Dining in Mount Shasta

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Dining in the Shadow of Shasta

First published in California Fly Fisher Magazine July 2014

I first began visiting Mount Shasta to fish, camp, hike, climb, boat and snow ski nearly forty years ago and can still remember a magical evening sitting on a restaurant patio enjoying a meal and drink as the sun set, creating alpine glow on The Mountain.  This evening and several others similar to it got my wife and I started thinking about moving to the area.  It has been seventeen years ago now since we made the move and we still enjoy having a fine meal while watching a magical sunset on the mountain that leaves us in awe.  One of the few things that we do miss has been some of the dining options that our home in Chico offered.

The city of Mt. Shasta is a charming small community at the foot of Mt. Shasta with exits off I5 about an hour south of the Oregon border.  Small towns often have limited dining options but Mt. Shasta has more choices than most its size as it serves as a playground and tourist destination for skiers, hikers, climbers, cyclists, whitewater boaters, and fly fishers.  Summer temperatures are typically ten to twenty degrees cooler than the Central Valley to the south and the Medford Valley to the north, making it popular as a basecamp for folks vacationing and pursuing adventure in the shadow of Shasta.

Mt. Shasta is also a mecca for flyfishers who are able to head most any direction and within an hour (sometimes within minutes) find perhaps the finest year round angling for trout and steelhead in the state.  Fabled Rivers include the Upper and Lower McCloud, the Upper and Lower Sacramento, the Klamath, Pit and Fall Rivers as well as Hat Creek.  If stillwaters are more your game then check out Lake Siskiyou, which is a sleeper for trout and smallmouth without leaving town, while Castle, Gumboot and Mumbo lakes are a short drive through some incredible scenery.  If you are willing to walk you’ll find countless high lakes, tributaries and little creeks with hungry trout that see very few anglers each season.  Destinations a bit over an hour drive but within day trip range include Baum Lake, Medicine Lake, Ahjumawi Springs, Eastman, Manzanita Lake, and just over the border in Oregon, Klamath Lake, the Williamson and the Rogue Rivers.  There is more water than anyone could possibly fish in a lifetime let alone during a visit to the area.

While Mount Shasta doesn’t offer the number or variety of eateries that larger communities such as our home in Chico typically provide, there are still some quality options. In the time we have lived here we have sampled most of the fare offered in local restaurants with family and friends, while witnessing many restaurants come and go.  This small mountain village took the recent downturn in the economy hard and several of our favorite restaurants closed but a couple new ones have recently opened that we now enjoy regularly.

Several restaurants I visited prior to moving to town have retained their charm and are popular with tourists and locals alike.  A few restaurants since I moved to town have changed their operations with a new look or new location. Some new restaurants have opened recently and have become instant favorites. I’ll review the old standbys first, then those featuring a new look, concluding with those that most recently opened their doors.

BW6H7030Old Favorites:
Black Bear Diner:
The Black Bear features classic diner fare and has been successful to the tune of 63 franchised locations. Bruce Dean and Bob Manley opened in 1995 in this original location (and still the best?) in Mt. Shasta just off Interstate 5.  They feature fresh ingredients, friendly service and huge portions.  You can get your bacon and eggs cooked the way you like them as early as 5:30 am but plan on drip coffee, you’ll have to go elsewhere for your double latte.   Open everyday until 10 pm, Friday and Saturdays until 10:30, so you can grab a bite long after your drive back from an evening hatch session on the Lower McCloud.  For dinner I favor their simple offerings, a burger and fries or chef salad, while my wife Jerri prefers their classic comfort food like old fashioned meatloaf, pot roast, chicken pot pies, or their liver and onions cooked the way her mother use to make it. I’ll sometimes opt for a sirloin steak and baked potato and would normally order a glass of red wine or a beer but they do not serve alcohol. When the blackberries are in season we’ll share an old fashioned milkshake for desert. Meals run $9 to $19 with beverage extra.  We’ll often wait for a booth to open to enjoy a view of The Mountain. 5:30 am to 10:00pm, Fridays and Saturdays until 10:30, 401 W. Lake Street.  530-926-4669

