Alabama Hills Café: Finding Comfort in the Mount Whitney Flats

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Restaurant Sign Lone Pine

Alabama Hills Cafe may serve the best food near Mount Whitney.

The road to Mammoth Mountain was littered with desiccated elk burgers, habanero jerky, bacon-wrapped jalapeños

Alabama Hills Cafe may serve the best food near Mount Whitney.

and nut-crusted pullaway bread produced by a seemingly magical “dough finger,” but until we arrived at Alabama Hills Cafe, there wasn’t a definitive road trip meal.

Chef-owner Saveria Erickson was born in Redondo Beach, learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, and worked in restaurants for 25 years prior to joining her husband Terry in Lone Pine. He worked in water and power for 35 years and was transferred north. She previously owned a ’50s-style restaurant in Lancaster called Katzenjammers. About four years back, Saveria took over a bakery and sandwich spot and ran it with her daughters. As she said, “They left and I stayed.”

“A lot of restaurants are named after movie characteristics,” said Saveria Erickson, “but we went with something different, which is why they shot movies up here anyway.” She’s referring to the nearby Alabama Hills, named for a sunken Confederate battleship and featured on walls in an effort to encourage diners to visit.

Restaurant Logo Lone Pine

Restaurant Logo Lone Pine

The Ericksons are so committed to the hills that they’re changing the logo to feature cartoon rock formations wielding pans, aprons, toques, spatulas and coffee mugs.

Alabama Hills Map Lone Pine

A rifle and shotgun frame a hand-painted map of the Alabama Hills’ “unique geological formations.”

Rock Formations Lone Pine

The opposite wall depicts rocks like Eagle Head, Wounded Knight and Cloaked Lady.

On online reference to Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs ($10.99) convinced me and car-mates Elina Shatkin, Rob Takata and Hanh Nguyen to stop for our second lunch.

Steak Lone Pine

Country-fried steak was well worth a stop, cut and pounded in-house, battered and grilled to golden brown. The peppery, crusty creation appeared on a rich country gravy bed.

The steak came with a choice of hash browns or home fries, a made-to-order egg and a decorative orange slice. We were basically already getting home fries with our “skillet,” so we opted for hash browns.

Breakfast Lone Pine

Hash browns had the ideal texture: crispy outside, and buttery inside.

Breakfast Lone Pine

Clint Eastwood’s Spicy Sirloin Skillet ($10.49) featured strips of under-seasoned sirloin that benefited from Ortega chilies, bell pepper, onion, tomato and fried potatoes.

Cooks capped Clint Eastwood’s flavorful mess with another over-easy egg, sprinkled it with scallions and shredded Cheddar that melted, more or less. The dish was good, but wasn’t especially spicy and didn’t come in a skillet. Did it do the badass acting legend justice? Questionable.

Biscuits Lone Pine

Each plate came with a choice of bread, and we felt compelled to order airy biscuits the size of softballs that appeared with whipped butter.

Bread Lone Pine

Alabama Hills Cafe sells fresh baked bread, including white, wheat and a special variation with sun-dried tomato, spinach and Provolone.

Cinnamon Roll Lone Pine

They filled a tempting display case with house-made baked goods, including an icing-slathered cinnamon roll ($1.75), which was available with or without raisins. Even plain, it was soft, pull-apart, and judiciously sweet.

Cookie Lone Pine

They had gigantic chocolate-peanut butter cake slabs, but we opted for its less devastating cookie counterpart, which was chock full of bittersweet chips that more or less bullied the peanut butter. Still, it was a solid cookie.

Pie Lone Pine

A massive Triple Berry Pie slice ($4.99) was undoubtedly the display case’s prize, incorporating a crisp oatmeal crumble top and plenty of fresh – never frozen – blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. It was a satisfying sweet-tart slab so large that even four food fiends couldn’t finish after terrorizing all of the other tastes.

We certainly made plenty of other efforts, but Alabama Hills Cafe turned out to be the culinary surprise of the weekend. After two trips to Mammoth and back, it’s hard for me to imagine a better alternative along Highway 395.

Alabama Hills Café: Finding Comfort in the Mount Whitney Flats

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Followed this rec on a trip up to Big Pine this weekend. It was a big hit in my group! It will definitely be a mandatory stop on future trips that way.

Andi,

Glad to hear you enjoyed Alabama Hills Cafe. What did you order?

Yum! My parents used to go to Lone Pine once a year and stay at the Dow Illa. I gotta get up there.

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