Pupfish Cafe is a small "mom and pop" restaurant tucked inside the back of a book store, and unless you are a local resident of Bishop, California, you'd probably not even know the restaurant exists, if not for their presence on the web. The cafe is "funky," local and in keeping with Bishop, not at all cosmopolitan, yet it reminds me of the kind of small cafe you'd find in the bohemian atmosphere of many trendy San Francisco neighborhoods.
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: Bishop is a small city with less than 4000 citizens, and it amazes me that Spellbinder Books, which is a full-service book store, is thriving in November 2018, considering all of the catastrophic changes that have happened in the retail industry in the past decade.
Spellbinder Books isn't just a book store, as the store is blessed with a gem of a small restaurant, Pupfish Cafe, located in the rear of the store. Walk through the store, head to the rear, and you'll find the cafe, and lots of good sandwiches, egg dishes, and more.
Photo: Pupfish Cafe features a small patio behind the book store, where you can enjoy a quiet meal, away from the hustle and bustle of "Main Street" in Bishop, which is actually U.S. Highway 395, a major north/south artery in Eastern California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. When the weather cooperates, as it's doing on this early November afternoon, I enjoy outdoor dining.
The weather-beaten menus are posted on the wall, next to the door. This is the "back" door, which is actually the main entrance to the restaurant. By entering through the rear, you don't have to walk through the book store, and be tempted by many of the bargains they offer.
Photo: It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon, on Monday, November 12, 2018, one half hour before closing time, and I practically have the restaurant to myself, as there is only one other customer. Unlike other restaurants when closing time is approaching, the friendly staff welcomed me, and invited me into their fine restaurant.
Photo: As I entered the restaurant from the rear - where the small "patio" is located - I was greeted by Sarah, who was my friendly server, and the person who made my sandwich. Pupfish Cafe is a very small operation, located in the back of the bookstore, and besides Sara, there was only one other employee working on this Monday afternoon.
The cafe may be small, but the food is good, reasonably priced and the staff are super-friendly.
Photo: One page of the lunch menu. All menu selections are available anytime the restaurant is open, so I found it interesting the menu has a separate breakfast and lunch section.
Everything on the menu looked good, but I couldn't get past the "Turkey and Provolone Panini" sandwich, along with what the menu calls "dressed greens," which is actually lettuce dressed with balsamic vinegar which definitely works in my book.
Photo: Pupfish Cafe works what I refer to as the "taqueria style" system. You make your selection from the posted menu, located above the kitchen - or one of the paper copies - pay for your order, and when your order is ready, it will be brought to you. Unlike other restaurants, you don't receive a "number," as the restaurant is small, and the staff easily remembers you as they deliver your order to you.
Photo: After I placed my order, I had time to wander around and check things out, and this bulletin board, which is located in a small section between the bookstore and the restaurant, caught my eye. All "things" local in Bishop seem to be posted here...
Photo: Looking into Spellbinder Books from Pupfish Cafe, shows a full-service bookstore, that has everything that anybody who loves books - or who knows how to read - could ask for. I was surprised to see such a well-equipped bookstore in Bishop, which is a small eastern Sierra city of less than 4000.
Photo: As she was assembling my sandwich, Sarah pointed out to me what she called a "mural," which to me was actually a picture, of the "Pupfish Cafe," which represents everything that Pupfish Cafe, along with the city of Bishop, as to offer, including mountains, good food, and the restaurant's mascot, the Owens pupfish.
Just so you know, the Owens pupfish is a rare species of fish, only found in the Owens River valley in eastern California, centered around the Bishop area. The Native American Paiute tribe used to thrive on pupfish, but thanks to the efforts of the City of Los Angeles's efforts of commandeering most of the Owens River water a hundred years ago, the Owens pupfish have landed on the Endangered Species list.
Photo: I snap a photo, as friendly Sarah works on the makings of my sandwich. The roll a ciabatta roll, and it's SUPER FRESH, as it's baked at Great Basin Bakery, which is located practically across the street from Pupfish Cafe. Check out the nearby panini press which will be used to grill my sandwich.
Photo: Sarah delivers my sandwich to me with a smile. The weather on this mid-Monday afternoon was sunny, with the temperature in the mid--60's, so I chose to enjoy my late lunch/early dinner outside, on the patio.
Photo: I smile, as Sarah snaps my photo, as I know I'm going to be enjoying a delicious meal.
Photo: From the "Lunch" menu - which is a tad misleading, as anything offered on the menu is served anything the restaurant is opened - ordered a "Turkey and Provolone Panini." All sandwiches, including my order, come with lettuce, dressed in balsamic vinegar.
The menu describes the sandwich as "Turkey and Provolone Panini, served on Great Basin ciabatta roll or your choice of sourdough or multi-grain bread, with a choice of cilantro caper, tomato caper mayo or red pepper Romanesco spread." Being the adventurous type of person that I am, I chose the Romanesco spread. I wasn't disappointed!
Such a great lunch! As I was taking this photo of my lunch, a funny thing happened, as a lady was walking out of the restaurant and laughingly asked me what I was doing. I matter-of-factly told her that I was taking photos of my food, and that brought more laughs out of her. She then remarked that "There's something about Bishop that brings the 'foodie' out in everybody." I replied that the reason it happens is because Bishop is located in the Owens Valley, in between the White, and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. She laughed, and with her little dog leading the way, went on with her afternoon. As I munched on my panini, I got a good laugh out of the encounter.
Photo: Close up of my "Turkey and Provolone "Panini" sandwich, freshly grilled on the press, by my friendly server/sandwich maker, Sarah.
The sandwich was delicious! The ciabatta roll was fresh, had grill marks and was... perfect. How can you go wrong with turkey and provolone cheese? I never had the pleasure to enjoy red pepper Romanesco spread before, but it was amazing and really made the sandwich. Combine the amazing sandwich with the lettuce, dressed with balsamic vinegar, and it would be safe to say this lunch made my whole day! The friendly service, and the bohemian atmosphere also added to the meal...
The food is excellent, the service is fast and super friendly, and the atmosphere is priceless. If you're looking for a great breakfast or lunch, and you want to get off Main Street - literally - and enjoy good food, with lots of relaxation included, head over to Pupfish Cafe, located in Bishop, CA.
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