Wine Country is about to get a tangy taste of Kansas City. Stateline Road Smokehouse, a new barbecue restaurant by Michelin-trained chef Darryl Bell, opens in the Rail Arts District of Napa this August.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Bell said the new project is near and dear to his heart, though it took a career in fine dining to bring about this culinary homecoming. He realized he wanted to be a chef at a young age, moving to France to master haute cuisine on the job. Later, after relocating to Napa, Bell clinched a position under esteemed chef Thomas Keller.
Bell earned his stripes at Keller’s Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, later joining the kitchen at Press Restaurant in St. Helena, where he was tasked with transforming the steakhouse into a fine dining outfit alongside executive chef Philip Tessier, with whom he earned a Michelin star in December 2022. Last year, Bell made the decision to strike out on his own.
Bell said he feels that Stateline Road—named for Kansas City’s position straddling Missouri and Kansas—fills a need in Wine Country.
“Barbecue is lacking here in Napa—and honestly, in the Bay Area in general,” he said.
Kansas City barbecue is all in the sauce. Bell said he plans to prepare brisket and ribs with his hometown’s classic slow-cooked tomato and vinegar-based sauce, which is thicker and sweeter than Memphis- and Carolina-style barbecue.
Bell follows in the footsteps of several Bay Area chefs who have recently shifted focus away from fine dining, like David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, who had earned three Michelin stars before he shuttered his restaurant at the end of 2022. Bell said this change isn’t so abrupt for him.
“A restaurant’s a restaurant and a kitchen’s a kitchen,” he said. “You’re dealing with food and you’re dealing with people. The thing you’re able to do with a more casual restaurant is use your creativity in a way so people notice an intentionality and subtle attention to detail.”
Stateline Road Smokehouse
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]