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Aug 2, 2012 12:28 AM

Oakhurst for breakfast, Yosemite for lunch, Lee Vining for dinner.

Here's the plan.

Wake up in Visalia Weds morning, leave hotel 6:00am.

Arrive Oakhurst around 7:30 am. Is Pete's Place open at this time? Any other suggestions?

Depart Oakhurst 8:15 am. Stop in Mariposa Grove. Arrive Yosemite Valley 10:30 am.

Make way gradually towards Lee Vining for dinner (hotel reservation there). Where to stop/what to eat for lunch along the way? The Ahwahnee Hotel is way out of our price range, and besides, we'll have moved on eastward down highway 120 by the time the 1:30 lunchtime gurgles hit us.

Whoa Nellie Deli for dinner... that is, if they're open late. Any ideas? Other suggestions?

As for Thursday, we're spending time at Mono Lake and Bodie before heading back to Los Angeles. 395 seems to be better represented chow-wise. (I've got Still Life Cafe and Mahogany Smoked Meats on my radar, as well as one of the Schats' bakeries in Bishop). Timeframe is more loose on this day, although we plan to be back in LA around 9-10pm. Any and all suggestions welcome.

Thanks 'hounds

Mr Taster

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  1. OK, replying to myself. I made some phone calls.

    Pete's Place in Oakhurst opens at 7am, so breakfast is assured!

    Whoa Nellie Deli hours are 6:30am - 9:00pm

    Mahogany Smoked Meats
    Sandwich side: 5:30am - 5:00pm, but because of recent air conditioning issues they are closing at 2:30 pm(!)
    The market side of the store is open from 5:30am - 6:00pm

    Still Life Cafe - nobody answered the phone.

    Erick Schat's Bakkery
    Bakery Hours: 6:00am - 6:30pm (Fridays until 8pm)
    Sandwich Bar Hours: 8:30am - 4:00pm (Sundays 9:00 - 5:00pm)

    Re: Bakersfield, I liked what I read about the al pastor at Los Tacos de Huicho (for dinner on the way up to Visalia, if my wife rejects the Noriega Hotel).

    Still looking for good, affordable options while in the interior of Yosemite, somewhere between Yosemite Valley and Lee Vining.

    Thanks 'hounds
    Mr Taster

    3 Replies
    1. re: Mr Taster

      Between Yosemite valley and Lee Vining is a lot of high country/wilderness. At lunch once you leave the valley your only real options before Whoa Nellie are the tioga pass resort (I last ate there 40 years ago) and the grill at Tuolumne which has very average burgers etc. that is it.

      I'd chose the grill of those two just to spend more time in the park. But really my advice would be to get picnic supplies in Oakhurst and stop at Lake tenaya. This is Yosemite we are talking about. It isnt about the food.

      Edited to add that given downhill reports on Whoa Nellie lately you could try a picnic lunch and Tioga Pass resort for dinner. Reports on it would be great.

      1. re: susancinsf

        >> This is Yosemite we are talking about. It isnt about the food.

        Fair enough. We're traversing the park (staying in Lee Vining) so we'll have an opportunity to check out Whoa Nellie regardless, for breakfast or lunch the next day anyway. We'll try to get to Tioga Pass Resort for dinner and if we do, we'll report back here.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          A report would be great. Meant to mention that Tioga Pass Resort would *not* make sense for lunch if you are having dinner in Lee Vining the same day: not all that very far apart.

          Keep in mind that your estimates on time are very tight. Your time estimate from Visalia to Oakhurst assumes no traffic at all and that your location in Visalia is right by the quickest route (via 198 W to 99N through Fresno and to 41). Fortunately, Pete's Place is usually quick. (but you might want to buy those picnic supplies in Visalia the night before...)

          Anyway, by the time you get to Mariposa Grove even if you do leave Oakhurst at 8:15 the parking lot at the Mariposa Grove could well be full, meaning you will need to take a shuttle bus from either Wawona or the park entrance to Mariposa Grove and back to your car. Yes, even on a Wednesday (in summer). Add ten to twenty minutes each way plus wait time for the shuttle. I think it will be more like 11-ish by the time you get to the Valley, possibly even noon (and aren't you going to want to walk in Mariposa Grove? The trees aren't right by the shuttle stop/parking area, so if you don't walk a mile or more you will have to wait up to 30 minutes or more for a tram. after taking the shuttle. and oh yeah, the shuttle is free but the tram costs $26 per person and is first come first served.

          So yes, you could definitely be up to Lake Tenaya for a picnic by 1:30, but only if you don't linger in the Valley and just drive through with perhaps a quick stop for a photo op or two.

          Please do keep in mind that when I say there are no other lunch options, I do mean NO other options, unless beef jerky from the Crane Flat gas station/mini-mart counts as an option. If you find you are running late you could try to time it to have an early dinner at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge (a separate location from the Tuolumne Grill) before heading over Tioga pass (I ate there a month ago and food was fine but nothing to write home about) or at the White Wolf Lodge, (fairly far drive from either location to Lee Vining, however, and NOT one I would want to do after dark!). Reservations mandatory at both of the above spots for dinner (White Wolf and the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge), and neither serves lunch. If Tuolumne Lodge is slow they *might* let you eat in the lounge area without a reservation, however,. Four of us had dinner at White Wolf a few nights ago: Fixed menu with good soup, very good salad, good braised greens, undercooked potatoes, Cisco type chicken, and a vegetarian option that my BIL said was terrible.

          Personally, unless you've spent a lot of time in the area before and are just driving through (in which case you would likely know that there really isn't much except rocks, trees, and beauty between the Valley and Lee Vining), you've bitten off more than I would want to chew for your Visalia to Lee Vining day, especially if dining along the way is part of the mix.

