Tale of Two Chilaquiles: Boonfly Cafe, Napa Carneros & Miguel's Restaurant, Calistoga

The Chilaquiles @ Miguel's Restaurant, Calistoga (minus the sour cream)

I was first introduced to chilaquiles while I was living in Los Angeles. Back then, I was working a prep cook at Houston’s Santa Monica, trying to get some real-world kitchen experience before heading off to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Since I was working mostly mornings at that time, the “family meal” at Houston’s was often chilaquiles, which I would best describe as breakfast nachos, for lack of better terminology. These meals would assume varying forms from day to day, based upon whatever was available in the kitchen at the time. That said, there are a couple fundamental rules as to what can be considered chilaquiles and what cannot. As the foundation of the dish, the tortilla chips themselves are inherently fundamental to chilaquiles, and proper chilaquiles should also feature eggs (since it is breakfast), as well as some sort of salsa for added flavor. From that point, however, the recipe can allow for many variations and additions, as many comfort foods tend to do.

When my friend Emmy asked me about chilaquiles a few weeks ago, it got me thinking about the Napa Valley’s options for this dish. I had two restaurants on my radar: (1) the Boonfly Cafe in Napa Carneros and (2) Miguel’s Restaurant in Calistoga. For the regular readers of this blog, Boonfly has long been my favorite local spot for fried chicken, and as part of the Plumpjack Group, the restaurant is fairly well-known, especially since it shares property with the Carneros Inn. In contrast, Miguel’s is tucked away in Calistoga, which is one of the least-trafficked areas in the Napa Valley (few people venture north of St. Helena, it seems). As for myself, Calistoga is approximatetly 30 minutes from where I call home, versus just five minutes down to Carneros.

However, when Emmy mentioned that Hiro Sone, the chef-owner of Terra in St. Helena, would frequent Miguel’s for the chilaquiles, I was naturally intrigued. Perhaps Calistoga needed to become a larger part of my culinary routine, especially if a restaurant like Miguel’s was serving up what I call a “destination” breakfast (that is, something worth the 30-minute drive up-valley). I decided to see what Miguel’s and Boonfly had to offer (someone’s got to). But before I delve further into the breakfast scene, it’s also worth addressing Carneros and Calistoga as they relate to wine.

• • •

Among the 15 recognized wine-growing appellations (AVAs) within the Napa Valley, Calistoga occupies the northernmost region, while Carneros occupies the southernmost region. As one might expect, simple geography implies that these two appellations are quite different from one another, yet each is also markedly different from most of the other Napa Valley AVAs. For the last 30 years or so, the Napa Valley has been synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon, and this will always be the case: AVAs such as Oakville, Rutherford, Howell Mountain and Spring Mountain each excel with this particular varietal, and when people visit Napa to seek out world-class Cabernets, smart money should lead folks to these four areas, at the very least.

On the other hand, one will rarely encounter any noteworthy Cabernets from either Carneros or Calistoga. The fact is, neither region features a climate that suits itself to growing top-quality Cabernet grapes. Carneros, which is just a few short miles from the San Pablo Bay, is far too cool for Cabernet, and so the Burgundian varietals, such Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, take center stage in this region. Thirty miles to the north, Calistoga is easily the warmest region in Napa, and so Zinfandel and Petite Sirah become far more prevalent here than anywhere else in the valley. Frankly, I feel that the Calistoga wineries are much more interesting than the Carneros wineries, but that’s just my own personal preference (I’ll take Zin over Chard, and I prefer my Pinot from Sonoma).

• • •

The Chilaquiles @ Boonfly Cafe, Napa Carneros

The chilaquiles at Boonfly and Miguel’s are quite different, but both are worth ordering (both are extremely filling, as well). Aside from the requisite tortilla chips and eggs, the Boonfly chilaquiles features chorizo, black beans, salsa verde, and pico de gallo. As you can see from the photo directly above, the egg component is cooked on the flat-top and draped over the entire dish, which makes for an impressive presentation. The entree is served on a screaming-hot cast-iron skillet, which is also a nice touch. At Miguel’s, the tortilla chips and scrambled eggs are finished with salsa roja, a sprinkling of Mexican cheese, and an ample dollop of sour cream and guacamole. The flavors are simple yet amazing, and the dish is also accompanied by strips of marinated grilled steak and fried cubed potatoes, which are delicious in their own right. Among these two versions, I’d probably give the slight edge to Miguel’s, although Boonfly is definitely a worthy plan B, especially if you’re already in Carneros.

4 comments to Tale of Two Chilaquiles: Boonfly Cafe, Napa Carneros & Miguel’s Restaurant, Calistoga

  • Thanks for the Calistoga restaurant recommendations. My parents are coming this weekend from Texas and I love to show them California food. These places seem to be California with a Southern/Tex-Mex soul. It’s a good way to ease them into it 🙂

  • SkinnySweaty

    FYI- Zuzu occasionally has chilauqiles which are outstanding as they have a slow cooked pork component a la carnitas. Unfortunately, Zuzu is not an option for breakfast.

    Miguel’s looks to me to be the more authentic interpretation of the dish. The Boon Fly egg execution looks…err, daunting.

  • Maria

    Grace’s Table on second and franklin downtown Napa has the most wonderful Chilauquiles!
    Everyone should really try them!

  • Thirsty Reader

    Interesting. I’ve just had the burger there, so far. But it just goes to show that chilaquiles can turn up almost anywhere here in California.

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