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NPS: Don't eat here

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NPS: Don't eat here

Postby balzaccom » Sat Feb 21, 2015 9:39 am

Why is the food so universally bad in our national parks? It’s true that they located in difficult places: food deliveries are going to be limited and expensive. But there has to be more to it than that. On our last trip to Death Valley, we waited more than forty minutes to be served a BLT at Stovepipe Wells, and when it arrived it was stone cold. The next night, at Furnace Creek, our salads and entrees arrived at the same time, within three minutes of ordering them, and well before our drinks made it to the table.

It’s as if nobody in the dining room is paying attention. And it’s not just that we’re from Napa, and used to better things. As we look around the restaurants in our national parks, we see looks of confusion and bewilderment on the faces of all the customers. Why is it so hard?

The worst restaurant we have ever visited is the one at Grant’s Grove in SEKI. A few years ago, they were simply a disaster from beginning to end: bad reception, lousy service, and terrible food, all bundled up into one restaurant. And the prices in these places are way above what you would pay anywhere else. In Death Valley, one steakhouse is asking more than $65 for a steak—and given the rest of the operation we can’t imagine that it was very good. Two days before we had eaten at Harris Ranch in Coalinga—not exactly the culinary capital of the Western World—where the steaks were certainly better, and certainly less expensive. And the service was attention, and the whole thing worked.

We wish that SOMEBODY were paying attention to this, but they are not. Sure, it might be hard to get good staff to work at a national park, (Really? Wouldn’t bright young people want to do this for a season of adventure?) but there seems to be almost no training of the people they do hire. And there seems to be no supervision in the dining room. Again, nobody there is paying attention…
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Feb 21, 2015 3:43 pm

I think in most cases it's just a matter of there is no where else to eat so they serve crap on purpose because they can and make double the money. I always use VVR as an example. They have top notch food and yet they have one of the worst drives for resupply and their prices are the same as the others.

Luckily Grant Grove improved last year. They have new owners and have much better food. Not VVR but it's good enough.
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby oldranger » Sat Feb 21, 2015 4:32 pm

The problem with food is that the NPS typically does one contract for all services within a given NP. So even with multiple restaurants in Yosemite there is really no competion thus no incentive to provide outstanding service and quality.

A couple of years ago along the Blueridge Parkway the concessionaire simply decided not to operate some traditional services which turned out to be a real pain during our visit. The NPS was then trying to figure out how to do multiple contracts for different services at different locations.

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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby balzaccom » Sun Feb 22, 2015 7:51 am

After yesterday’s post, we did want to share a great place to eat in Bakersfield. Yes, Bakersfield. As we drove along highway 178 across town, we noticed a small café: the 24 St. Café. It isn’t hard to find. It’s on 24th St. and Highway 178. And it is everything that a small café should be: lively, fresh cooked food, inexpensive, hearty portions, friendly and helpful service. It is only open for breakfast and lunch, and even on a Wednesday it was pretty full at 12:15. But they squeezed us in at the counter, gave us our delicious lunch with a smile, provided some welcome driving directions, and had us on our way in less than 45 minutes. You can’t ask for more than that, and everyone in that restaurant was enjoying the experience, from the customers to the staff. And yes, the owner was present and paying attention to the customers with a smile.

In Stovepipe Wells we would have been just biting into our (cold) food. And paid double.
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby oldranger » Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:03 am

Counter to the point I made previously perhaps the most outstanding meal Kathy and I ever shared was at Many Glaciers Hotel in Glacier NP. We had almond encrusted sturgeon the young server alerted us to. She was very competent and attentive without being intrusive thruout the meal. My experiences at the Awahnee in Yosemite do not compare and of course other dining options in yosemite valley are forgettable at best.

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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Feb 22, 2015 10:55 am

Although I have never eaten at 24th street café I know it has a great reputation. Probably the best random choice you could have made while heading through town.
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby markskor » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:23 am

Maybe hijacking this, but still somewhat on topic...

This thread being about terrible places to eat/ bad food experiences in (or near) the NPS system (and there are plenty) - how about the other options - what/where are the good victuals found/sold in the parks? Regularly spending months out backpacking in my Eastern Sierra, every 10 days or so you return to civilization - restock - drink a few beers, and take advantage/ look for what is available - something both delicious and reasonably priced...something you would eat again? Not talking about Ahwahnee dining, or that BBQ place in Bishop - both exquisite choices but not practical for a YARTS-dependent, "dirt-bag hiker" - (BTW, a term of praise, IMHO ranked just below the highest echelon - a "dirt-bag fisherman").

So, having no car but lazy, tired, hungry, solo, having a few bucks/plastic, and spending the night (a Zero Day or two?) inside any Sierra national park, what/where do you eat without gagging?
EG - breakfast, lunch, dinner Yosemite - specifics?
Curry pizza always first comes to mind but...What else works? Tuolumne?
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby robow8 » Mon Feb 23, 2015 2:59 pm

I'm far from a food expert, but I thought breakfast was good at Curry Village last year, and got a sandwich from Degnan's Deli that we shared for lunch on our first day out that hit the spot.
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:32 pm

Well in the South Lodgepole has pretty crappy food in their market. About on par with typical fast food joints but for twice the price. I actually don't mind eating it though because although I recognize that it's really cheap it's an enjoyable cheap for me.

