The Best Restaurants In Mammoth
photo credit: Peter Stowe
The California mountain town of Mammoth Lakes is world-renowned for its year-round outdoor fun—from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to hiking and mountain biking in the summer. And we have Dave McCoy, the legendary skier and businessman who single-handedly brought alpine skiing to the region in 1948, to thank for that. The Village at Mammoth, which now is the unofficial town square, is where you’ll find many of the city's restaurants and boutiques, and is a great spot to convene any time of year for a variety of concerts and festivals.
Whether you’re craving a steaming bowl of phở, a Puerto Rican-inspired escabeche, or an excellent Nordic meal, Mammoth has a surprising number of options within its four square miles. In this guide, you’ll find our recommendations for some of the best restaurants, breweries, and wine bars around.
Walking into the Side Door feels like you’ve stepped into a European cafe that’s also a wine bar and shop with a selection of more than 300 bottles. It’s located at The Village at Mammoth and serves up paninis, fondue, and tapas, although we’re quite partial to the dessert crêpes with options like apple pie, which is stuffed with apples, cinnamon, and caramel. Choose from a long wine and beer list, or try one of Side Door’s cocktails, like the Rattlesnake, a blend of double rye whiskey and Little Green Monster, a 124-proof absinthe from the nearby Shelter Distilling. The cozy outdoor patio is heated and our favorite spot to take in all of the Village action. An added bonus: it’s dog-friendly.
If you visit 53 Kitchen & Cocktails any day of the week during the winter season, you’ll find skiers and snowboarders still suited up, toasting to a successful day on the mountain. It’s an easy stroll from the gondola at The Village, and a nice spot to settle in for a hearty meal or pre-dinner snack. Choose from five different types of chicken wings (we like the peanut-soy glaze), or go for the bourbon-braised short ribs with mashed potatoes. There are plenty of cocktail choices, but you can't go wrong with the Dirty Shirley Temple, which adds vodka to the Sprite and grenadine combo. One thing we appreciate about this place: they'll deliver if you’re staying at the Village Lodge.
Not only does Mammoth Tavern have the best Happy Hour in town—30% off wine, draft beer, and well drinks from 4-5:30pm every day—but pretty much everything on the menu is worth ordering. Get there by 3:45pm to claim your spot at the bar, and then go to town on things like salmon poke tacos or ham and cheese croquettes. On any given evening, you’ll encounter a mix of Mammoth locals and visitors in the know, so if your friends aren’t answering your texts, you might want to check Mammoth Tavern.
SPECIAL OCCASION SPOTS
If you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day, book a reservation at The Lakefront Restaurant. This tiny 10-table establishment is located inside the historic Tamarack Lodge overlooking Twin Lakes. To say this place is intimate would be an understatement. As you walk to your table, you’ll notice the wood-paneled walls and all the white tablecloths, with each table positioned for ideal views (don’t be surprised if you see a bear wandering by during your meal). The menu is filled with dishes that use sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients, like birria-braised short rib in hoja santa or pan-roasted Columbian River red trout. On Thursday and Friday evenings, there’s often live jazz happening in the lobby, where you can hang out and order a glass of wine from their big, Napa-focused list.
Named after the Norwegian goddess of hunting and skiing, Skadi feels more like eating in someone’s home—if that someone was obsessed with modern Scandinavian design. It’s a small space with a good view into the open kitchen, and you’ll almost definitely end up talking to the chef, who walks around schmoozing with tables and greeting people as they arrive. The Nordic-inspired food, though, isn’t like anything you’d whip up at home—the menu includes dishes like Duroc pork belly confit with roast spiced tenderloin and jagerwurst sausage. If you’re with friends who never have anything good to say about Mammoth’s restaurant scene, check out Skadi.
Even though the dress code and atmosphere are pretty casual, Petra’s Bistro & Wine Bar is one of our favorite places to see and be seen in Mammoth. Located across the street from The Village inside the Alpenhof Lodge, it’s one of our go-to special occasion spots to split some grilled octopus, get a bottle from their extensive wine list, and order a plate of tangy cheesecake with blueberry sauce for dessert. Settle yourself at a table that overlooks Minaret Road, and soak in the friendly service that’s attentive but not too over the top. Make a reservation for Petra’s at least a week in advance, but if you can’t get in, check out Clocktower Cellar, Petra’s sister whiskey bar next door where you can play pool or foosball and watch sports on the flat screens.
NEW-ISH & BUZZY RESTAURANTS
It won’t take long to make friends at Dos Alas Cubarican Cafe, whether that’s with the owner as you walk in or the people at the table next to you. The food combines the Puerto Rican and Cuban backgrounds of the owners to create a menu filled with favorites from both islands, like pollo en escabeche, picadillo con arroz, and yuca al mojo. This place is a little more out of the way—it’s located between downtown Mammoth and Snowcreek Resort within the Sierra Meadows Ranch—but the views alone are worth the drive, especially if you visit during the summer and sit outside.
