Reader Participation Day: Where Do You Find The Best Meals In, Or Near, The National Park System?

When you visit Glacier National Park, don't miss a stop at the Park Cafe in St. Mary for a slice of pie!

Good food and national parks aren't always discussed in the same conversation, but there are some great meals to be had in the parks.

Places such as the Metate Room at Mesa Verde National Park or the Mammoth Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park can compete with many fine big-city restaurants.

But there are other lodge dining rooms that, well, still have a ways to go in terms of elevating their menus.

With that understood, which restaurants and meals in, or nearby, the national parks would you recommend to your friends?

For instance, I frequently recommend the Jailhouse Cafe in Moab, Utah, for breakfast before heading off into Arches or Canyonlands national parks, the Park Cafe in St. Mary, Montana, outside Glacier National Park lives by its motto -- Pie for Strength --, and when in Bar Harbor, Maine, during visits to Acadia National Park I've had some great meals at Cafe This Way.

So, what say you? What restaurants/dining rooms in, or nearby, national parks would you speak highly of?

Comments

We were very pleased with the accomodations and dining at Wawona Hotel in Yosemite. It also had the advantage of being far away from the crowds in the Valley.

As I was clicking submit on my previous post, I remembered a wonderful halibut dinner at Glacier Bay Lodge in Glacier Bay NP.

Two Cats in Bar Harbor, Maine, is my go-to breakfast spot before a day of hiking in Acadia National Park; Galyn's is my favorite dinner spot there. Skyland Lodge in Shenandoah NP and Peaks of Otter Lodge and Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway offer great food in addition to decent accommodations and spectacular scenery.

The Whistle Stop in East Glacier Montana, The Signal Mountain Lodge, Trapper Grill in Grand Teton.

The Calimari served on the outside Lounge Deck at El Tovar (South Rim GC) is the best I've had, anywhere. Nice surprise for a major seafood consumer! Of course the Condors flying by occasionally looking for their own meal is kind of cool.

I enjoy stopping for fried apple pies at the Apple Barn in Sevierville, Tennessee or at Carver's Orchard in Cosby, Tennessee before heading into the mountains. For breakfast, I recommend some of pancake houses in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. For lunch or supper, I recommend Calhoun's which has locations in both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. If you want to take the BBQ with you and picnic in the park instead, stop at Buddy's in Pigeon Forge instead.

Calimari at the canyon! Who would have figured....? No Rocky Mountain oysters?

I wouldn't have figured either, Kurt. Seafood in Arizona is hit or miss, generally, but the way they cook the larger squid variety is is very good. The other outstanding seafood coincidentally, was Halibut in the Back of the House (private) at Phantom Ranch but having been hauled in on mules it is assumed that it would be outstanding:). Best lemonade in the Universe served there, also.

The Whoa Nellie Deli at the Mobil station in Lee Vining, CA, near the intersection of Hwy 395 and the Tioga Road (Hwy 120). Awesome food, views, and atmosphere! Also Savoury's Restaurant in downtown Mariposa, CA on Hwy 140. Delish!

Is the lemonade really that good, or simply appears that way after that long hike down to the ranch? (I quenched my thirst with it, too!)

Those last suggestions were for those traveling to Yosemite National Park. If you're traveling to Mesa Verde National Park or are visiting the Four Corners region, try Stonefish Sushi, The Farm Bistro, and Once Upon a Sandwich--all in the historic district of Main Street in Cortez, CO (the continuation of Hwy 160). Outstanding food at all three places. For a town of about 8,000 people, we are incredibly blessed with good eats!

Laurel, I, too, was amazed at the offerings at the Whoa Nellie Deli. And really, when you see that name, you have to stop anyway!

The best meal I have ever eaten at a National Park was the shrimp scampi at Flamingo. Unfortunately it is gone now.

Huevos rancheros at the Bright Angel Lodge for breakfast (Grand Canyon), Ribs and homebrew sampler at Smoky Mountain Brewery (Duh), Trenton Bridge lobster pound (Acadia), and the very best...drumroll please....Mountain House freeze dried Chicken Teriyaki and a peach on Angels Landing (Zion)

Everything is better after being humbled (by the Canyon). Did I say that, lol?

Erna's Elderberry House in Oakhurst was located there because the owner had an affinity for Yosemite. It's AAA Five Diamond rated and considered one of the best restaurants in California. In Yosemite, there's the Ahwahnee Hotel dining room, as well as the Mountain Room at Yosemite Lodge.

