Adjacent complimentary parking and complimentary valet parking on Fridays and Saturdays.


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