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Mar 8, 2011 12:58 PM

Trip from Lake Tahoe to Mono Lake and Southward

Will be going this summer and trying to get hotel/restaurant recommendations. We are flying into Tahoe and staying a night there, then driving south to Mono lake (where I hear its a necessity to stop at Whoa Nellie Deli). Parents are foodies, so a night or two with some nice, upscale cuisine would be nice. Probably going to camp with my brother for a night around Mono Lake or Inyo, so I may be looking for a butcher shop as well. Thanks in Advance

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  1. If you have a few days in Mono Lake in the summer, you might want to take the Tioga Pass into Yosemite Valley and have lunch/dinner/brunch at the Ahwanhee Hotel (reservations a much - see their website) which has gotten much better than its reputation for dull dining in the past, and has the most wonderful dining room setting you can imagine - lovely during the day with the tall window views and magical at night with the lights. You could do this in an easy day drive RT back to Mono Lake. Stunning scenery along the way.

    But gourmet in the Route 395 area is going to be a stretch otherwise. Whoa Nellie I find okay, but more gimmicky than credible foodie. Welcome because it is such a culinary vast wasteland up there. Love the Mono Lake area and there is a charming little Victorian B&B type resort along the lake (Mono Lake Inn or something like this) and they have a restaurant that at least tries to do things well for dinner. But mainly it is tourist grub in this part of the world - and nothing wrong with that - lots of it and hearty.

    If you take the road in towards the mountains at Convict Lake south of Mammoth Lakes, there is a surprising upscale restaurant located there. And who can not stop for the homemade pies on the Rock Creek Valley turn-off from Hwy 395.

    3 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      It is about two hours each way on mountain roads with steep drop offs and lots of traffic from the intersection of 395 and 120 near Mono Lake to the Awahnee. So, while OP will indeed pass stunning scenery, it is only fair to warn him that it isn't exactly an easy day trip for those who don't love driving, and I certainly wouldn't do it after dark myself.

      For that matter, I haven't heard overwhelming love for the Ahwahnee lately. I was last there in the fall, and did have nice drinks and mediocre snacks in the bar, but it has been a long time since I ate in the dining room.

      1. re: susancinsf

        We were there in September after doing a Sierra High Camp hike which also had pretty great food at Glen Aulin which was a surprise and our reward stay at the Ahwanhee was lovely in all regards, even the food which we had had prior experiences there as being really bad. But there was definitely some new and creative blood in the kitchen and while pricey as always, one felt they were at least getting some value for the money. Best crab cakes I have had, delicious fresh flavored sorbets and unique home made ice creams, over kill main courses but one could pick and choose with some degree of delight around the rest of the menu and compose something quite satisfying. We had a wise waiter who steered us in the right direction as well.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          hmm...may have to figure out a way to try those homemade ice creams on my next visit, thanks.

    2. The best meat market in the area is Alber's Meat Market in Bridgeport. He does carry some specialty meats like elk. He also makes very good deli sandwiches.

      1. If you are looking for an overnight hike, consider packing in some of the pies from Rock Creek Lake Resort and hiking in to Gem Lakes - my favorite hike up there and saw others pitching their tents by the side of the last lake. The best day hike is up to and in the crater by Mono Lake - great picnic spot.

        8 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          what are the best pie flavors at Pie In the Sky Cafe? I love pie!

          1. re: hhc

            I loved their boysenberry pie and get it each time to enjoy on a rock once we get to Gem Lakes. But that would be only because they have never had the rhubarb by the time we got there. Depending on the time of day either some of the flavors are not yet done or already sold out, so be open and flexible. But it seems like there is always a boysenberry and that makes me happy.

          2. re: glbtrtr

            Are there really lakes called Gem Lakes in the area? I didn't see it on the topo map on their website.

            Also, what's the name of the surprising upscale restaurant at Convict Lake you recommend & what to get there?

            1. re: hhc

              I suspect that is a reference to the Restaurant at the Convict Lake Resort. The one and only time I ate there was perhaps five or more years ago; and I did really enjoy it. I think (?) I had venison.

              You might want to try searching for more recent reports, however.

