See yesterday's post for a report on Yosemite Bug's spa; a retreat at an extra specia eco-hostel in Midpines, California.
Contrary to the lounges in conventional budget hotels
(TV blaring CNN Headline News, generic sofas, picked over danishes at the
breakfast bar), this is a common area people actually seem to enjoy
frequenting. They’ve got a live music schedule posted, and big groups of locals
seem to be eating here as well as guests. As I people-watched during dinner,
I’m surrounded by single travelers journaling, tables full of wine-sipping boomers, Asian
tourists playing a card game I can’t follow, young backpackers, and resort
employees hanging out after their shifts. I heard Spanish, Eastern European
accents, the Queen's English, and languages I couldn’t begin to place all in one
The food is as good as the crowd. The café is low key; you stand in line to order and clear your own table, though when the line slows down the employees in the kitchen come out to take your dishes. The menu is better than the self-service implies; they’ve got wine, beer, and surprisingly nice entrées for a camp-type resort. Everything from steak to vegetarian options. I had an amazingly filling vegan chili served a top herbed rice, side salad, whole wheat roll, and a pleasant, local pinot noir. All for $19 with tip. (I was so ravenous I forgot to snap the picture until I was already half-way through.) Apparently, the carnivorous options are also fantastic; the pork chop with green chili sauce elicited an “Oh. My. God.” from one table over. And the British backpackers next to me raved about their meals: “I’ve been dying for a dinner like this!”
The décor is rustic-quirk: bikes stored on ceiling clips amongst the wagon-wheel lighting fixtures, plenty of potted plants, leather couches in front of an old wood-burning stove, and one of the best-stocked game shelves I’ve seen in a long time. (Everything from Candy Land to a full set of poker chips and cards.) There are photo collages of employees on the walls and a homey mish-mash of wooden tables and chairs. Inexplicably, album jackets from a Bing Crosby Christmas album and a jacket marked only with “Christmas 1970” are balanced on a ledge above the entrance. I hated to leave but I was starting to have difficulty keeping my eyes open; a 50K and a glass of red wine will do that to a girl.
Breakfast only confirmed my affection. (Any place that includes four different kinds of Lara Bars in their candy concession counter will get a special place in my heart.) Although they weren’t on the chalkboard menu, I asked for vegan pancakes because they were featured on the café’s website. After cursing at his co-workers in a good-natured Australian drawl for using up the last of the mix without creating more, the chef promised they’d be right out in 20 minutes. They arrived in less time and were, like the chili, delicious and really filling. The vegan sausage I also ordered were more like vegan hot dogs; I don't recommend them. But the pancakes -- oh! the pancakes! -- paired with fruit made exactly the kind of refueling meal I needed before starting the long journey back home.