Dining

Meadowood's Chef Is Going Casual

Napa's acclaimed chef Chris Kostow will open a neighborhood restaurant in St. Helena next year
Nathaniel Dorne and Chris Kostow
Photo: Courtesy of The Restaurant at Meadowood

Alexander Graham Bell famously said, "When one door closes, another opens," and while we're pretty sure he wasn't talking about the swinging doors of famous Napa Valley restaurants, that's certainly the case with this week's announcement: One of the Valley's most-beloved haunts will be taken over by one of its most celebrated toques.

No more than a week after Tra Vigne, the iconic Cal-Italian St. Helena restaurant announced it's closing its doors on December 20 after a 28-year run, Christopher Kostow, chef of the three-Michelin-star tasting menu destination, The Restaurant at Meadowood, announced plans to move into the space. Along with Meadowood's director Nathaniel Dorn, he plans to install their first casual restaurant there.

Details about the casual spot are still tightly under wraps, but Kostow and Dorn understand the weight of taking over a beloved restaurant's space: "We are inheriting a space whose legacy and history we are acutely aware of. We will do our best to make this town proud," Kostow said in a release, adding that he's building the restaurant with locals in mind (he and his family live nearby).

Kostow isn't the only acclaimed Bay Area chef following a path toward more casual dining. Early this summer, Dominique Crenn, of the two-star Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, opened Petit Crenn, a casual, affordable French bistro in Hayes Valley focused on rustic family style fare reminiscent of her upbringing in Brittany. Guests serve themselves, the vibe is dinner-party chill and the room has been packed since day one.

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Kostow's other three-star compatriots, David Kinch (of Manresa) and Joshua Skenes (of Saison), both have casual restaurants in the works; for Kinch, that's The Bywater, a New Orleans-inspired eatery in a former dive bar, and for Skenes, it's Fat Noodle, a fast-casual Chinese spot centered around $10 noodle bowls that he hopes to eventually roll out nationally.

The Meadowood team promises that their walk on the casual side of things won't distract them from their fine dining HQ. And with the restaurant's upcoming 2015 Twelve Days of Christmas—an ambitious two-week-long series of charitable special dinners during which the world's most influential chefs descend upon the restaurant to collaborate with Kostow—the team will certainly be busy. Could someone get them a vat of locally sourced, sustainably grown bespoken coffee, please?

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