M.F.K. Fisher, the famed American food writer, wisely stated “first we eat, then we do everything else.” While the importance of a good meal might seem obvious, it takes on even greater meaning in Yosemite Mariposa County for one simple reason: there’s so much to do here.
Whether hiking the mist-kissed granite staircase along Vernal Falls or taking the kids on an extended adventure, whether fishing Lake McClure or watching rock climbers free solo up El Capitan, one thing remains constant. We all gotta nosh. So let’s get hiking boots on the ground and forks on the plate for a Sierra foodie tour that pairs perfectly with the natural splendor of Yosemite.
Inside Yosemite National Park
With its 3,000-foot granite walls, prehistoric high-country meadows and pine-scented air, it’s no wonder Yosemite National Park is a top international destination. While most visitors don’t come for the food, they certainly have some choices from linen tablecloths to pizza and food trucks.
Home to some of the world’s most famous food & wine events, the soaring yet intimate Ahwahnee Hotel Dining features 34-foot beamed ceilings and massive picture windows creating a dining space unlike any other. This iconic Yosemite Valley destination has created an imaginative menu serving such dishes as Lamb Lollipops (Lamb Chops, Vanilla Cherry Chutney, Arugula & Mint), slow-roasted Rotisserie Chicken in marsala jus and Harissa-Roasted Eggplant. The Ahwahnee is now serving expanded breakfast/lunch/dinner take-out options. Menus can be viewed here.
One of California’s original mountain resorts, the Wawona Hotel site was first developed in 1856 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With authentic Victorian-era ambiance, the Wawona Hotel Dining Room features hand-painted lamps and a summertime veranda where you can enjoy superb cuisine nightly. Snuggle by the fireplace, relax on the lawn in comfortable Adirondack chairs, or settle into a great meal in the main dining room. Dishes such as cornmeal-crusted Ruby Trout, portobello mushroom Napoleon and the Cajun turkey burger provide a wide range of options.
Located at Yosemite Valley Lodge, the Mountain Room restaurant boasts striking views of the 2,424 foot high Yosemite Falls. The menu is equally impressive, featuring sizzling steaks, fresh seafood and tasty pastas. The chef’s specialties include local, organic & seasonal preparations including sustainable fish and seafood in accordance with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List. The Mountain Room Restaurant is open year-round.
Town of Mariposa
As the Gateway to Yosemite National Park and just a short flume ride from the Central Valley’s bounty of fresh, organic foods, Mariposa is a Gold Country gem. Whether you’re craving burgers or brisket, portobellos or pizza, dining “in town” is a great way to go for a wide-ranging lineup of outstanding restaurants satisfying all tastes and budgets.
The culinary dream of hometown restauranteur Jake Wackerman and his wife Hanna, 1850 is equal parts craft brew heaven and farm-to-table paradise featuring such dishes as the Bootjack Burger (who doesn’t like smoked bacon?), Irish Nachos and Smoked Rib Eye. For plant-based diets, they offer vegan patties on all burgers not to mention mushroom pappardelle with locally-grown Fungi Temple mushrooms. Beer? Oh, yes. Sample over a dozen flagship and seasonal brews such as the El Portal Hoppy Lager (5.6% ABV), the Bridalveil Honey Blonde Ale (5.2% ABV) and the Big Boss (Adult) Blueberry Milkshake (4.8% ABV). Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner, reservations accepted. Learn more about the owners, Jake and Hanna Wackerman in the video below.
Located in the heart of downtown, Charles Street is a celebrated steakhouse set in a relaxed atmosphere of wooden booths with a wagon-wheel motif. The wine list is as loaded as their potato skins and showcases local Mariposa grapes to pair with your bacon-wrapped 8 oz Filet or Grilled Lemon Chicken. Spent the day hiking beautiful Yosemite Mariposa County? You’ve earned a slice of Mocha Fudge Ice Cream Pie and maybe even the Hot Apple Pie, too. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner, Tuesday-Friday for lunch.
It boasts the largest menu in the Sierra, and that’s no joke. Happy Burger opens its doors to its quirky record-covered dining room daily at 6 a.m. serving its full gigantic menu including more than 20 breakfast options until 11:30. Start the day with Biscuits & Gravy or the classic staple “breakfast special” with toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and hashbrowns for $7.99. Feeling adventurous? Try a burger for breakfast ““ or any time of day for that matter ““ like the Happy Burger itself. Searching for vegan or vegetarian options? Not to worry, there are dozens to chose from. Pair your burger with a milkshake, malt or sundae for the ultimate 50’s dining experience.
Coulterville/Greely Hill/Buck Meadows
For authentic Gold Rush flavor, there’s no better wagon stop than Coulterville where the entire town has been designated a California Historic District. Its raucous past is matched by its zesty food, worthy of “steaking” a claim.
The Coulter Cafe is all about breakfast, brunch and lunch. With chef Sadie Taylor making everything from scratch using fresh ingredients, this local institution serves artisanal creations on a tastefully evolving menu and features an outdoor patio. From grass-fed to organic, non-GMO to vegan/gluten-free, you can enjoy such treats as pesto-heirloom tomato pastries, crab benedict, brie-stuffed French toast and the fried chicken sandwich. For current hours and menus click here.
Sitting between the northern entrance to Yosemite and the town of Groveland, the Lucky Buck Cafe in Buck Meadows is an outstanding place to stop on your way in or out of Yosemite for a meal that will fuel you for a hike, or the drive home after. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Lucky Buck Cafe is known for friendly faces, and great food like the Lucky buck Deuces breakfast serving two eggs, two pieces of bacon, sausage or ham and two buttermilk pancakes. Looking for dinner? Steaks, burgers and pasta are all on the menu, plus the full-service bar has any type of libations that you may desire.
Greater Mariposa County
There are so many interesting corners of Mariposa County rich in history, good people and good food. Here are just a few.
Want something down-home, funky and delicious? Try the June Bug Cafe at Yosemite Bug Rustic Resort. With its 1930’s vibe, the Bug is situated under a grove of pine & oak trees in a small valley with a stream coursing through. The thoughtful, daily-changing menu features fresh, seasonal ingredients with such dishes as Crispy Free Range Chicken, Vegan Stir Fry Tofu and the Tandoori Marinated Pork Chop all cooked with love in the Bug’s open kitchen. Stop by 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Learn more about the owners of June Bug Cafe and the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, take a look at our Modern Day Pioneers video on Doug Shaw and Caroline McGrath.
There’s something for everyone at this world-class resort just minutes from the South Entrance to Yosemite National Park. Visitors enjoy a range of cuisines from Vegetable Pot Stickers to Angus Beef Short Ribs with Dr. Pepper-Miso Jus at Jackalope’s Bar & Grill (OD)(TO). Share a large pizza with the kids from the traditional brick oven at Timberloft Pizzeria, or just grab something to go at Parkside Deli.
For Yosemite Mariposa visitors who need to fuel up quickly so they can get out there and explore.
Jantz Bakery & Cafe (Mariposa): cinnamon rolls, picnic boxes, yum.
Degnan’s Kitchen (Yosemite Valley): grab n’ go with waterfalls just outside the kitchen window.
High Country Health Foods & Cafe (Mariposa): omnivore’s delight with boxed lunches to go.
The Hideout Saloon (Mariposa): Featuring pizza, pasta, sandwiches and even breakfast options, the Hideout Saloon in Mariposa is a great place for a drink, a bite and live music.
With appreciation and respect for the varied tastes, budgets and dietary needs of all our visitors, here is a complete list of all Yosemite Mariposa dining options. Mangia!