This post is intended for the hungry traveller in California on US 395 somewhere within an hour of Yosemite or the visitor on the Tioga pass on the upper (eastern) part of Yosemite.
Lee Vining, the town that is flanked by Mono Lake and Yosemite hosts 4 restaurants. Skip them all and find the Whoa Nellie Deli. This place is referred to by the locals as the Mobile Restaurant, because it is located inside a Mobile station right at the intersection of US 395 and Highway 120.
I heard a surprising number of recommendations for this place as I suffered through the below average restaurants in the June Lake and Lee Vining area. The Mobile Restaurant has your standard deli menu along with an interesting the menu presented below that includes lobster taquitos, mango salsa fish tacos, St. Louis Style baby back ribs and a BBQ chicken pizza with cilantro pesto.
I had tried salmon in a few different restaurants in the area and was repeatedly disappointed. Recognizing that eastern California is not where one goes for fresh salmon, I found the salmon well prepared and served over a nice bed of greens with mango. The combination of flavors worked. Laura, likewise enjoyed the flavor of the wild buffalo meatloaf.
Another road warrior sitting at the table next to enjoyed the Ahi Salad. I polled three Sheriffs standing in the parking lot, they confirmed that this place was the best place to eat in the area. Two of the lawmen recommended the Kansas City Steak Caesar salad by name. The third officer reported the fish tacos as his favorite item on the menu.
The real surprise at the Whoa Nellie Deli are the desserts. In the display case the cakes looked like typical pre-fab chain-prepared desserts. In truth, they were freshly made, light and deceptively good. The Child had the chocolate cake and was only willing to share a few bites and hoarded the ganache. Laura and I shared the carrot cake. Both exceeded all expectations as they were rich without being heavy.
Even if you are in Mammoth, make the 20 mile drive. It’s worth it.
FYI – You can also fill up your car there.
Whoa Nellie Deli
22 Vista Point Road
Lee Vining, CA 93541
Where US 395 and Highway 120 intersect
GPS Coordinates: N 37º 56.827 W 119º 06.794