Whatever you do, when you walk up to the breakfast order counter at the Yosemite LodgeFood Court, and place your order, DO NOT ORDER SOURDOUGH TOAST! Period, end of sentence. Why? Well, read on...
We stayed the weekend in Yosemite Valley, or more specifically, at Yosemite Lodge, which advertises to be "at the base of the falls." Sure, the lodge is priced on the "high side," but they include many amenities, so for a National Park, the Lodge is a good value. Naturally in early December, it really beats camping in a tent!
Left: As you head left, from Registration at the Yosemite Lodge, you'll find this convenient coucourse that leads to the Food Court. Right: Looking into the dining room from the outside, many happy diners are enjoying their breakfast.
Remember, you're in a national park, and fully 95% of Yosemite National Park is hard-core wilderness, so even in Yosemite Valley, the most visited portion, and the "hub" of the park, you can't expect the kind of dining that you'd enjoy in, say, San Francisco, or even Tijuana. Four-star dinners and upscale breakfasts can be found at the Awahanee Hotel, but if you're looking for breakfast on a Sunday morning, and you're not near the Awahnee hotel, you might want to set your sights to the Yosemite Lodge Food Court, located just west of the Front Desk building, where you check in for your reservations, located at the center of Yosemite Lodge complex.
Yosemite Lodge Food Court serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, cafeteria-style daily. They advertise that you walk up to the station of interest, and either grab a pre-made meal, or get a ready-to-go meal from a server who mans, errr, "persons" the station of your choice, grab your beverage, pay for what you chose at the cashier's station, pick a table in the huge dining room and enjoy your meal. That's essentially the protocol, which works for me. However during our visit, there were a few wrinkles...
Left: Before you walk in the door, you're greeted with the breakfast menu. We chose the Lodge Breakfast, at $6.75 per meal. Right: The grumpy eggman, at the left of the photo, serves hot food at the breakfast counter.
Outside of the place where you enter the Food Court, the menus are posted. Since this was a Sunday morning, naturally, we peered to the breakfast menu. All of us decided that the Lodge Breakfast, at $6.75, sounded like a good deal. The menu reads as follows: "Lodge Breakfast, two eggs, breakfast potatoes and choice sausage or bacon. Toast, with butter and jelly." When you enter Yosemite Park, you receive a brochure that describes everything you always wanted to know about the park, but you were afraid to ask, and it includes a short description of the Yosemite Lodge Food Court. I quote, out of the brochure, "The Yosemite Lodge Food Court, in Yosemite Valley, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. A variety of food stations offer cooked, to-order pasta, pizza, hamburgers and various entree selections. Freshly prepared salads, fruit, deli-style sandwiches and baked goods are also available..." From "Yosemite, Your Complete Guidebook to the Park," page 44 of the publication. This publication was current when we visited Yosemite, on January 7, 2006.
Maybe I've spent too much time gambling at Reno and eating at their buffets, so perhaps I spoiled, but I've come to believe that a "food station" is where you walk up to a station, and the person cooks your order to your taste, johnny-on-the-spot, so it is served to you, hot and fresh, just the way you ordered it.. I guess I had to pinch myself and mutter, under my breath... "Dorothy, Totto and I aren't in Kansas anymore..."
Left: Dave, working at the pancake and waffle grill, will fix your waffles or pancakes any way you like them. Right: The breakfast station and the menu posted above it. The eggman is cooking eggs, although he's hidden by the guy in the blue shirt.
OK, Yosemite Lodge Food Court serves a limited breakfast menu; I have no problem with that. So after we walked in we ambled up to the station that advertised breakfast, and had a large sign that read "Breakfast," above the counter, displaying the menu. The guy at the counter greeted us, and asked us what we wanted. Since I usually seem to lead with stuff like this, I started with "toast," but then he sort of cut me off and said that all of us needed to get trays. Ok, this is a cafeteria, but shouldn't trays located near each station? Where was the sign at the entrance that said that you should pick up a tray? So all of us, my wife Sharlene and friends Jim and Sharon retreated towards the front door, to the station where the egg-guy had gestured, and each of grabbed a tray. Now we were ready to proceed to the egg-guy to order or Lodge Breakfast, from the main breakfast station.
The first thing he asks you is, curtly, "Toast... white or wheat?" Well, you ask, what about sourdough? The curt answer is "No." (Hey, if you're ever been to California, you know that sourdough is the de-facto standard for toast, behind biscuits and gravy, but that's another story...) Then I asked, "Well, it says toast on the menu, that's posted above the counter?" Then he said, abruptly, "Read the menu." Well, I had read the menu, and it didn't say anything about yes or no, offering if sourdough toast was on the menu. Is the guy people friendly? Well, hmmmm.... So then I asked, "What kind of toast?'' Then he soft of grunted something that I really couldn't understand, but I was sort of getting wary, so I asked the simple question of "Say again?" . Now keep in mind, that the four of us had been up a couple of hours and had braved the frosty weather to photograph Half Dome, and Yosemite Valley on a early, and frosty, Sunday morning. So we weren't really groggy from lack of sleep and when the, somewhat grumpy eggman replied , "White or brown." Just like that. Abruptly. So I said "White." Then, he got out a small plate and proceeded to pull two pieces of pre-cooked, sort of warm toast, from one of those stainless steel things that hold food, in a state of limbo between sort-of warm and, well, fresh. OK, at least the toast was taken care of.