If your definition is expansive, then there are a host of places in San Francisco. There's Greens at Fort Mason in San Francisco, which is part of Golden Gate NRA. That is an extremely well known vegetarian restaurant and considered a pioneer in fine dining for vegetarians.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greens_Restaurant

Ha ha, AWD3, the last time I had HR at the BA a friend had the meal put through a blender so I could eat it through a straw (had my jaw wired shut after an accident). It still tasted good but wasn't very attractive to look at. Thanks for the memory:)!

after 6 days backpacking on isle royale national park, nothing has tasted better than the cheeseburger i had at rydens on the us canadian burger in grand portage, minnesota.

I second the vote for Two Cats in Bar Harbor!

The best homemade soups, salads, and pies are at the Bald Pate Inn just outside Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. It's nestled into the cliffs just across the street from Lily Lake on Rt. 7.

I'd second the great halibut and the crab at the Glacier Bay Lodge. The Zion National Park Lodge food was pretty good too. Sadly some national park lodges serve overpriced, dismal food. The worst I've found is the food at the Grand Canyon North Rim. Terrible.
The food served at the Yosemite High Sierra Camps is great, considering it all has to be packed in by mules. They served a great chocolate cake with fresh raspberries. How the mules got those raspberries in with having them be a squishy mess is a wonder.

Smokin' Dave's BBQ & Tap House and mary's Lake Lodge in Estes Park near RMNP are my favorites

I'm thinking "near" is somewhat of a vague term that could mean different things depending on the area. Many NPS sites are in remote locations where the closest town is 15 to 30 miles away. Mariposa was mentioned, and that's about a good 35 miles from Yosemite's Arch Rock entrance. I mentioned Erna's Elderberry House in Oakhurst, which is maybe 15 miles from Yosemite's south entrance.

It probably needs a different definition in a crowded urban setting like Gateway NRA or Golden Gate NRA. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there is world-class dining just minutes away from the Presidio or Ocean Beach. There are also some interesting (although probably overpriced) places to dine on NPS property, including the Cliff House and Louis' Restaurant (the fight for the operator to get their contract renewed was a real fight too), as well as Greens which I previously mentioned. Greens is at the Fort Mason Center, which mostly houses community oriented businesses. In many ways, the fight over Louis' Restaurant's lease renewal was difficult because of the NPS's requirements about being priced comparably to similary dining options outside of NPS land. What is that in San Francisco with literally over a thousand restaurants?

Restaurant in GGNRA for Lease
http://www.nps.gov/goga/parknews/2010-0225.htm

Point Reyes National Seashore is close to Point Reyes Station, which has quite a few high-quality places to dine, including the Station House Cafe (I had their Hangtown Fry with local oysters - just guess which ones) and Osteria Stellina. Sarah Rolph (who posts here) wrote a book on the Pine Cone Diner, although I had a pretty miserable experience there. They say "prickly service" but we didn't get served at all. They just ignored us as we read our menus while taking the orders of people who got there a half hour after we did. There are other options in Point Reyes Station, including sandwiches at Cowgirl Creamery and the deli counter at the local market as well as options at Toby's Feed Barn. It's a combination gift shop, coffee bar, art gallery, and animal feed supplier for the local farms.

Or pehaps Stinson Beach, CA which is near Stinson Beach itself (run jointly by NPS and California State Parks). I've had breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Parkside Cafe.

And near Muir Woods NM (I don't particularly like the new concessionaire) there's Milly Valley, CA. I haven't really eaten much there, but there is one place that seems really unique - Avatar's Punjabi Burritos. Here's the menu:

http://www.goseaver.com/avatar/pdfs/Mill%20Valley%20Menu.pdf

I agee on the Whoa Nelly. I had a Phesant dish with good wine and sat outside with friends and family. Also tried several desserts. Wonderful experience.
The Captcha is difficult to read I can hardly ever get one right

We had an excellent meal in the Paradise Inn dining room on Mt Rainier - good enough that it was a special "birthday dinner out".

There's a great upscale restaurant in Kanab UT called the Rocking V. Great food, fun atmosphere, fun owners and staff. Kanab's near the North Rim, Zion and all the fabulous BLM land around Coyote Buttes and the Cockscomb. Been there many times; definitely worth a visit.

Bennett's in Gatlinburg is my favorite for barbecue, especially ribs, but Calhoun's strawberry shortcake really puts that restaurant out in front.

We had to do some fairly extensive restaurant sampling while working on our National Park Pocket Guides in 2008 and 2009. The Spotted Dog in Springdale, at the entrance to Zion, was our favorite in town—especially the local trout crusted in cumin and pumpkin seeds. In Bar Harbor, brunch at Michelle's Fine Dining (at Ivy Manor Inn) featured praline bacon, something we'd go back for in a heartbeat. The big surprise for us, though, was the variety of restaurants in Pensacola Beach, outside of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Hemingway's Island Grill had a terrifically creative menu, pairing local tropical produce with old standards (like pork chops with mango sauce and Casear salad with pineapple and coconut) for some real taste treats. And if you're headed to Fredericksburg for Civil War anniversary commemorations, you really must eat at Bistro Bethem in the old part of town. (Fredericksburg has some truly fine restaurants—way more than we had imagined.)

