A renewed spirit at Yosemite Gateway Restaurant and Narrow Gauge Inn

Christian Guizar, left, and Justin Garcia show off some of the new dishes at Yosemite Gateway Restaurant, such as Thai red curry scampi or apple stuffed baby back ribs.
Christian Guizar, left, and Justin Garcia show off some of the new dishes at Yosemite Gateway Restaurant, such as Thai red curry scampi or apple stuffed baby back ribs. Sierra Star

Two restaurants in the Mountain Area promise an entirely new experience when customers walk through their doors this summer, with complete updates to their kitchens, management, menus, and decorum.

So what, exactly, should guests expect?

“Comfort,” said Christian Guizar, food and beverage director at Yosemite Gateway Restaurant. “Comfort through both delicious food and a comforting, relaxing experience in our restaurant that won’t break the bank. We want people to enjoy a great, high end meal, without a high end price.”

Yosemite Gateway Restaurant

Guizar and kitchen manager Justin Garcia say they’ve brought a revival to the long-standing restaurant, next to Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn in Oakhurst.

Both said when they joined Gateway in March, after previously employed at Crab Cakes Restaurant under former owner Roman Zabicki, they knew upgrades needed to be made. And fast.

“We wanted this to be more of a modern place than what it was before,” Garcia said. “The menu, the style, everything about it was stuck in the past.”

“I mean they had the same wooden tables and chairs they had when they first opened,” Guizar added. “So we’re getting new granite tables, we’re adding linens and other decor items, and we’ve definitely, definitely upgraded the menu.”

Garcia and Guizar said before they arrived, the restaurant’s menu was also archaic, without much in the way of locally-sourced produce and meats.

To fix that, Garcia completely revamped it with some truly delectable creations courtesy of himself or members of his team, such as apple stuffed baby back ribs, honey soy pork, a shrimp scampi with a Thai red curry twist, and the chef’s choice stuffed chicken breast.

“Every week we’ll stuff a chicken with different, fresh ingredients that are available at the time,” Garcia said. “It’s whatever we can get that’s farm fresh, and as local as possible.”

“We’re excited to see a lot of local residents start to come in because they know that we’ve changed,” Guizar added. “The restaurant had some bad rap before so we’re working to convince them that bad stigma is gone.”

Garcia said they rely on companies like Sierra Seafood Specialties in Oakhurst and Fresno’s Mountain Produce to bring in top-tier ingredients their guests can enjoy. And for the dessert menu, look no further than Sweet Dreams Cakery in Oakhurst, owned by Laura and Roman Zabicki.

Those changes have been noticeable, Guizar said. The restaurant used to average around $15 to $19 a guest, and those numbers have increased to a $21 per person average, he said.

Customers appear to be largely satisfied as well. Before Guizar and Garcia arrived and established their service teams, many reviews on website TripAdvisor were decidedly negative. Now, customers are mostly filled with praise.

“I am very happy with the level of service and food provided,” wrote user Rukaiya A. “I had spoken to (Guizar) on the phone explaining (to) him our dietary requirements. He was very kind on the phone and took his time going through the menu with me discussing various options ... the grilled salmon and pasta without the white wine were absolutely delicious and to top it up (with)service like that is fantastic.”

Along with a bar and lounge bringing in piano players, and events like Whiskey Wednesdays - think dishes paired with special new whiskeys each week - Guizar said any guest, whether a tourist or Mountain Area resident, would be in for a surprise.

“What we do with the menu and lounge, we wanted to be entirely new,” Guizar said. “We didn’t want people to come over and think we’re repeating anyone else’s style. We want food that looks just as good as any high end restaurant up here, but without having to spend a fortune ... We want this to be a family place, a place you can come for anniversaries or special occasions, or just to enjoy a meal. We want people to have a good time here, and I think they will.”

Details: Yosemite Gateway Restaurant is open for all-you-can-eat breakfast at $9, and for dinner from 5-9 p.m. with varying item prices. A lunch menu is also being considered. (559) 641-2477.

Narrow Gauge Inn

At the Narrow Gauge Inn in Fish Camp, the revival spirit is also on display with new owners, and a new executive chef at its Dining Hall and Buffalo Bar.

Owners Rajvi Shah and Amar Alapati, who also own a resort at Huntington Lake, say Yosemite National Park has always been one of their favorite places, so the Narrow Gauge was the perfect fit.

“We’re excited because there’s a ton of potential here,” Shah said. “We’re going to do live events, live music, wine tastings, things like a Bollywood night, it’s going to be a lot of fun for everyone.”

For the menu, Executive Chef Chris Foster, who grew up learning to cook in a bakery, said there’s a lot of special items in store.

“I am eager and very excited to be working in this capacity,” Foster said. “The quality of food we offer at the Narrow Gauge Inn is outstanding. I would like to invite everyone to come check us out, I’m looking forward to sharing all we have to offer with the community.”

The menu, which used to typically follow French American trends, will follow more international flavors, Foster said, with items like blood orange pork chops.

Details: Narrow Gauge Inn offers breakfast from 7-10 a.m. seven days a week, and dinner from 5:30-9:30 p.m. (559) 683-6446.