Casa Ramos
Another local franchise, Casa Ramos, was opened in 1997 by Yreka local Marco Ramos who now has 13 franchised locations in Northern California.   The restaurant features a full bar and in summer an outside patio with a sunset view.  This is a popular place for groups so can get crowded during peak season but the service is quick and tables turn fast.  They offer standard Mexican fare, fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, and combinations but the “Mexican Favorites”, Ramos family recipes, are the real deal. Try the Molcajete, sautéed chicken and beef strips with vegetables in an outstanding spicy sauce that can be eaten like stew or fajita style with tortillas, avocado and sourcream.  Their Carnitas Uruapan a marinated pork dish is another favorite.  Portions are sizable so try not to fill up on the complimentary all you can eat chips and salsa with your beer or margarita. Open for lunch and dinner 11am to 9:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays until 10:30, meals are typically $8 to $18 dollars plus bevy.  They are located on the south end of town on the main drag, 1136 South Mount Shasta Blvd. 530-926-0250.

Mike and Tony’s
Not destined to franchise, this local favorite has been serving Italian American family style dinners since 1945.  Their offerings are served family style in courses beginning with their homemade minestrone and antipasto plate, followed my entrees including a variety of pastas, veal, steaks and seafood.  Our favorites include Veal Piccata, Eggplant Parmesan or the Stuffed Portabello Mushroom.  Entrees are also served ala carte.  $11-$22.  Mike and Tony’s features a full bar, with modest wine and beer offerings.  Open 5-9pm Mondays and Thursdays, ‘til 10 Friday and Saturday, Sunday 9am to 2pm, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  501 Mt. Shasta Blvd.  530-926-4792.

BW6H3625Favorites revisited
The Goat Tavern
Opening in fall of 2006 and located at the “Y” in downtown Mount Shasta where a number of restaurants have come and gone, this is our favorite local dining option.  They advertise “The Goat” as a “Watering hole for Bohemians, Mountaineers, Fishermen, Skiers, Snowboarders, Rich Weekend Bikers with no felonies (Misdemeanors Overlooked), and Chimney Sweeps.  You should fit right in.”  Not everyone does but we do, and locals pack the place nightly with patio seating open from the end of March until mid October.  In winter inside seating is very limited so it’s best to arrive early and stay late to catch up on the local gossip, including the skinny on the area’s fishing from the guides and fly fishers who have bellied up to trade lies with the friendly and entertaining bar staff.  Bill Truby, also owner of the Trinity Café has created a menu he describes as upscale pub grub, finger foods, salads, sandwiches, burgers and specials.  Our favorites include “Possibly the best burger in the world,” (a kobe beef burger), grilled portabella and pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, fish tacos and a grilled chicken spinach salad.  They often have specials including grilled steak or seafood.  Specials and sandwiches come with a salad, fries or onion rings (with chipolte mayo) priced at $8-$16  A dozen taps to choose from along with a small but adequate wine list.  Everyday 11-9.  107 Chestnut Street, 530-926-0209

Trinity Cafe
Originally opened by chef Brett LaMott, this local bistro has for years been the best choice in Mt. Shasta for fine dining.  Brett purchased Cafe Maddelenna in Dunsmuir and his assistant chef Billy Truby  has been largely able to preserve the Trinity’s reputation for service and exceptional dining. The Trinity is the only restaurant in town featuring white tablecloths but in this mountain town you can comfortably dine in your fishing clothes, though you may want to take off your hat and part your hair, provided you are not still fishing in cutoffs and Converse tennis shoes.