If you’re in the mood for noodles, Noodle-Ly should be your first stop. With a wide variety of Vietnamese, Thai, or Chinese noodle soups, it’s always difficult to choose between options like phở with braised beef, BBQ pork egg noodles, and khao soi. Another favorite is the veggie option, which comes with a choice of noodles (rice or egg) with mushrooms, baked tofu, and bok choy. Noodle-Ly is by no means a secret—wait times for a table can get up to 90 minutes—so it’s a good spot to order from on a night in that won’t cost you more than $20. If you decide to eat here though, you’ll find a room filled with brightly-painted walls and even more colorful paintings.
Inspired by the original name for Canyon Lodge (one of Mammoth Mountain’s ski lodges), The Warming Hut has a huge dog-friendly patio that’s perfectly placed on Old Mammoth Road for people-watching. While they’re open for lunch and dinner, the best time to come is for breakfast, which is served every day until 3pm and includes variations of hash, pancakes, and waffles. Or, use the D.I.Y. section to build your own perfect breakfast. Obviously, that’s a highly personal decision, but if you need some inspiration, we almost always end up ordering eggs over-easy with smoked brisket and house potatoes.
THE BEST BARS & BREWERIES
Located in the old Mammoth Police Station, Distant Brewing is a casual spot that does a full menu of bar food, as well as live music and, you guessed it, plenty of beer. The menu includes flatbreads, sandwiches, and soft pretzels, but we usually go for the chicken skewers served with sweet teriyaki sauce and a side of coleslaw. Beyond the food, Distant Brewing has over a dozen beers on tap (the best are the Nutty Professor, a peanut butter stout, or Leaf Peeper, an American lager), and a handful of non-alcoholic beer. You’ll find many Mammoth locals (and their dogs) here, and it’s best used for a quick bite and a beer.
Shelter Distilling makes all of its spirits and beer in-house and is perfect for people-watching. Just be sure to claim a spot at the bar or at one of the high tables inside before it gets too packed at Happy Hour. The creative cocktails, like the Hang On made with vodka, lemon, orange, and banana coconut cream, are definitely the highlight—the food here is really best for a snack rather than a full meal.
Mammoth Brewing Company opened in 1995 in the former Whiskey Creek building, and is home to Mammoth’s Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza. But you don’t need to wait for one of those to come here—there are 14 beers on tap and plenty of flight options. When you get hungry, they have an on-site kitchen called the EATery that’s in the tasting room. You can order and enjoy your meal there, or take it to the brewery or beer garden. Two standouts are the Damn Good Burger and street corn tacos, although every dish we’ve tried has been solid.
BREAKFAST & LUNCH
Good Life Cafe has been around for 20 years, and it’s perfect when you’re looking to walk in and have a great breakfast with lots of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options for under $20. Go for the Bodie Omelet, which is stuffed with bacon, mushrooms, onions, and green chile, or the chicken florentine. On warmer days, you should sit on the patio and do some people-watching. Because this place is tucked into a nondescript strip mall, it almost feels like a well-kept secret among locals, with the bonus of friendly and attentive service.
You’ll have no problem finding Stellar Brew & Natural Cafe—it’s inside a bright blue A-frame house on Main Street that’s impossible to miss as you enter town. This is the spot for excellent locally-roasted coffee, açaí bowls, smoothies, and incredible pastries, like carrot cake muffins and churro donuts. It’s also a total locals hangout, filled with fun merchandise like cards and candles, and has a laid-back vibe.
The Stove is a Mammoth classic with constant weekend lines of people waiting to have diner-style breakfasts. The line is worth getting in though—the country-style breakfasts, like the Sierra Sunrise, a skillet with eggs, potatoes, ham, and bell peppers, or the cinnamon french toast are fantastic. It’s in a house with a sprawling front porch on Old Mammoth Road that goes hard on the country theme, with farmhouse signs and rooster tchotchkes spread throughout the restaurant. Don’t skip a slice of peach pie for dessert.
AFFORDABLE MEALS TO GO
If you’ve had a full day of outdoor fun and just need something to eat (and fast), consider Nik-N-Willie’s. While you can dine in, it’s best as a takeout move, whether you’re getting some pizza by the slice, one of the take-and-bake options, or just a fresh-baked BBQ chicken pie. The sheer amount of pizza selections will make your head spin, but our favorite is the Thai Pie, a spicy combination of chicken, crushed peanuts, cilantro, and green onions. Their sandwiches, like the Hot Yardbird with chicken and smoked bacon, are also worth exploring.
Salsa’s Taqueria is the perfect spot to pick up a quick taco, torta, or burrito before your next hike. While there are small seating areas both indoors and on the sidewalk outside, it’s best to order your food to go. Their lunch options are all excellent, but the breakfast burrito, which is stuffed with eggs, beans, salsa, cheese, tater tots, and your choice of meat, is the best thing on the menu. It’s also super close to Distant Brewing, where they’ll let you bring your burrito over to pair with your craft beer for a “breakfast” of champions.