Dig into where to travel in California's Eastern Sierra, and sooner or later, you'll come across Mammoth Lakes.
Situated in Mono County just north of Bishop and just south of Yosemite, this alpine town off Highway 395 has much to offer to the outdoor lover.
You'll come for the downhill skiing, stay for the backpacking, and likely fall in love with the fishing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, and rock climbing along the way.
What Is The Food Scene In Mammoth Lakes?
Being that Mammoth is a very small town at a very high elevation (set at about 8,000 feet with just over 8,000 residents), it's an incredible place to live with a tight community of outdoor lovers.
But that elevation and a small group of permanent residents means the options for everyday conveniences — from dry cleaners to shopping — are limited. And that limitation also applies to the restaurants. For example, you won't find as much of the farm-to-table fresh food you find in other parts of California. Also, the town is dominated by places that cater to families and travelers on a budget.
The good news is there are only a couple of chains so nearly every restaurant is a locally-owned, small business. And in that mix there are restaurants serving healthy bites, others shaking up quality cocktails, and others still doing their version of California mountain fine dining.
So you can find some gems and support the local economy as you eat.
Where To Eat In Mammoth Lakes
Here are the restaurants that stand out:
For Breakfast Burritos: Stellar Brew
Started by Andrea Walker, who was born and raised in the Eastern Sierra, Stellar Brew is a go-to for locals. This coffee shop is just off Main Street and is the perfect place to grab food to fuel up for a day in the outdoors. The menu tends toward healthy-ish including vegetarian, vegan, and even gluten-free options.
Their breakfast burrito is what they're known for in our friend circle though other beloved made-to-order options are the egg-cheese sandwich (get it with pesto and avocado) or the Basin Bowl. You can also regularly get smoothies, açai bowls, soups, and salads.
Stellar Brew and Natural Cafe, 3280 Main St, Mammoth Lakes
For Espresso Drinks: Black Velvet Coffee
Black Velvet firsts started roasting coffee in 2008, but the Main Street coffee shop, serving organic, rainforest alliance, and fair trade-certified coffee, opened in 2011. Easily the best spot in Mammoth for third-wave espresso, they also have a seasonal menu of coffee drinks like Honey Orange Cappuccino and Fig Spiced lattes. Their cinnamon sugar waffles have a cult following in our crew and they often have a few additional baked goods in their case.
You can also stop in for wine nights when they serve sustainable and often California-based wines. And, if you're in town before heading on a backpacking or camping trip, get one of their coffee growlers to go.
Black Velvet Coffee, 3343 Main St SUITE F, Mammoth Lakes
For Quick Tacos: El Charro Taqueria
There are a handful of Mexican restaurants in Mammoth Lakes, but the only one we go to regularly is El Charro Taqueria. This family-run operation opened shortly before the pandemic and is the most reliable spot in town for tacos. The interior of this taqueria is sparse, so we often take the food to go.
The portions are generous, and they have all the usual hits at a classic taqueria — i.e., carnitas, carne asada, and lengua — as well as Mexican American classics like burritos and nachos. We wish they had higher quality tortillas and salsas, but the carne asada and the carnitas are always reliable.
El Charro Taqueria, 452 Old Mammoth Road, Mammoth Lakes
For Whole Foods: Elixir Superfood & Juice
Locals and visitors alike frequent Elixir for their whole foods-based salads and grain bowls. You can order them ahead on their website if you're in a hurry (or, say, about to hit the road to drive back home), or you can wait in line and make your own. A few items on their menu that we recommend are the Thai Kale Salad, the Nourish bowl, or the Falafel Bliss bowl.
In addition, they always have some fresh-pressed juices and a few healthy-ish treats. You can also find a few drinks here, like hard kombucha. FYI, their kitchen is 100% gluten-free, so you can eat here without issue if you have celiac.
Elixir Superfood & Juice, 3325 Main Street, Mammoth Lakes
For Happy Hour: Mammoth Tavern
Just off Old Mammoth Road and tucked away in the second level of a shopping center, you could easily miss Mammoth Tavern if you weren't looking for it. And that'd be a shame because you'd be missing out on what is, in our opinion, the best tavern in town.
The cocktails are solid and there's always a selection of craft beers, but we like it for the elevated comfort food ranging from a stellar burger to a delicious fried chicken sandwich. A few other favorites are the homemade potato chips with artichoke dip, the smoked salmon potato skins, the brussels sprouts, and the shepherd's pie.
They have a generous happy hour, so you can go as soon as you get off the mountain. And, before or after, you can swing into Bevi Bene next door to grab a bottle of wine.
Mammoth Tavern, 587 Old Mammoth Road, Mammoth Lakes
For Quick Noodles: Noodle-ly
Mammoth Lakes is seriously lacking in Asian food — a shame considering how much incredible Asian food you can find across the Golden state. Luckily, long-time locals, Pat and Taylor Kumlue, have helped fill that void with Noodle-ly.