The setting is intimate but seating is limited so it’s best to make a reservation particularly in peak season. Menus change weekly.  The Trinity is located on the north end of the downtown area and can be a bit tricky to find, particularly with cars parked in front of their sign.  They are one block north of the Alma street stop light (one of only three in town).  Appetizers typically run $7 to $15, entrees $17 to $28 and do not include a salad or side.  Beer and the most extensive wine list in town. Wednesday through Saturday from 5 until 9:00. Reservations are recommended. 622 North Mount Shasta Blvd. 530-926-6200

Wayside Grill
Formerly named the Wayside Inn, the Grill has had a complete renovation and reopened in the summer of ’07.   If you have a group and want to party this is the place!  They have plenty of room for dancing with a jukebox and weekly live music, a fireplace, shuffleboard and big screen televisions.  They also feature a full bar, wine and a dozen beers on tap. Also known locally as a likely locale to pick up a DUI, be certain to have a designated driver to avoid arriving on vacation and leaving on probation. Their menu offers something for nearly everyone, including finger foods, pizzas, burgers, salads, seafood, southwest specialties and steaks and ribs.  Our favorites include brick oven pizzas, fish tacos, salmon salad and their award winning lobster bisque.  Lunch, Wednesday through Sunday 11am – 2pm.  Dinner is served from 4-9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm., $8-$18. They have a great patio to catch the sunset.  2217 South Mt. Shasta Blvd. They are on the far end of town just before highway 89, turn left just as the I5 overpass comes into view.  530-918-9234

Berryvale:
A long time Natural Foods Grocery, Berryvale opened a deli style café a few years back.  They feature great Soups, Wraps, Salads & Sandwiches and vegitarian options. We will on occasional opt to stop in the morning on the way to the river for an Espresso, muffin, pastry or quiche. Everyday 8:30 am – 7:00 pm (grill closes at 4:00), 305 S. Mt. Shasta Blvd. 530-926-3536

Poncho & Lefkowitz
Opening in 1992 as a Taco Wagon, Poncho’s moved downtown to become a full service Mexican Restaurant and Blues Bar.  They have returned to their roots and reopened as a grab and go Taco Wagon with Burritos, Tacos, Tostadas, Tamales, Sausages & Hot Dogs. My favorites include the plain rice & bean burrito, and the Big Kahuna that features chicken and pineapple.  They have an outside patio with an awesome view of the mountain with no need to change out of your waders and boots to order or eat.  Tuesday through Saturday 11-4.  401 S. Mount Shasta Blvd.  530-926-1505

Fall River FeastNew Favorites
Mount Shasta Pastry
Chef Steve Hector opened this breakfast and lunch Bistro so that he could follow his passion to create world class pastries and after a recent visit to Europe where we sought out the finest bakeries to sample their pastries every day, my wife and I agree he has succeeded.  Steve’s Bear claws and Almond Croissants are as good as any we have enjoyed anywhere!  Besides pastries, breakfast also includes outstanding Oatmeal, egg dishes, Frittatas, Breakfast Burritos, French Toast, a couple scramble options, including my favorite the California with three eggs, mushrooms, avocado, spinach and cheese served with tasty breakfast potatoes.  Try Steve’s quiches, they are out of this world!   Espresso drinks are available but we usually opt for a hot cup of their featured Pete’s Coffee.  Lunch offerings included Croissant or Focaccia Sandwiches, Wraps, Salads, bakery items, quiche and fabulous fresh made soups. $2-$12,  open daily 7am-2pm.  610 South Mt. Shasta Blvd, 530-926-9944.

Phuket Thai Cafe
Thai cuisine is a favorite in our household and we typically indulge at least once a week.  Since the new owners have taken over Phuket has become our favorite.  Nothing fancy but good food at much more reasonable prices than the other Thai options in the area.  Lots of room for a large group and rarely a wait to be seated even on the busiest of holidays, service is always friendly but not always the speediest so we most often call in an order to go. $7-$15, Tuesday –Saturday 12pm-9pm, Sundays til 6:30.  1328 South Mt. Shasta Blvd, 530-926-4444.

Some other dining options are available in Dunsmuir about 10 minutes down Interstate 5 from Mt. Shasta but I’ll save those secrets for a future foraging angler piece.

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