Wild Fig Kitchen is a tiny new restaurant doing big business in Coarsegold.
But it’s not the only one. The restaurant scene in the mountain towns of Oakhurst and Coarsegold is hopping. Several restaurants – which attract both locals and tourists headed to Yosemite – are making changes, with one big restaurant closing, a longtime butcher shop opening a restaurant and menu changes at several places.
There’s far too many restaurants in the area to mention them all here, so we focus on the ones that are doing something new or different.
First, the Wild Fig Kitchen is a new breakfast and lunch spot on Highway 41 that’s part of the Coarsegold Historical Village near Road 145. It’s in the former Miner’s Grill that closed recently because the owner wanted to retire.
The food here is a mix of traditional American cuisine and “eclectic” fresh food, says Marc Neff, who owns the restaurant with his wife Jacqueline.
We don’t want food that’s been sitting in a warmer.
Jacqueline Neff, Wild Fig Kitchen
That means you can get a burger with goat cheese, fig jam and bacon, with the restaurant using organic and local foods when it can. For breakfast there’s steel-cut oatmeal with chia and flax seeds, and multigrain pancakes.
If that sounds too frou frou for you, the restaurant also has more down-home American food like French toast, a turkey club sandwich with fries and plain old eggs and bacon.
“We do everything from scratch,” Marc Neff says. “Everything’s fresh, just eclectic fresh food – a little more fun, a lot more work.”
The coffee is their own Wild Fig Kitchen blend brewed for them by the Mariposa Coffee Co.
The restaurant looks drastically different than its predecessor. New tables and benches are made from some of the 100 million trees that died in the Sierra during California’s five-year drought. Weakened by lack of water, the trees were finished off by bark beetle infestations. Look closely and you’ll see gray smudges in the wood, evidence of a fungus carried by bark beetles.
Wild Fig Kitchen is tiny, so be prepared to wait on weekends. The dining room seats 26 people. Add in the patio under a sprawling fig tree and it can seat 60 people. A basket of blankets sits by the door for patio diners on chilly days.
The sandwiches are absolutely ginormous. If you could eat half of one I’d be impressed.
Jason Barnett, Barnett Meats & Deli
What to get here: A top seller is the pulled pork bahn mi sandwich. This take on the Vietnamese sandwich features pulled pork and an Asian barbecue sauce made by scratch at the restaurant with soy, ginger and garlic.
Barnett Meats & Deli
Barnett Meats & Deli is a restaurant and deli scheduled to open Thursday from the longtime Oakhurst butcher of the same name. Barnett Meats serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and will be open seven days a week. The Highway 41 restaurant is across the street from the hotels under construction now.
What’s on the menu?
It’s “a carnivore’s menu,” but there’s also salads, soups, pot pies and sandwiches, says owner Jason Barnett.
“The sandwiches are absolutely ginormous,” he says. “If you could eat half of one, I’d be impressed.”
You can also buy cuts of meat and cheese, or platters of meat, cheese and veggies. The company does catering, too.
What to get here: The tri-tip sandwich with meat that is slow roasted and hand carved, or buy a whole tri-tip roast and take it home to cook yourself.
Alice’s Cookhouse has closed. The restaurant, in the high-profile, two-story building in the middle of Oakhurst, served barbecue, sandwiches and fried goodies.
The restaurant owner had not paid rent in recent months, according to the landlord.
Erna’s Elderberry House is the only restaurant in the central San Joaquin Valley with a four-star restaurant rating by Forbes. It still serves the $100-plus, high-end five-course meals its known for, but has made its meals a little more accessible for people who don’t have the time or budget.
People love the wild mushroom risotto.
Renée-Nicole Kubin, Erna’s Elderberry House
Diners can now buy a smaller three- or four-course meal or pick something a la carte off the menu.
If someone just wants the wild mushroom risotto for $18 or the Dungeness crab and cucumber appetizer for $22, they can be ordered.
The restaurant also added a bar menu available on Friday and Saturday nights to its rock-lined cellar bar. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., diners can get a Gruyere grilled cheese with black forest ham and tomato soup, for example.
Wine is available and so are cocktails, including the pomegranate blossom – a drink made with pomegranate juice, mandarin blossom vodka and pink Champagne in a martini glass.
What to get here: If you’re planning to buy a la carte, the rib-eye that’s dry aged at the restaurant for 30 days is a popular choice.
Yosemite Gateway restaurant
The Yosemite Gateway restaurant is changing things up now that it has a couple new people leading the restaurant, which is part of the Best Western hotel on Highway 41.
Its menu has changed, so expect to see steak, seafood, pasta, burgers and lots of chicken dishes.
The kids menu is now presented on the back of a Magna Doodle (an modern version of an Etch A Sketch using a pen).
At the bar, whiskey Wednesday events start at 5 p.m. and feature whiskeys tastings. Small plates with that same whiskey as an ingredient in the food are available.
What to get here: The baby back ribs, stuffed with brown sugar-coated apple and topped with honey barbecue sauce.
South Gate Brewing Co.
The busy brewery just off Highway 49 expanded last summer, essentially doubling the size of the restaurant.
Its restaurant can now serve more of its brick-oven pizzas, burgers, salads and plates to share, like crispy fried Brussels sprouts. And of course, more people can try the beer that is brewed on site in the converted Chevy dealership.
What to get here: the Tomahawk Imperial Red Ale. It recently won a gold medal at an international beer competition in Los Angeles. It tastes like caramel, pine and citrus and has a big hoppy aroma, according to the man who brews it.
Crab Cakes Restaurant in the middle of town has a new owner and is tweaking a few things. The owners of the Charles Street Dinner House in Mariposa bought Crab Cakes last October and are now running both.
For now, Crab Cakes is doing dinner only, from Tuesdays through Saturdays.
They’ve changed up the menu a bit, adding more steak, ribs and pasta with a little less focus on fried fish. They also softened the decor a bit, keeping the fish tank but ditching the fishing poles.
The upstairs bar, which used to be named Roman’s Bar after the previous owner, has a new name. Regular patrons voted to rename it The Attic Bar and Lounge.
Details: 49271 Golden Oak Loop, Oakhurst, 559-641-7667 or on Facebook.
Some recent changes?
Deuces, formerly the 1950s diner, is in the process of a becoming a taco bar. The Noodle Bar brought sushi back to its menu. And the Mountain View Coffee shop is now open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. near the lobby.
The California Buffet has switched to theme nights: Italian on Mondays, barbecue on Tuesdays, etc.
What to get here: The sushi at Noodle Bar. It left the menu, but after customer feedback, the restaurant brought it back.
Anyone who drives to Yosemite on Highway 41 has seen the Broken Bit in Coarsegold. The empty restaurant is well past its glory days, but is ripe with potential.
A few years ago, we told you about local developers who bought the property and are fixing it up with plans to rent to a restaurant or other business.
That’s still happening. It’s just going to take a while.
The developers did some basic work on the building, says Kevin Tweed of Fresno-based Pavilion Properties. But the company bought the Coarsegold Rodeo grounds and has been busy working on upgrades there.
Once that work is finished, they’ll return to the Broken Bit.
Tweed says the building is ideal for a restaurant. It may be divided into separate businesses, however, because of its massive size –14,000 square feet. Tweed said he daydreams about a place that’s similar to Casa de Fruta or Bravo Farms moving in. But its future all depends upon who wants to rent the space.