The Wuksachi Lodge has good food though. Pricy for dinner but at lunch you can get a good burger and fries for 15 dollars or less.

Cedar Grove if the same policy continues this year now has a daily BBQ outside. tri-tip, pulled pork, chicken sandwiches etc. Comes with a side of beans, potato salad and a bag of chips. I think the tri-tip was like 12 dollars a plate. Inside they improved the menu also. I had some BBQ ribs one night and they were very good. Also ordered a quesadilla with tri-tip in it. Much better over the crap they used to serve.

At South Lake Parchers has a buffet for breakfast. Saturday and Sunday they have eggs, bacon and sausage with it and runs I think 9 dollars. during the week it's mostly about the waffles and biscuits and gravy. It's like 5 dollars and the food is good. They do not do lunch or dinner though. For that you go down to Bishop Creek Lodge. They have great burgers and criss cut fries and awesome pizza. I once got a steak in there a couple years ago and it was one of the best T-bones I think I had ever had. They are the only other resort I stop by every year while out that I say their food is as good as VVR.

As for Vermillion Valley Resort their food changes every year so you never know what the menu might hold other than consistently having an awesome BBQ on Saturday. But regardless of what it is it's always good. There have been years where I seriously considering changing my route while out just to go back to VVR for the food.

Reds Meadow Resort does ok for breakfast but lunch is a bit lacking. Certainly not bad but nothing particularly great either. For dinner they only do their lunch menu and normally have some special that they like you to let them know in advance so they make enough. I can only recall getting it once but I don't remember how it was. I suppose that says that it was not good enough to leave a lasting impression.

Tuolumne's grill is perhaps the worst place to get food in the whole high Sierra. It's like 9 dollars for a double cheeseburger before paying for fries or a drink and is consistently terrible. A backpacker that has been out for months on end should not be able to sit down and eat a burger and say this is a piece of ****! The only thing that made it any good to me was mixing ketchup and mayonnaise and covering it with that. Then mixed chipotle tabasco with ketchup to dip the fries in to make them bearable. Their breakfast is probably a step below Mcdonalds.

I once ate at the Tuolumne Lodge and had a steak. I don't remembering having any complaints but like Reds Meadow it also did not leave a lasting impression.

I don't have allot of experience in Yosemite Valley. I do remember eating some crappy burgers, some plain breakfast items and absolutely horrible Mexican food for outrageous prices. It was like 4 dollars for a single hard taco and it was allot worse than Taco Bell. I only recall getting some good pizza.
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby markskor » Mon Feb 23, 2015 7:09 pm

Rogue,
Thanks for chiming in...hoped you would -
One of the minority here who also really understands the fine art form of the un-supplied zero day...
Being months out and unsupported...always looking for good, filling, and cheap...dirt-bag hiker stuff.

Agree with your assessment of the Tuolumne Grill - mostly ghastly breakfasts there run around $12.
Suggest the store instead. My regular, TM, picnic table breakfast - One of those big poppyseed muffins, an orange, one of those chicken & cheese burritos (blue/white wrapper - microwave - amazingly good), and coffee (with a Ranger) - $5.00.
Tuolumne lodge has a nice continental breakfast thing that includes oatmeal with fruit - $10.00 + tip.

TPR (which requires a ride but do-able if gregarious)...great family style dinners and home made pie.
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby LMBSGV » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:34 pm

I agree with all the comments on NPS eateries though I did enjoy the pizza I had at the Grant Grove pizza place a couple of years ago. Then again, the beer and ten days out, might have made it taste better. When my wife and I do our yearly winter trip to Yosemite Valley we bring our own food and store it in a cooler and the fridge in the room. Rogue, I’m glad you got the tri-tip at Cedar Grove. Last year when I went they were out and sold me an overcooked dry burger and stale potato salad out of the refrigerator.

If exiting from an east side trailhead, the best solution I’ve found is to go to Von’s in Bishop or Mammoth Lakes and buy a steak, burger, or chicken along with a beer or two, potato or two, lettuce, aluminum foil, and charcoal and go to a public picnic area. My wife, son, and I made this part of our going home ritual for years. On solo trips, I opt not to cook and buy something at the deli. My favorite place to go is Tenaya Lake, but there are lots of other possibilities to grill or eat a decent dinner and unwind from the backcountry in a beautiful setting.
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Re: NPS: Don't eat here

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Feb 24, 2015 7:11 am

Yeah I got to the BBQ right as they opened so it was all fresh. Between the two days I was there they were inconsistent though in portions. The first day I got this huge plate that I was amazed only cost me 12 dollars and the next day it was a very small serving of the sides. The employees said they were still trying to figure it all out.

I also learned at Tuolumne the best way to go was to eat out of the store.

I have also eaten at Grants Grove and I had no complaints about their food.
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