Restaurateur, raconteur, cyclist, offal enthusiast, Top Chef Masters champion, and all-around good guy Chris Cosentino knows the Bay Area culinary scene as well as anyone.
The Rhode Island native moved to San Francisco in 1996 and made his mark at high-octane dining destinations like Rubicon, Chez Panisse, Belon, and Incanto, before opening his own iconic neighborhood spot, Cockscomb Restaurant, in 2014 (it closed in 2020).
These days Cosentino runs the kitchen at Acacia House, in the bucolic Napa Valley town of St. Helena, in 2017.
“Acacia House celebrates the journey of the grapes in Napa,” he says. “Every one of those grapes comes from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, right? We celebrate the varietals by showcasing food from those places.”
Given his business interests—and his consuming passion for great food and drink—Cosentino could make the San Francisco-to-Wine-Country run with his eyes closed. He recognizes this region is special and cherishes all that it offers.
“Places like this are few and far between in the world,” Cosentino says. “We’re overwhelmed with quality. We have top-notch everything, from the produce to the meats, breadmakers, cheesemakers, oyster farms. It’s…bountiful.”
Cosentino shared some of his favorite haunts from San Francisco to Napa Valley up to Sonoma County. Take his suggestions below to create your own culinary California road trip.
“Swan Oyster Depot is a must. It’s historic, classic. Wait in line at 10:30 a.m., and have those guys shuck oysters for you.”
“Kin Khao is an amazing experience for Thai food. Great balance, really well-executed.”
“I like to go to La Palma Mexicatessen—they make the tamales, they make the masa, they make everything there.”
“Kim Alter does a great job at Nightbird. Wonderful tasting menu and all the food is delicious. She also has a little cocktail bar next door.”
“Unti Vineyards—they do a great Rosé up in the Dry Creek Valley area.”
“I haven’t been to SingleThread yet, but I’d love to try it out. The fact that you stay there, and everything is grown there, is pretty incredible.”
“I love to go to Bear Republic Brewing Company for one of their beers—Racer 5. After I got married that’s where we did the after-party.”
“Russian River Brewing Company is incredible. Everybody knows Pliny the Elder, but I’m a big fan of Blind Pig—it’s a local secret.”
“Two Birds / One Stone is Doug Keane and Sang Yoon—they opened a Japanese-inspired restaurant, absolutely beautiful quality.”
“There’s something amazing about a beautiful bubble—delicious, crisp, refreshing. Drown me in a tub of Schramsberg. It goes with everything.”
“Robert Sinskey Vineyards is one of my all-time favorites. The people there are an absolute joy to be around, and their rosé is mind-blowing.”
“There’s something to be said about Oxbow Public Market. Go to Hog Island Oyster Co. for oysters, then take home bread from Model Bakery. It’s magic.”
“Chateau Montelena is that classic, hidden gem, appointment-only, historic vineyard that set the tone in the Napa Valley.”