I guess almost everyone goes to Westwood Village from time to time. Years ago, we went to the Hamburger Hamlet, after its demise, we switched to its successor, the Hamlet Gardens. And now that it’s also closed, we’ve switched yet again, this time to the Napa Valley Grille, one of the last upscale restaurants in Westwood (there is also Palamino). So many restaurants have come and gone in Westwood it’s hard to keep track of them.
The Napa Valley Grille offers pretty standard California fare. It features a large, almost factory-like interior, with ample seating, both inside and outside. The outside patio provides customers a welcomed option on warm days.
Looking over customers’ comments on the Internet, it’s clear that almost everyone loves the service. And there are a lot of compliments about the happy hour. Diners most often mention the tacos and sliders, mac-n-cheese, and garlic fries. With a perceptive nod to its clients’ wishes there are two happy hours, one in the afternoon and another late at night.
When I taught a wine class at UCLA, we ended about 10 p.m. and usually most of us would adjourn to the Napa Valley Grille for a snack. We found it very pleasant that time of night, and in the immediate vicinity it was the only place open that late serving quality food and wines. And the clincher: they let us bring in the leftover wines from the class to drink with dinner.
In my last visit I enjoyed a very delicious charcuterie plate consisting of crisp toast, lean ham, salami, pickled vegetables, caramelized walnuts, pitted olives and pieces of cheese. I followed that with black bean soup with the proper texture (I hate it when it’s too thick) and full of good, full-flavored beans and vegetables.
My friend John had a pretty good paillard of chicken, which is quite popular there, and a César salad which we both thought was too bland, also the cheese was not properly grated (but then again we can be sticklers).
Then, not wanting to miss out on one of my favorite dishes, we shared an order of crab cakes. It turned out to be one of the best ever, filled with crab and not over fried, and served with a mild sauce flavored with horseradish.
My first glass of wine, a Jordan Chardonnay was boring, but a couple of glasses of Napa Cab restored my taste buds.
Every table was full at a Wednesday lunch, and it was pretty loud.
The Napa Valley Grille is not a top end, fine-dining restaurant, and it’s not what you would call “cozy,” but it’s a good find for a typical California lunch or dinner, with excellent service, a comprehensive wine list, and some very good food at reasonable prices. And it’s now pretty much the only game in town. The chef is Joseph Gillard — experienced, friendly, and helpful. Tracy Thayer, the general manager, is also a pleasure. You can lunch well for about $20, and dine well at night for about $30. Wine prices are reasonable.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at email@example.com
If you go:
Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Ave., Westwood
Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Brunch: Sun 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with jazz
Happy Hours: Mon-Sat 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight; Sun 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.