Mustards Grill: A Million Chops and Counting, Plus Vivid Color

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Restaurant Sign Napa Valley

Mustards Grill makes like of McDonald's "Billions and Billions Served" sign.

Cindy Pawlcyn opened her eclectic American cafe in 1983. In recent years, she’s become one of Napa Valley’s leading restaurateurs, adding Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Go Fish, both just north, in St. Helena. Judging by the overflowing crowds at Mustards Grill, Ms. Pawlcyn hasn’t spread her talents too thin. We arrived during the lunch rush, and there was over an hour wait for a table. Thankfully, there was relief at the bar, where the patrons were friendly, and even shared their food.

Mustard Napa Valley

Mustards Grill is named for the vivid yellow plant blooms in late winter. Mustard is grown between grape vines to supply nitrogen to the soil and prevent erosion.

Art Napa Valley

A fountain in front of the entrance is a key part of Mustards’ whimsical decor. Equally funky wine bottle and plant ceramics reside inside.

No Northern California restaurant worth visiting would be complete without good bread. Mustards Grill serves a crusty loaf with butter.

To drink, we had fresh squeezed lemonade ($3) and a Cock & Bull ginger beer ($4) that provided a tasty burn.

California Cuisine Napa Valley

To start, we split seared sesame-crusted ahi ($12.50) served on crunchy, house-made sesame crackers. Drizzled with wasabi cream and topped with julienned red bell peppers, the flavor really popped.

Onion Rings Napa Valley

The couple sitting next to us at the bar was kind enough to share their onion rings. They weren’t greasy or heavy, more like fried onion whisps.

Pork Chop Napa Valley

After tasting the Mongolian pork chop ($27.95), I can see why Mustards Grill has sold nearly one million orders. The chop is luscious, cooked medium rare, really juicy, slathered with a tangy sauce that Gourmet’s Colman Andrews claims to include hoisin, soy sauce, sesame oil, sherry and rice vinegar. Paired with sweet and sour red cabbage, plus a mound of mashed potatoes, it was a serious plate of food.

Ribs Napa Valley

My half-slab of baby back ribs ($22.95) was overcooked, a little dry. Thankfully, redemption came in the form of sensational horseradish cole slaw (studded with golden raisins) and slabs of crisp-skinned sweet potatoes.

Any restaurant that is resourceful enough to survive almost a quarter-century is bound to develop signature dishes. With those gaudy sales figures, the pork chop clearly qualifies as Mustards’ signature entree. It was easy to figure out the signature dessert: their “famous” lemon-lime pie ($7.50).

Pie Napa Valley

Brown sugar meringue was indeed “ridiculously tall,” taller than the length of my hand, but the lemon-lime pie’s citrusy filling was a little too sweet.

Restaurants don’t survive for 24 years without good reason. After eating at Mustards Grill, it’s obvious Cindy Pawlcyn understands the appetites of Napa Valley diners. There are more and more dining options in the area, but given Mustards’ combination of strong flavors, large portions and serious buzz, Cindy Pawlcyn’s first restaurant is still worth visiting.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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