Photos: A few minutes later, our eggman greets customers with a smile. I guess after we were served, and the tour bus crowd arrived, he perked up, as he didn't have a smile on his face when he served us, as he looked rather dour, that's how he earned the nickname, "The Grumpy Eggman." He must be part owner of a tour bus...
Now, I'm one of these kind of guys that can read a menu, so in advance, I know exactly what I want. After the toast, I knew what was coming up next. So when he asked me what else I wanted, I said, "Eggs over easy, sausage and potatoes." The grumpy eggman looked me squarely in the eye, without smiling, and asked "Eggs fried?" and I replied the "Yes," as my favorite way to eat eggs in the morning is fried, over easy. Keep in mind, that I expected him to grab a couple of eggs from a nearby refrigerator, break them open with his left hand, like I do when I'm frying eggs, and toss them to a oiled and heated griddle.
Photo: Here's my $6.75 Lodge Breakfast, ooooops, the coffee is extra. I enjoyed stale, lukewarm toast, with cold butter from those little packages, lukewarm, deep-fried home style potatoes, and 3 cold sausage links. Check out the "fried" eggs; they look like those rubber, phoney eggs, and when you pick them up, they'll actually wiggle, just like they're made from rubber. However, these eggs are real, cold, hard, complete with overcooked yokes, that no amount of salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce can cure. Oh, the joys of a Lodge Breakfast!
Boy was I surprised, as he simply reached into a heated stainless steel food container and grabbed a couple of pre-cooked, fried eggs, that looked like one of those phony-egg, gag-gifts that you can purchase, and placed the psuedo-fresh eggs on my plate. Then he loaded on a pile of home style, diced potatoes, and three link sausages. He placed a plastic cover over the plate and directed me the left, where a station of butter and jelly was waiting. I placed my breakfast, and the plate of toast on my tray, and made my way left towards the condiment station. Further to the left was the coffee station; just grab a cup, and fill it later, as you have to negotiate the cashier before you can sit down. Meanwhile, you're carrying this tray of stuff. However, all of left with smiles on our faces, as we were followd by a host of folks originating from the tour bus crowd, as Yosemite Park is a tourist destination for worldwide travellers. All of us were glad that we had somehow squeeked ahead of the flood of tourists.
Yes, the cashiers are very friendly, and I like friendly folks. The Food Court works on the honor system, as the cashiers look at your plate that you ordered from the eggman, and any empty coffee cups or juice glasses that you have on your tray, and charge you by what you have brought to them. After paying the cashiers, and giving them a friendly smile, you carry your tray to an open table, sit yourself down, and enjoy your meal. After you pay for your food, glasses, cups; drinks, whether they are coffee, juice or soft drinks, are gratis; a nice touch. In the case of the four of us, When you're finished with you meal, just leave everything at your table, as you aren't required to bus your tables. As in Reno, you don't need to tip the cashiers, cooks or table busses. After all, this place is a cross between a cafeteria, a military chow line, and a Reno-style buffet. During my Navy years, I can't recall tipping any of the mess specialists.
Photo: Sharlene is "sort of" ready to enjoy her lukewarm breakfast, while mine is in the foreground. Notice the plastic covers on the right side of the table, which indicate the elevated level of cuisine that we enjoyed.
By the time that picked out our table, placed our tray of food on the table, poured our drinks, buttered our lukewarm toast with cold butter, removed the plastic cover from our breakfast, our meal could be described as, well, lukewarm, or so-so at best. Then, you add $1.25 for coffee, if you want it as it's extra, that you can see that your basic $4.95 all-you-can-eat-and-drink breakfast that you can get any of the major hotel/casinos in Reno is a bargain, compared to Yosemite standards. However, you're in Yosemite National Park, one of the most beautiful places on planet Earth. Plus, you have the character of the "grumpy eggman" to make the whole dining experience a little more interesting, plus it adds a lot of value.
I apologize if I've been too hard on the Yosemite Loge Food Court at their breakfast offering. Basically, they offer decent food and reasonable prices, Navy chow-line style. Good, basic and reasonably-priced food, which will satisfy your appetite. When you visit the Food Court, smile at the eggman, and he just might even smile back at you. Just don't ask for sourdough toast; it's not on the breakfast menu!
Photo: Yosemite Lodge Food Court is a very busy place on a Sunday morning. Serving stations are to the rear of the photo.
Dining at Yosemite Lodge? I really can't recommend it, or the Food Court, but since your choices are quite limited, and it's the only game in the national park, it's your call. I can't recommend a breakfast at the Yosemite Lodge, and I can't advise you on what protocol to envoke if you encounter the "grumpy eggman."
The only game in town, unless you prefer the $25.00+ breakfast
at the nearby Awhanee Hotel
"Institutional" quality food at its finest sort
of cuisine that is served to San Quintin's finest inmates
More Cons: Too many to name.
Do I recommend Yosemite Lodge for breakfast? Heck no! Bring your own food instead.
Please remember that this is my web site, and it reflects the opions of the webmaster, and the author of this article. I don't mean to offend anyone associated with Yosemite National Park, or Yosemite Lodge; I just want to reflect my dining experience.
Lodge Food Court
Copyright(c) 2005 eRench Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. This site has been on the web since December 22, 2002.