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Sierra Foodie: Top Eats in Yosemite Mariposa

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.

*A note from the chef…many local restaurants have adapted to the current health crisis (no or limited indoor dining) by offering on-site, outdoor dining (marked OD below) and expanded take-out services (marked TO).  In addition, the wise restaurateurs of Mariposa have closed 7th Street downtown and created a covered, outdoor dining area where visitors and locals alike can kick back and enjoy their to-go meals. The picnic tables are socially-distanced and feature a hand-washing station to keep diners safe. For increased convenience, more tables are set up in the ArtsPark along Hwy 140 near 5th Street.

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.

The iconic Ahwahnee Hotel Dining Room is a must-stop place to dine on any Yosemite trip – and don’t forget about brunch on Sundays.

The Ahwahnee Hotel Dining Room

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. (TO)

Wawona Hotel Dining Room *

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. (*The Wawona Hotel is currently closed for improvements to its electrical system and slated to reopen Spring 2021)

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.

1850 Restaurant and Brewery – where the burgers are just as craft as the brews.

1850 Brewing Company

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.  (OD)(TO)

Charles Street Dinner House

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.  (OD)(TO)

Sugar Pine Cafe is the quintessential diner experience with great food and fresh-baked pastries daily. (Photo by: Derek David)

Sugar Pine Cafe

What California town would be complete without a retro diner?  The Sugar Pine Cafe was originally built as the Dairy Dell Diner in the 1940s and sticks to what it knows best —  breakfast & lunch. For the early riser, try the chicken fried steak, farm-fresh local egg scramble, buttermilk pancakes with a plate of homemade biscuits & gravy to share. Lunch gets you a variety of gourmet salads, sandwiches & burgers, including the blue cheese bacon burger on an English muffin or the Classic Reuben. Lots of vegetarian options to choose from. Open daily 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (OD)(TO)

Woody’s Indoor/Outdoor Grub

With its roll-up shop doors, string lights and picnic tables, Woody’s BBQ can’t help but feel down-home and lively. This New Orleans-meets-Sierra foodie spot serves 16-hour-smoked brisket (low & slow), jambalaya and sweet heat gator bites. After filling up on delicious grub, challenge friends to some cornhole or giant Jenga. Let the good times roll! Open Thursday-Sunday for lunch & dinner. (OD)(TO)

Happy Burger Diner

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. (OD)(TO)

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.

A hidden gem in the north county, Coulter Cafe is not only a great little restaurant with beautiful outside dining, but also a great place to restock on supplies at the general store.

Coulter Cafe & General Store

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. (OD)(TO)

9 Diamonds BBQ

What is the first rule of 9 Diamonds BBQ?  Slow & smoked.  Jeffrey Baca and his father Jeff Baca Sr. are the pitmasters behind this award-winning BBQ joint on Greely Hill Road.  Trained at the California Culinary Academy, Jeffrey and his pop serve such mouth-watering plates as smoked tri-tip, pulled pork and, yes, smoked mac & cheese (Saturdays only).  Try the side of cowboy beans — a rich, savory bowl of smoky goodness with three kinds of meat. Click here for menu updates and hours. (TO)

Lucky Buck Cafe

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.

The June Bug Cafe at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort is a great place for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even just a lounge following a meal.

June Bug Cafe (Midpines, CA)

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. (OD)(TO)

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

There’s something for everyone at this world-class resort just minutes from the South Entrance to Yosemite National Park.  With three restaurants and a deli, visitors can 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). Sip a High Sierra Bloody Mary and sample the pan-seared salmon at Embers Restaurant (temporarily closed), or share a large pizza with the kids from the traditional brick oven at Timberloft Pizzeria (TO/high-season only).

Airport Bar & Grill (Mt. Bullion)

Hey, what’s that joint along the highway with an airplane sticking out of the roof? It’s the Airport Bar & Grill, of course. Homestyle cooking that features classic fare such as burgers, B.L.T.’s, fish & chips and Rib-Eye Steaks, this straight-shooting establishment is open Wed-Sunday for lunch and Saturday nights for dinner.  Located along historic Hwy 49 next to — you guessed it — the Yosemite Mariposa Airport. (OD)

Fast Flavor

Donuts a Go Go is the only donut shop in Mariposa. (Yes, that is a whole cookie on that donut.)

For Yosemite Mariposa visitors who need to fuel up quickly so they can get out there and explore.

Donuts A-Go-Go (Mariposa): sprinkles with that? (OD)(TO)

Jantz Bakery & Cafe (Mariposa): cinnamon rolls, picnic boxes, yum. (OD)(TO)

Sal’s Taco Truck & Tacos Sonora Food Truck (Mariposa): try ‘em both & compare notes! (TO)

Degnan’s Kitchen (Yosemite Valley): grab n’ go with waterfalls just outside the kitchen window. (OD)(TO)

High Country Health Foods & Cafe (Mariposa): omnivore’s delight with boxed lunches to go. (OD) (TO)

Final Course

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!

(Please note: Due to state and local restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact destinations mentioned in this story for current hours of operation.)

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