Mariposa is on the main road to Yosemite National Park, and it's the gateway to some of the best four wheeling that the Sierra Nevada Mountains have to offer, and is a place that we've been visiting for many years, since nearby Merced is our home town. We've been enjoying the fine cuisine at Happy Burger Diner for many years, and I can recall many a "happy burger" enjoyed at the restaurant in the early 1970's, when the building housed a national burger chain. Fast forward the date to 1995, when the current owners acquired the restaurant, remodeled it, and turned it into what it is today - Mariposa's premire burger restaurant.
Photo: Happy Burger Diner is located at the east end of historic Mariposa, county seat of Mariposa County.
Photo: Monday, June 16, 2016, on the way home from a day trip to Yosemite National Park, we stopped at Happy Burger Diner for a late - 8 o'clock in the evening - dinner. The restaurant was in full-swing, the salad bar was up and running, and the restaurant was packed with customers. Despite the sign at the order window that advised a 30 - 40 minute wait time for orders to arrive, our orders arrived in about 20 minutes. Since our last visit, back in 2009 - the original article follows - the decor hasn't changed, as it still features lots of funky record album covers of everything vinyl. We did note that the salad bar has received a facelift, but the ingredients seem to be the same.
The menu states, "Mariposa's landmark nostalgic American diner. Featuring the Food You Love and "Mother Lode" portions..." I agree, as the food is delicious, the portions are ample, and the prices are reasonable.
Photo: The "Guacamole Chicken Burger," complete with an order of fries. It includes a breast fillet, onion, Swiss cheese, Ortega chili pepper, bacon, and, of course, guacamole. The de-facto standard side with every burger or sandwich is fries, but you can have a single trip to the salad bar, if you prefer, rather than fries, for no extra charge. Curly fries, sweet potato fries, "tator" tots, fried zuchinni or onion rings can be added, for an additional charge. Note the fries still retain the potato skin, which is what I crave! As a lover of fries, I can vouch they're excellent!
Photo: The first burger on the menu is the "Happy Burger," with an order of fries, that put a smile on the face of anybody who craves the best fries the Mother Lode has to offer. "Happy Burger" is the signature burger of Happy Burger Diner, and it is definitely an "old school" burger, which fits in, as the restaurant is definitely an "old school" diner. Garnishes include a 1/3 pound burger patty, cooked medium unless you tell them otherwise, your choice of several varities of cheese - American, Swiss, Cheddar, jalapeno jack, provolone, bleu, nacho or Cheddar cheese sauce - thousand island dressing, tomato, pickle and onion. This is truly a delicious burger!
Photo: Double your delicious taste experience by ordering an extra patty of meat, for only $1.00 extra, and you get a "Double Happy Burger!" This was my dinner, and for cheese, I ordered the jalapeno jack. Not shown are my fries, and the pitcher of beer, but this dinner was FANTASTIC, and with the 10% senior discount offered to patrons 55 years or better, the total price of my meal came to $13.00 plus some change. I shared the pitcher of beer with my brother-in-law Greg. The photo of this burger looks amazing, but it tasted even better than it looks in the photo.
Photo: On this Monday evening, the dining room at Happy Burger Diner is a busy place. My brother, Michael, is in the center of the photo, and just to his right, is my brother in law, Greg, as he's getting up from the table. Note the covers from vinyl record albums which decorate the walls and the ceiling of the restaurant. We'd just completed a 11+ mile day hike in Yosemite National Park, and we stopped at Happy Burger Diner, as the few restaurants in Yosemite leave much to be desired.
Now we return to the original article about our visit on May 25, 2009...
Although Happy Burger derives two-thirds of it's name from burgers, the restaurant doesn't limit themselves to burgers, as their menu is advertised as "Largest Menu in the Sierra!" That is no idle claim, as the menu is huge, and it's one of the largest menus that I've ever seen. The menu features two pages of breakfast entrees, three pages of burgers and sandwiches, one page of nothing but fries, combos and side dishes, a page and a half of Mexican food, and a couple of pages of baked potatoes, meal deals, soups, salads, and beverages. Altogether, their menu is ten pages long! If you're a lover of locally crafted beer, you'll be pleased to note they offer Mariposa Beer on tap... it doesn't get any better than that! If you're simply a "regular" beer lover, the menu offers a full pitcher of Budweiser for only $9.99, which makes a great deal.
Photo: Memorial Day morning, 2009, finds the restaurant very busy, as these hungry diners wait to place their order. The salad bar is to the right of the photo.