Join the 'regulars' at the Wild West Pizzeria in West Yellowstone...Great pizza. Also, everyone has to visit EINO's, just north of West Yellowstone, if just for the experience. I just can't imagine this fun anywhere else...at least not on the East coast...

Maybe not a meal per se, but I can't resist a bargain. If it's a hot day in Yosemite and you need something to cool down, several of the stores in Yosemite Valley sell the "It's It" ice cream confection. It comes in various forms, but the original is vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies and dipped in dark chocolate.

While many things are overpriced in Yosemite stores, this one sells for about $1.

While I guess there are no 7-Elevens (that I know of) on NPS property where you might find a Slurpee, the Furnace Creek General Store in Death Valley sells Icees. Of course they're technically an inholding owned by Xanterra. It was very much needed when I was in Death Valley on a June afternoon.

"Dogpatch" is a great restaurant in Munising, Michigan, just a short drive out of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. They feature local specialities like fresh Lake Superior Whitefish and Lake Trout. I also love the Navajo tacos in the North Rim restaurant in the old lodge.

I had a wonderful Reuben sandwich at the Skyland Lodge restaurant after a hike up Little Stony Man and Stony Man trails with my son. And a great view over the valley is icing on the cake.

As for food inside a park, I'll have to go for the beanie weanies off my camp stove. Not very appetizing, but at least I can AFFORD it.

The Starlight Theatre in Terlingua is just outside of Big Bend NP. It has the best food in a 100 mile radius. Menu items include Wild Boar Sausage and Chicken Fried Antelope. After a long day of hiking in the park the Diego Burger will fill you up. Or just hang out on the front porch and drink a cold refreshment and soak in the local ambiance that does not resemble anything you have ever seen before.

Lee Dalton:
As for food inside a park, I'll have to go for the beanie weanies off my camp stove. Not very appetizing, but at least I can AFFORD it.
If you're going to do it yourself, then why not go all the way?

I know this will tick off Kurt, but this is possibly my ideal place to prepare my own meal - the picnic area at Drake's Bay Oyster Farm in Point Reyes National Seashore. I just hope it's still around by the end of the year.

If it's not too windy, just bring your own grill, buy a dozen large oysters (some that I bought were 10 inches long), and barbecue some next to the tables. Maybe bring a camp stove and cook your own clam and/or mussel stew with shellfish purchased at the farm. And no - this is not a potential wilderness area. You'll heart the faint sounds of the workers sorting shellfish and the entertainment is likely to be the Mexican Norteño music playing from the workers' boom box.

C'mon, y_p_w, I like a good plate of oysters like everyone else...

Short Ribs at the El Tovar, salmon at Old Faithful snow lodge,lobster at stuman's in Bar Harbor

YP, do you mean I have to grow my own beans and hogs? Thanks, but I'll pass.

One of the most memorable meals I've had near a park was a couple of summers ago when I got to West Yellowstain very early so I could have a chance of snagging a campsite at Norris. I stopped at the McD's just across from the Grizzly Center. The breakfast burrito was still semi-frozen in the middle and I found a huge clump of long black hair in my mouth. (Twasn't bear hair . . . . )

When I went inside to inquire about a refund, I found that all the employees were RUSSIAN! No kidding.

This is one little old gray head who will NEVER stop at that particular Mickey's ever again.

Lee Dalton:
YP, do you mean I have to grow my own beans and hogs? Thanks, but I'll pass.

One of the most memorable meals I've had near a park was a couple of summers ago when I got to West Yellowstain very early so I could have a chance of snagging a campsite at Norris. I stopped at the McD's just across from the Grizzly Center. The breakfast burrito was still semi-frozen in the middle and I found a huge clump of long black hair in my mouth. (Twasn't bear hair . . . . )

When I went inside to inquire about a refund, I found that all the employees were RUSSIAN! No kidding.

This is one little old gray head who will NEVER stop at that particular Mickey's ever again.

I wasn't suggesting growing your own. However, there are NPS sites that do just that. Slide Ranch in the Marin Headlands (GGNRA) raises lambs and probably grows beans. Maybe something special like goat sausage. It's really a teaching farm devoted to teaching about how farms work, but I'm pretty sure they do slaughter some of their animals.