              1. re: hhc

                There is a cascading series of small lakes in a string they call Gem Lakes, about an hour more hike past Chicken Foot Lake on the trail that leaves from the Rock Creek campground - pack a picnic lunch and Chicken Foot Lake is a good place to stop to eat it and then save that Rock Creek Resort pie for the last gorgeous glacier fed lake in the Gem Lakes string. July/August is as pretty as this area gets with lush wildflowers all along the trails.

                1. re: glbtrtr

                  Not this coming weekend. I am not sure how high those particular lakes are, but I gather they are up around 9000 feet. Per the Rock Creek Resort website, most trails out of the area are still covered with snow, and some of the roads to the trailheads are still closed (though some may open this weekend). I've heard that Tuolumne Meadows still has at least a foot of snow in places, though I think the Meadow itself is mostly water (let's put it this way: I am heading up that way this weekend, and I plan to pack my snowshoes just in case I really want to hike a bit up Lyell Canyon). All services in Tuolumne Meadows(including restrooms, snack bar, etc) are still closed, except for the ranger station, even though the road is open. Ditto ALL of the high country camps and ALL of the campgrounds on the Tioga Road. Estimated opening for many of these spots isn't till mid-July.

                  For the OP: you won't have food after leaving the Whoa Nellie Deli, until you get to Yosemite Valley. Indeed, many spots on the Tioga Road are under avalanche control, meaning you can't even stop or pull over. Exercise caution.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Thanks for the road report -- almost 4th of July and still closed. That is a late, late high country season. Well, we need the snow because we need the water, as we always say out west.

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      DH drove over Tioga Pass last Wed or Thursday and said that there was still five or six FEET of snow in areas of Tuolumne Meadows. Better pack a picnic if you head up that way....(making it food-related)

              2. That area is a fisherman's paradise. I've always caught trout from the streams, even if I just stopped for an hour or so on the way to LA. There are few things better than fresh caught trout. If I get a big one, I just grill it over a fire. The little ones I bread with flour or corn meal and pan fry in oil. If I don't have a pan, I wrap them naked in foil, which I bury in hot coals for about 15 minutes or less. You can throw a piece of bacon in the foil too if you are a gourmet. Have a great trip.

                1. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Whoa Nellie Deli and wouldn't miss it on any trip up or down 395. Where in Tahoe are you flying in to, North or South Shore?

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: nancyhudson

                    Not sure on where we're flying into yet. It may be Reno, but I know we want to spend some time in Tahoe.

                    1. re: Hog Maws

                      Unless you are flying your own plane or a charter that might be difficult. Last I heard Reno was the closest airport to either north OR south Tahoe with commercial airline service. So advice on meals in Reno might be well-taken, especially for the day you land and or take off.

                      1. re: janetofreno

                        Exactly, Janet, that's why I asked. When I first read the post I thought they were flying a private plane, but now knowing the OP is probably coming from Reno to Tahoe, knowing the route, i.e., 80 thru Truckee, Mt. Rose Hwy thru Incline, 50 thru South Shore (and at what time!), will help with Tahoe advice, but right now it's way to broad to give any solid recommendations.

                        1. re: nancyhudson

                          Sorry, Flying into Reno, but I was mostly looking for recommendations around South Tahoe/Mono Lake, etc.

                          We've got reservations in Ahwanee, but nowhere else.

                          1. re: nancyhudson

                            So, I definately need to bump this thread since we're leaving Saturday morning. We're spending two days in S. Tahoe, 3 days in Lee Vining, and a day in Bishop. We have reservations at Ahawanee one night.

                            What does everyone reccomend as far as sight seeing and food around south Tahoe?

                            1. re: Hog Maws

                              I love Divided Sky in Myers on Highway 50 couple of miles south of South Shore.. Organic food and great beers on tap. Sandwiches, great salads...

                              Also in Gardnerville are a couple of great basque places right on main Street.., Overland Hotel was my fave.

                              Remember the Awanhee is dress code except for Sunday brunch.

                              Divided Sky
                              3200 US Highway 50, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

                              1. re: bennyboy1

                                There was a Foster Freeze in Gardnerville that offered fresh peach milkshakes on a hand-lettered sign during the summers ....... back in the 1960's. Any hope those are still around?

                                Foster Freeze
                                1401 Winton Way, Atwater, CA 95301