Gone is the sterile, corporate decor from years gone by, as the decor of the restaurant is about as funky as it comes, especially if you're a music fan. The walls above the windows and the ceiling are decorated with colorful 33 rpm vinyl record album covers of all genres. Actually, decorated is an understatement, as the walls and ceilings are completely covered with the album covers... there must be hundreds of them plastered everywhere... I've never seen anything like it before. Amenities include a salad bar, juke box, patio dining, children's play area, charging stations for notebook computers and cell phones, free wi-fi high speed Internet access, a dining area for doggies, and karaoke on the patio. If you're short of ready cash, they have a convenient ATM on-site. Mariposa Country High School Grizzlies booster items, such as tee shirts, polo shirts and hats are offered for sale, along with Happy Burger coffee cups and gift cards. Happy Burger Diner is quite an enterprising restaurant.
Photo: Courtney takes my order the old fashioned way, as the restaurant is very "low tech."
Happy Burger Diner features a format that combines the best (and worst) attributes of a fast food, and a sit-down restaurant. You walk in, and you make your choice from one of the menu board, or you can grab one of the paper menus that are strategically placed around the dining room. The menu choice is almost bewildering, and you're easily distracted from the album covers... if you can get past all of that, you're sure to find something that you love, as their menu included everything. After making your choice, you place your order with the friendly cashier, pay for your meal, grab your receipt, and pick a table. When your meal is ready, it will be brought to your table on a tray.
Photo: I was able to stick my camera lens in the busy kitchen and snap a photo before anybody realized what I was doing.
Since it was 10:00 on Monday morning, May 25, 2009, I was in the mood for breakfast, but Michael pointed out items on their menu such as ostrich and buffalo burgers which really piqued my interest, but I couldn't resist a chicken fried steak breakfast, with all the fixin's, and Michael settled for a less-than-exotic char chicken sandwich. As I waited in the line at the counter to place my order, I exhibited my usual bad behavior and began snapping photos, so by the time it was my turn to order, I had aroused the curiosity of the cashier, Courtney, who asked the usual question of "why are you taking photos." After a hurried explanation of this web site (I was more interested in getting my chicken fried steak ordered) I handed her my business card, she glanced at it and handed it back to me! That's a first, as I've never had anybody hand my business card back to me before...
Photo: Courtney brings orange juice. The photo gives you an idea of the funky dining room decor - very cluttered!
Since it was Memorial Day, the restaurant was very busy, but the wait was quite short, and very pleasant, as it gave me an opportunity to check out the interesting decor, snap a few photos, and enjoy multiple cups of their delicious coffee. Happy Burger Diner seems to be a magnet for Yosemite-bound tourists, along with the motorcycle, motorhome and tour bus crowd, but the restaurant is a hangout for locals as well. If you happen to be actively serving in the military, employed in public service, an honor roll student, or you're 55 or older, you'll receive a 10% discount. It seemed like I'd just began to admire some of the album covers when I heard my name being called by Monica, one of the friendly waitresses, who brought our meals to the table.
Photo: A few of the 33 rpm vinyl record album covers on the ceiling, directly above our table. We especially got a kick out of the Freddy Fender and David Allan Coe album covers, as we're fans of Country Music.
So what is the food like? In a word, great... Michael commented that his chicken burger was great, and it looked and smelled great. My chicken fried steak arrived hot from the kitchen, covered with delicious gravy, with big chunks of sausage. I ordered eggs over easy, and they were cooked perfectly, and the order of hash brown potatoes on the side were crispy golden brown on the outside, and chewy on the inside, just the way I like them. An order of sourdough toast and a bottomless cup of some of the best coffee in the Sierras rounded out my breakfast.
Photo: Shy Monica poses next to Michael, after placing my breakfast on the table.
Happy Burger Diner features delicious food, ample portions, and very reasonable prices. The service, if you want to label it as such, is fast and friendly. The waitresses will keep your coffee cup full and bring your order to your table, but you're on your own when it comes to getting your cream and stirring sticks, as they're located at the order counter, and the format is self serve. Tips aren't expected, but they're appreciated, and I left our server, Monica, a $5.00 tip, after she allowed me to take a photo of her with Michael, and she took a photo of us. I could sense that she was out of her comfort zone with my requests...
Photo: My delicious breakfast of chicken fried steak, eggs, hash brown potatoes, toast and coffee. Note the garnish of a sprig of parsley, which adds a nice touch to the plate of food.
Photo: Monica snaps our photo, with your author and web master, Eric to the left, and brother Michael to the right of the photo. Note the outside patio dining, visible through the window.
When you're on your way to Yosemite National Park, or visiting California's Gold Country, and you're in the mood for a great meal, and funky decor, make tracks to Happy Burger Diner. You'll be glad you did!
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