    2. There have been a couple of recent posts on that stretch of 395, one by glbtrtr, IIRC. What sticks in my mind is that Whoa Nellie has gone downhill since the chef apparently has moved south to the Mammoth area.

      1. Personally I would not waste one second at Schatt's Bakery - enjoy the prior scenery someplace else a few minutes more. The stuff does look opulent, but it is exceptionally inferior quality and not particularly cheap. Put Schatts in the "if it looks big, it must be good" category. (For me, but then I walked away from Whoa Nellie Deli after many tries unimpressed too for years.)

        There is a cafe at the Ahwanhee Hotel so don't write it off entirely. Just walking around the place is a stunner and see what might work off their cafe menu. A bowl of soup or chili can often be a good meal substitute just to soak up the history and atmosphere.

        Eating is okay in this area,if you stick to the basics; dining is another option that is a lot harder to find. When in doubt we always order a good solid American breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner: bacon, scrambled eggs, toast and hash browns but that is only if there is not an IHOP around where we can order their Swedish pancakes!

        Again, personal preference but the real way to do this route is from east to west, driving down into the Valley from Lee Vining - that is when the spectacular views unfold in front of you. Driving away from the Valley does not give you that same effect. Any way you can do your trip in reverse?

        6 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          We were initially going to do the trip in reverse, but hotel availability became a real issue. Originally we were going to spend both nights in Mammoth, but then we realized we'd be making much better use of our time to make a loop rather than to go up and down 395.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            Oh, that is too bad about the hotels but that is a premium consideration. You just have to do what you have to do. However, what is really good about the east-west route is you drive up the steep, barren escarpment and then start going back down through the climate and altitude zones with jaw dropping opening vistas as you move into the lush, green fern forests of the Valley floor.

            To drive out west to east means you leave the prettiest part and then end up with dry and barren and have to be looking over your shoulder all the time, if you want those extended vistas. Not the same feeling. Going down is like peeling back the tissue wrapping on a gorgeous surprise. Going west to east is like wrapping up the garbage in newspaper and then tossing it away.

            However, both Tioga pass drives are wonderful, really. Just a different overall feeling. One with regret for leaving, and one with delicious anticipation upon arrival. Hope you come back with any dining finds. We all struggle with this area. You drink in the views here and chew up the scenery - satiation enough. A bag of peanut M&M's for sustenance is good enough. (!)

            Here is a menu link for the Bar at the Ahwanhee Hotel:

            1. re: glbtrtr

              "Going down is like peeling back the tissue wrapping on a gorgeous surprise. Going west to east is like wrapping up the garbage in newspaper and then tossing it away."

              LOL - having done the drive many times I will confess that I had never quite thought to articulate it in those images before.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Besides when you go east to west you are on the inside lane over the pass which makes it a bit less of a white knuckle experience given that there is often a drop off of oh maybe a thousand feet or more. :-). Hint: Tuolumne meadows lodge and White wolf often have last minute rustic room availability and it may be worth checking daily.

                I also think the bar in the Awahnee is worth trying

              2. re: Mr Taster

                FWIW, I was absolutely awestruck by that drive the 1st time I made it & it is still amazing to me. I'm a CA native & I went to Yosemite many times as a kid, but we never ventured to that part of the park. Going from west to east didn't lessen it for me, although we always went in the fall, so the color was beautiful. I can't help with food specifically b/c it's been a number of years since I've been over there, but don't miss the June Lake Loop. It is well worth the short detour.

                I would do Whoa Nellie just for the uniqueness of it, but I can't comment on how much it has gone downhill, as the original chef was still there the few times we went.

                We did eat a phenomenal meal at the Mono Inn when it was run by Sarah Adams, but it closed. I see it is now open again. I've heard nothing about the new restaurant, but I will be game to try it next time I'm over there.

                Please update us on what you did & ate. That's one of my favorite areas, but I think it's been 6 yrs. since I've been.


                1. re: browndogs2

                  As of June 19, 2012 Whoa Nellie deli was fine. We arrived at 1:30. Parking lot was crowded so we parked in lot across the road. Several tour buses came and went while we were there. Inside tables were full, as were most of the outside seats. Most tour bus customers ate all the same food--the big hot dog, chips, drink.

                  We had two mains and two drafts. Buffalo meatloaf was rich, moist. Pork chop was a 1-3/8" rib cut, cooked medium rare, dressed with a NOT sweet blueberry sauce. Note: I hate these kinds of sauces. 'Why did you order that?' said my wife. 'Taste it' I said. We shared both plates. I asked for the broccolini, it came with minced garlic and was crisp, bright and green. We got the potato salad with the meatloaf--it was fine. I would gladly return.

                  As for food in Yosemite, we self catered, except for a blow out lunch (make a reservation) at the Ahwahnee, where again--it's not about the food.

            2. In Lone Pine I really liked the Alabama Hills Cafe - 111 West Post St. just off of 395/Main St. 760.876-4675 Fresh baked goods, including pie ..... and well cooked food, served in generous portions by nice friendly staff. It's worth a stop.

              1 Reply
              1. re: gordon wing

                Totally agree! Liked the Alabama Hills Cafe a LOT. Wish I'd remembered to tell my brother about this when he was headed this way last week. Whoops. Was only there for breakfast once but found it delightful. As an espresso-only drinker, I was happy with iced tea.

              2. I have been up in that area several times. Any way you can reverse the order of the trip? I would start out at Whoa Nellie Deli for breakfast and pick up stuff for a picnic lunch and put in a cooler in your car. Yosemite is far too nice outdoors to spend time inside eating...Then, even at Erna's Elderberry House (I am not sure if that is the exact name). As for Bishop, Schat's Bakery is actually a small chain. It is good and reasonably priced but not really a "destinatioin" for eating at all.