chowhounding in Alturas, CA
If you're ever In Alturas (and believe me, it's off the
beaten track), a true hound pointer is The Wagon Wheel,
on Hwy 299 just east of Hwy 395/Main Street.
After a high-exertion morning of hot-air ballooning, we
hit the Wagon Wheel to see about refueling. For me,
that meant breakfast, for my partner, Elise, lunch. We
I had the 2-egg breakfast. The Wagon Wheel Special
(3-egg) looked a little large. Indeed, for 4-1/2 bucks
I had 2 over-easy eggs, cooked perfectly, 4 slices of
perfectly crisped smoked bacon, a huge helping of hash
browns, and just to top it off, a plate with two
home-made biscuits and about a quart of excellent
sausage gravy. Add a big glass of OJ, and I was in
Elise had a turkey sandwich, meat actually carved from
a bird. She was happy, which says a lot for a
restaurant; she's hard to please.
At this point, Elise suggested pie. The 3 of us (our
friend Gary was joining us) ordered two pieces of
berry, one ala mode, and wound up with one each of
boysenberry and blueberry. Lovely, flakey crust, a cut
way above what I expect in a restaurant pie. Yow--they
almost had to roll me out!
This little town of 3,000 persons, 150 miles from the
next town of any size (Reno), has at least 3
chowhoundable places to eat, pretty amazing.
I found this old post as I was looking for somewhere to eat in Alturas on the way to Burning Man (it's on the way if you're coming from Washington/Oregon). I had a pretty lousy experience at the Wagon Wheel but now have some other recommendations for Alturas and the area.
At the Wagon Wheel, I ordered a grilled swiss cheese on rye bread and got grilled white American cheese on white bread. Sent it back and got white American cheese on rye bread. Got some of the supposedly famous pie for dessert and it was filled with canned pie filling (both the apple and peach were). My partner had a pretty mediocre salad and a decent fish sandwich.
Definitely better places to get food nearby. Go down the street from the Wagon Wheel and turn south (at the 4 Corners Market) onto 395/Main Street and a few blocks down you'll see the Black Bear Diner. We ate there for breakfast on the way back from Burning Man. Had excellent fresh squeezed orange juice, an omelet with avocado, mushrooms and jack cheese, home fried potatoes, a homemade biscuit, good wheat bread with butter not margarine... it was a good meal.
If you're looking for pie, there's a place we didn't get to try (they were out of pie) not too far from Alturas. Continue down 395 south of Alturas for 19 miles to the town of Likely. It's not on the Burning Man route (it's on the "my partner has no sense of direction and got lost" route) but it's not far out of the way. There's one little cafe on the left called the Likely Cafe owned by a couple. We spoke with one of the owners, a really nice guy who told us his wife is very particular about her pie making and would never dream of using a canned pie filling. Wish there had been some for us to try, but the cookie I had there was delicious. On instinct, I'd go 19 miles out of the way to try the place next time.
Maybe the Wagon Wheel has changed ownership since the original post but thought I should update based on our experiences!
I go to Alturas a couple of times a year on business. We tried the Brass Rail in December and I was so disappointed. They had a huge dining room and interesting Basque menu, but for lunch they had about 5 choices with no Basque food! We ended up with pretty decent turkey burgers, but a lot of disappointment. I heard the Italian place was good too.
Last night, colleagues and I tried the Brass Rail for dinner. Dinner was definitely hearty, tasty- well prepared, and a good value relative to our home cities.
Among 4 of us, all were happy. Soup, salad, a side (lamb stew yesterday), dessert, wine $20. I had the rib steak, tasty. A colleague had the lamb steak and he could not stop raving about it. The lamb stew was delicious! Another in our party had the fried shrimp, and she said it was cooked nicely (not oily). Definitely a unique, home-cooked tasting experience.
I think it depends on what you order at the Black Bear. I tend to order "safe" things at diners (though I thought "grilled swiss on rye" was a safe thing), and ordered accordingly at Black Bear. But what we got was great - and the fresh squeezed orange juice was such a treat after five days on the playa. It wasn't the best restaurant I've ever been to for brunch - wouldn't go to Alturas just for it, for instance - but it's a good, basic choice if I'm there.
I'll definitely check out the Brass Rail if we go through Alturas during the daytime next year! Thanks for the tip.
My husband travels to the Alturas/Likely area frequently on business, so I asked him. He says that the Likely Cafe pie is NOT worth the trip: too much lard in the crust, and the owner is cranky. Plus he says that the meat in his sandwhich wasn't good. His best area recommendation: the dude ranch about 3 miles N of the rest stop between Susanville and Alturas, on the east side of 395. He doesn't remember the name; says its open to non-ranch guests for lunch, and that the beef stew is to die for....
Now what I want to know is this: when is someone going to post on Black Rock City chow???
I am here for work and will probably be back so happy to find these postings!
My colleagues and I tried Antonio's. Ok enough. The winner was chocolate mousse dessert, and pizza which they encourage dipping the crust into honey! Nice crusty/crunchy. The house salad had delicious tomatoes, miniature, crunchy.
I had the chicken marsala which was bland and oily.
I stopped in Alturas twice, two summers ago, on the way to and from Yellowstone (from Eureka). On the way out, we stopped at the Black Bear. Don't remember what we had, but we (my wife and son and myself) were'nt impressed.
On the way back, we found a taco truck that made great al pastor tacos. I'd definitely stop there again, if I can find it. It may have been on the main street, but I can't remember for sure. Seems as though it was parked next to a little Mexican grocery store.