But seriously - you'd buy your own shellfish right at the oyster farm. If you really insist, I think there are some NPS sites where it's legal to hunt feral pigs.

I've certainly heard Eastern Europeans in the most remote places. When we got breakfast in Gardiner, MT our waitress was Eastern European. Back in 2007 most of the employees at the Lodgepole store and snack bar in Sequoia NP were Russian. We even saw a large group of them taking the shuttle to get around.

And I have been to that McDonald's in W Yellowstone. Stopped there on the way out to head for Utah driving from the Tower-Roosevelt area. Didn't have the experiences you had, but they had no dollar menu and the prices were considerably higher than other McD locations (comparable to NYC). Even other McDonald's locations on our trip near NPS sites were normally priced - including the one in Jackson, Moab, and even Tusayan.

We made it as far as Price, UT that day. We also tried to find a restaurant that was open in Utah on a Sunday, which is not an easy thing.

As for dining in and around NPS units in Utah, we've had some doozies. I've talked about the total waitress meltdown I saw at the Bryce Canyon Lodge dining room. The food was fine, but there was a late lunch rush and only a single server for about a dozen tables. The server started slamming food down when people started complaining that they hadn't ordered yet or were waiting for their orders, then screamed out loud in the kitchen that she couldn't take it any more. The manager took over. We asked our busboy what the issue was, and he said that they didn't have enough staff that late and she just lost it.

That night we didn't feel like dining in the park, but Ruby's Inn seemed a little too hokey, so we headed to Tropic and ate at Clarke's. That's actually pretty nice even though it was a little place out in the middle of nowhere.

I concur with your choices but have to add Mountain High Pizza Pie in Jackson WY. THE best calzones in WY!!!!

Oscar Blues brewery in Lyons, "near" Rocky Mtn National Park.

Hatteras village is in the confines of CHNS so maybe this counts.
The volunteer fire department serves fresh local fried bluefish or Spanish mackerel with tea (sweet tea or unsweetened) homemade coleslaw, potatoe salad and fried hush puppies every Saturday afternoon during the summer. I think the entire dinner is $8. Amazingly good food for the price, both local and visitors attend!

In Yellowstone, we agree that Mammoth is one of the outstanding restaurants but Lake Hotel is equal, with a fantastic view of the mountains and lovely live music in the lounge. Our other favorite is the ribs served only at Roosevelt Lodge.

Ed, they still serve that great cornbread at Roosevelt with the ribs?

The Eggs Benedict at El Tovar and the beef stew at Phantom Ranch. The lemonade at PR is great, but we like to joke that we hike there for the stew.

Will definitly visit,Y_P_W ! Have visited Hog Island Oyster in Tomales Bay that has similar
Certainly an opportunity for people to become more connected (and appreciative) of our natural world and where food actually comes from. So much of the direction of many in the environmental industry seems to further separate the visitors from these type of experiences in the name of extreme preservation. Pretty sad for the culture to lose that connection. Not healthy in my way of thinking. I understand the need to preserve but in it's extreme it has very dark side effects.

Cnnected:
Will definitly visit,Y_P_W ! Have visited Hog Island Oyster in Tomales Bay that has similar
Certainly an opportunity for people to become more connected (and appreciative) of our natural world and where food actually comes from. So much of the direction of many in the environmental industry seems to further separate the visitors from these type of experiences in the name of extreme preservation. Pretty sad for the culture to lose that connection. Not healthy in my way of thinking. I understand the need to preserve but in it's extreme it has very dark side effects.
While I do enjoy the product from Hog Island, I have never used their picnic tables. They do provide a few things such as oyster knives and lemons, but they charge $10 per person and pretty much require reservations on weekends.

Tomales Bay Oyster is just down Highway 1 and doesn't charge for use of their picnic area and doesn't take reservations. I've noticed they are absolutely packed on weekends.

Drake's Bay Oyster Company is actually relatively quiet. Their retail operations are a small part of their business. They're huge with their business selling to markets and restaurants. I frankly like their location better than Hog Island or Tomales Bay Oyster, but the distance from Highway 1 is probably one of the reasons why there are fewer people there. If you want to go, of course try and make it before November. We don't know yet which way the decision is going to go on its future.

Someone mentioned Roosevelt dining without talking about the Roosevelt Old West Cookout?

I think I had two steaks. One of the employees said the record was eight.

The Roosevelt Old West Cookout would have been the most memorable the time a bear ambled in just as they were serving the steaks. The guests abandoned their steaks to the bear. I think it was 1997, a week after we ate there with our family.

The employees I talked to told me that they'd never heard of a bear wandering in there, but occasionally they had uninvited bison showing up.