CA Trip Report - The Bad
These meals stood out in my mind because they needed serious improvement. It is not a good experience when I feel I should have saved my money and gone to the Golden Arches instead!
Nepenthe in Big Sur
The views are fantastic but after swatting at buzzing flies every 30 seconds, we gave up and went inside. The food was very average – their “ambrosia” burger and the tuna salad sandwiches are what you find in a typical diner. I suspect this place is popular because of the views and the lack of eating establishments along PCH. Next time even if I am starving, I’ll wait until Carmel (heading northbound) or SLO (heading southbound) to have something to eat.
Dining Room at Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite
Staying inside Yosemite National Park brings limited dining options. However, when Ahwanee hotel rooms go for $400+ a night and dinner for two in the dining room is $200+, I expect the food to somewhat justify the high price tags. After all, the hotel touts its’ 4 diamond status and all the celebrities who have stayed here. Sadly, the entire meal fell flat. The steak was overcooked and the vegetables were lifeless. Desserts looked and tasted like those pre-made by companies that supply to restaurants. The wine list had far too many choices in the $100+ range and not enough in the $75 and under. Even the dining room was oddly laid out with tables crowded on one side leaving a large expanse of empty space opposite and they kept switching waiters on us – we went through 4 during our meal.
Totally understand about the Ahwahnee...but that is one of the only places in the world for me where all bets are off. It's just so nice to be up there in Yosemite that I am happy to have a mediocre meal. For me, the trick is to order two strong classic cocktails, drink one at the bar and take the other outside and stare at the valley walls. THEN you go and eat that overcooked steak, and it really does the trick. Another thing to keep in mind- the establishment is run by a concessionaire for the National Park system, and the finances have all gone topsy-turvy in recent years. There is simply very little money flowing through the place these days- perhaps why the bar seemed understocked to you, and the food prices outrageous. I assure you that this has not always been the case.
Also, the fly experience you had at Nepenthe is common throughout California. The small flies are really annoying, and the big ones are just gross. But fortunately they are not usually a product of or an indication of the cleanliness of the restaurant, but just an ecological thing- greater in numbers where livestock is being raised. Sorry about that.
No offense SeoulQueen but Nepenthe in Big Sur and Ahwahnee in Yosemite are known places that blow..
Your more trapped at the lodge at Ahwahnee but in Big Sur there is Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn or Big Sur Bakery..both places that food wise are fantastic and Sierra Mar is just down right stunning.
re: Beach Chick
While they are limited, there are alternatives to the Awahnee in Yosemite, which I think of strictly as a place for a drink and to soak up the atmosphere. For example, while all I have had there recently is a soda, the food court next to the Visitor's Center (between the main Valley Visitor's Center and the Ansel Adams Gallery) has gotten a good mention recently on CH, I believe (which of course I can't find with the limited search: I put in Yosemite National Park and keep getting referred to posts about parking! arghhh). I can tell you that the menu looked decent and varied, service fast to get that soda and a decent coffee for hubby, and the food seemed fresh, and I made a mental note to try it soon. NOTE: I am NOT talking about the food court at Curry Village, which has never gotten positive mentions on the board.
The restaurant at the Yosemite Lodge is also an option, though I haven't tried it.
Another option in the Valley is a picnic; and there are several spots to pick up fixings in the Valley, including the general store (note: lines can be long in the store, but they move fairly quickly).
I did have a chance this summer to try lunch at the Wawona Lodge for those heading to that section of the park: I was there for work and in a hurry, and the server has very helpful when I told him I needed something quick. I had a soup and sandwich, and while it wasn't outstanding, it was certainly fine. It was around $20 with ice tea, tax and tip, and the atmosphere, while not as grand was the Awahnee, was lovely. I'd go back.
re: Beach Chick