Where To Eat & Drink In Idyllwild

11 great spots in SoCal's best mountain town.
Where To Eat & Drink In Idyllwild image

photo credit: Ferro

When it comes to weekend trips around LA, chances are you’ve done the Palm Springs thing, drank a lot wine in Santa Barbara, and taken whatever you need to take to find enlightenment in Joshua Tree. But two days of peace and quiet in Idyllwild? Not so much. The tiny town in the San Jacinto Mountains is still a bit of an unknown for many LA weekend warriors, but with prime hiking trails, Yosemite-like scenery, and a downtown that feels like a Joshua Tree in the woods, that needs to change. Here are the best places to eat and drink when you're there.


photo credit: Ferro



$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerGetting Out Of Town


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No one comes to Idyllwild for a fancy night out, but if you’re going to have one dinner outside of your questionably-decorated cabin rental, make it at Ferro. The family-run Italian restaurant has a big menu full of Italian staples, and everything is good. The caesar, cacio e pepe, and the bolognese all need to hit your table, but our favorite dish is the slightly spicy salami and mushroom pizza with chewy, medium-thick crust. Also, in a town with a strong back patio game, Ferro’s is the best.

There are several places to grab a strong cup of coffee in Idyllwild, but Pure Bean is our favorite—and also the most convenient. It’s located on the main corner downtown and opens every morning at 6am. That might seem early, but keep in mind you’re in a town that revolves around watching the sunrise while sitting on a rocky outcrop. The coffee is certainly good, but the real selling point is the cozy sitting area with the most comfortable leather chairs our butts have ever touched. And we’ve sat in a lot of chairs. 

Idyllwild is a town that likes to turn in early, but there is one place where things go later (and by that we mean 10pm) and it’s Idyllwild Brewpub. The massive brewery is one of few options when it’s Saturday night and you can’t handle another game of Yahtzee and bad wine with your friends at the house. The place is always packed with people looking to get drink house-made IPA, snack on delicious crispy chicken wings, and yell at sports on the TV.

Every decent mountain town has a crusty neighborhood bar serving cold beer, fried appetizers, and giant burgers that get your photo on the wall if you finish one. In Idyllwild, that’s the Lumber Mill. There are 13 burgers on the menu, from Juicy Lucy’s to a pineapple-topped Hawaiian, but your focus should be on The Bigfoot. It’s a one-pound patty with pepper jack and American, avocado, grilled onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Thousand Island. It’s a monstrosity (split it with a friend, we won’t tell), but proof that people in higher elevations just know how to build a proper burger. Grab a side of corn nuggets and you’re looking at the best post-hike lunch in town. 

It takes about two minutes walking around in Idyllwild to realize that breakfast is king here. The main strip is lined with cutes-y early morning cafes, making picking a spot somewhat stressful. We’ll narrow it down: Go to Red Kettle. The historic diner is one of the oldest buildings in town (it originally opened in the 1920’s as a candy and ice cream shop) and is now our preferred spot for a hearty, no-frills breakfast in Idyllwild. The menu covers a ton of ground—there’s everything from French Dips to huevos rancheros—but we like to keep it simple. Sometimes a plate of well-cooked eggs and three crispy strips of bacon is all you need.

There are a handful of wine rooms in Idyllwild, but most of them get by on fun atmospheres and cheesy live music rather than pouring interesting wines. Wine Finch has changed that. The cozy bar specializes in funky, natural wine from around the world, something that might be common if you’re visiting from LA, but up in the mountains, is a novelty. We fully recommend finding a seat at the bar and chatting with the owners all night, but in the event you want to take the party back to the cabin instead, all wines are available by the bottle as well.

Originally an at-home (er, at-cabin?) pop-up, Raven Inn has now gone legit with a shop just north of downtown. We recommend showing up early (they open at 9am) as the owners only make a few batches per day of their warm, pillowy bagels, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. We love the rosemary sea salt flavor, but always ask what the weekend special is—it’s usually the best one of the day. And then plan to roam around and do some shopping: there’s a small attached market filled with various jams, spreads, and snacks.  

Alpaca Kitchen is a short drive outside of downtown Idyllwild, but it’s also on the way to popular trailheads like Southridge and Ernie Maxwell. That makes this tiny coffee shop/cafe an ideal fuel-up spot. There’s a small sit-down area if you want a full breakfast, but our move is to grab a sausage-packed breakfast burrito from the hot case and a chagaccino, an iced latte infused with chaga mushrooms, cinnamon, vanilla, and monkfruit sweetener. It tastes great—just don’t ask us how. 

If you’re visiting Idyllwild in the warmer months, there’s no better place for a lazy Sunday breakfast than Mama’s front patio. The expansive deck is well-shaded with great views of the local dogs, plus there’s plenty of room for big groups. Most people at this order-at-the-counter spot are eating French toast, and rightfully so, Mama cooks up a good one. Our order though is the chile verde omelet. Stuffed with juicy pork chile verde and gooey mozzarella, this fluffy, three-egg masterpiece is exactly what you need after losing repeatedly in drunk Twister at the cabin last night.

After getting into a heated argument over how long is too long for a family hike, it’s time to win back the cabin. And there’s no easier way to do that than showing up with a box of Amelia’s donuts the next morning. The tiny shop has only been open a few years, but already has a devout following for soft, yet slightly crispy buttermilk donuts made fresh daily. We particularly love the maple glaze and cinnamon sugar, but this is an all-around great donut shop. So just press your face up against the glass, point at the ones you want, and walk out with a glorious dozen.

Breathing in crisp mountain air is 95% of the reason why people come to Idyllwild (the other 5% is shopping for socks with moose on them), but that’s not to say it doesn’t get hot. And after a long sweaty hike to Suicide Rock, you should  cool down at Atomic Cow. The old-school creamery not only has strong AC, but makes the kind smooth, velvety ice cream that always taste better while walking around a charming mountain town. 

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