As a nod to Pat's Thai and Chinese background, the menu features the best hit of Asian noodle dishes ranging from Khao Soi to Pho and BBQ Pork Noodles. They have vegetarian options on the menu and will do their best to accommodate gluten-free.
Noodle-ly, 437 Old Mammoth Road, Mammoth Lakes
For Lounge Vibes: Bleu
Bleu is a restaurant and gourmet marketplace housed in the old Chart House location. We find ourselves here weekly to get their top-notch sandwiches to-go, to buy a few of their gourmet products, or to purchase anything from their house-made bread, dips, or soups.
But also, you can sit in the front half of the establishment that has a full-service bar and dinner menu. Or, take a page from locals and order one of their to-go dinners when you're too tired to cook or eat out. We especially like their tri-tip and their salmon dinners.
Bleu Market & Kitchen, 106 Old Mammoth Road, Mammoth Lakes
For Lunch With A View: The Yodler
Some call the Eastern Sierra, "the Alps of California," and spots like the Yodler attest to that. Set at the foot of Mammoth Mountain across the parking lot from the Main Lodge, this deck of this Swiss Chalet-looking spot is the perfect spot on a sunny day to watch the action on the mountain.
Head here for lunch or for an early après and dive into their German-inspired menu that has everything from fondue to spaetzle. We're partial to the schnitzel sandwich, their ginormous pretzel, the duck fat fries, and the sausage hunter's platter that includes a pretzel roll, bratwurst, and sauerkraut. This place is as perfect for a family with kids as it is for a group of friends.
Yodler Restaurant & Bar, 10001 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes
For Quality Food Near The Village: Petra's Bistro
Located just across from the Village in the Alpenhof hotel, Petra always has excellent service. We appreciate that their wine list has some reasonably priced gems and that their menu changes regularly.
A few things we enjoyed there recently are the pork loin with chile pasilla tomatillo, the Coq Au Vin with fingerling potatoes and mushrooms, the butternut squash gnocchi pasta with sage cream.
Petra's Bistro & Wine Bar, 6080 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes
For Quality Cocktails: Shelter Distilling
The Mammoth Village is charming and has fabulous live events, but it's not a place we locals frequent for meals. The exception is Shelter Distilling, which offers cocktails mixed with their house-distilled spirits and a selection of small bites.
We're fans of "The Crib" cocktail and frequently order small bites like the shishito peppers, the Smashburger, and the sweet potato tacos. The seating is first-come, first-serve, and you can snag a spot at the bar or on the front or back patio, weather permitting.
Shelter Distilling, 6201 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes
For Rustic American Dining: Lakefront Restaurant
If your mountain vacation dreams include eating at lakeside in a rustic lodge, then you'll definitely want to book one of the handful of tables at Lakefront restaurant. Set along Twin Lakes in the historic Tamarack Lodge, this rustic restaurant serves a California twist on comforting mountain food including game and seasonal produce.
The most recent menu includes standouts like bison carpaccio with drunken goat cheese, elk chops, and wild mushroom cannelloni. They also regularly have live music and it's one of the best spots in town for a classic cocktail so be sure to plan appropriately.
Lakefront Restaurant, 163 Twin Lakes Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA, US
For Fine Dining: Skadi
Don't let the off-the-beaten-path location fool you: this tiny spot is arguably the highest-end dining experience in Mammoth Lakes.
Named after the Norwegian goddess of hunting and skiing and headed up by Chef Ian Algerøen, this beloved spot serves seasonal food with an Alpine flair. Staying true to its roots, the menu often has Scandinavian flavors, excellent wine selection, and imported Norwegian craft beers like Nøgne and Haandbryggeriet.
Just heads up that the restaurant is small, so it's not the place to go with a group, and reservations are mandatory.
Skadi, 94 Berner Street, Mammoth Lakes
For Breakfast: The Warming Hut
Though it's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we like The Warming Hut best for breakfast or brunch. This family-owned spot is named after the original name for the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge and has a throwback feel even though it's just been open a few years.
The food is always fresh, and most everything is made from scratch. It's an excellent place for families because there is something for everyone and the service is spot on. We're fans of the chilaquiles, the breakfast hash, the bacon, the pancakes, and the Bloody Marys. FYI, they don't take reservations, so you may have to wait for a table.
The Warming Hut, 343 Old Mammoth Road, Mammoth Lakes
Travel To Mammoth Lakes
Though Mammoth is best known as a ski town, there is a ton to do here year-round. It's a great jumping-off point for exploring Highway 395 from the Sierra Nevada as far south as Mount Whitney or up to Yosemite.
Head here for our recommendations of where to eat along California 395. And, if you need help planning a trip to the Eastern Sierra, don't hesitate to reach out to us for our travel planning services!
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Photo Credit: Opening photo by George Lamson