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Feb 27, 2003 03:57 PM

Still Life Cafe, Independence, CA (Inyo County)

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In case you find yourself on Highway 395 between Bishop and Lone Pine, I am happy to recommend the Still Life Cafe in Independence.

As far as I can tell, the restaurant's ownership recently changed hands (and names), so I don't know how long it's been open. I would recommend following the link to the restaurant's phone number and confirming they'll be open when you want to go. In any case, the new owners are French and offer a nice menu, especially noteworthy because I didn't encounter anything similar for miles around. The prices seemed in line with a metropolis (entrees in the $15-25 range), but if your palate needs more than hamburgers and pizza, this place is a real find.

The restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere, including a piano which was in active service last Friday evening with a range of tunes from Autumn Leaves to Fats Waller.

In case you were wondering, Independence is the county seat of Inyo County and boasts a population, according to the sign when you enter town, of 1000 people. The Eastern California Museum in town is a loving scrapbook of the region's history.


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  1. If this is a real French Retaurant in Independence, it is a real find. (Though I wonder how long they will be able to stay open. Not too many customers and few with money in those parts). The eastern side of the Sierra is sadly lacking in good dining opportunities. Can you please fill us in a bit further on the menu?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Paul H

      I have to agree I wondered about the survival of such an enterprise, but it was there last Friday. And there were definitely French people serving the food and tending the bar. And there seemed to be a contingent of people who had the reaction I suspect you'd have at finding a French restaurant on that stretch of the highway (i.e., wow! In fact, we were sitting next to an Irish chap who said his meal was a dream come true after passing through Death Valley from Las Vegas).

      As to the menu, I apologize that I didn't take it in photographically. As a quick overview, the menu featured staples like filet mignon, salmon, and roast chicken. It wasn't extensive, but it could certainly appeal to a variety of appetites. They were pouring about six wines by the glass and the bottle list ran about a page (I hope I'm qualifying the restaurant as a "find" in noting this!)

      The meal started with a simple, mixed green salad with a vinaigrette which was mainly noteworthy because the lettuce wasn't iceberg and the dressing was mixed and tossed. It's a low bar, but I didn't see another salad like that for several days.

      I had a pork special which was a surprise. My description may not do it justice, however. The pork was roasted and then pulled, and then dressed in a cream sauce I can't identify. How's that for a mouth watering description?! As I said, it was a surprise to look at, but the taste was actually subtle and nice and it wasn't especially heavy. Beside it were Yukon Gold potatoes and a sauteed cabbage/onion/bell pepper combination. The portion was generous.

      My companion had the roast chicken, which was properly done (i.e., not dry).

      We skipped dessert, but they offered an attractive Belgian chocolate cake and a strawberry mousse.

      I hope this helps and I hope you're able to enjoy this place.

      1. re: Nanaimo Bar

        You beat me to it! We had a very nice dinner at The Still Life Cafe this Friday evening, Feb. 28. The Still Life had previously been situated just outside of the "town" of Olancha. They moved from that location several months ago and opened in Independence in October. They call it French with a North African Flair.
        I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant-very cozy and European-walls painted a light buttercup with very high wood ceilings painted a tomato soup color and trim a moss green with lots of paintings, of course! With warm wood flooring-loved it!
        We had been to the former location twice and loved it-we go there on a Friday night of "Early Opening" of the fishing season in the area-and then we camp at Lake Diaz-can you believe that?
        So, we only had to drive another 15 min. North and we were happpy to do it for such a great meal.
        I had a wonderful filet with roquert sauce and my husband had the N. African dish of Lamb stew-the stew sauce had hints of cinnamon. My filet came with garlic mashed potates and wonderful skinny green beans.
        My husband had coucous with raisens and he was brought a special very thick paste to add to it if he liked-it was great-sorry, I can't describe it! They also brought him a lamb sausage on the side. We both were given the green salad mentioned earlier-which was great! You are also given baquetts of bread. We had Merlot wine by the glass and our bill came to about $63 before tip.
        So, if you're on your way up to Mammoth or further North on Hwy. 395-its on your left in Independence.

        1. re: Shadow

          Mmm. They had only one North African appetizer (a soup) the night I was there.

          Perhaps the paste you're describing was harissa? It's a hot sauce often added to couscous and seems generally to be sold in a tube in markets that carry it.

          Thanks for the additional background. Independence is a bigger town than Olancha, so it sounds like Still Life is doing ok!

          1. re: Nanaimo Bar

            Yeah, I don't think the North African influence is their main interest so maybe they offer one thing per night-not sure. Yes, that paste sounds like what we were served-very good-hard to describe.
            They were doing very well on this past Friday night-I hope they do as well during the Summer months.....

    2. I'm glad to report that Still Life Cafe is still open, so let's hope any fears of an early demise were premature. I had an absolutely delicious salade Nicoise there yesterday for lunch. Finding quality dining along 395 is not easy, so this place is a treasure. Be sure to patronize them.

      1. Just passed through this way at an odd between meals time and stopped at Still Life only for a cup of coffee - which was the best cup of coffee - black and unadorned -- on the whole trip. Well worth the stop.