by Terrance Mc Arthur
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here!
There are couples who jet off for a romantic weekend in Paris. My wife and I aren’t one of those couples. Our getaways are simpler…and closer: Morro Bay, Sonora in Tuolumne County, and Mariposa. We spent a few days in Mariposa for the annual Storytelling Festival, and we had fun, were entertained, and…ate. I don’t have any pictures to show you, but I have memories.
Castillo’s Mexican Restaurant (4995 Fifth St, Mariposa, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily)
Highway 140 is the backbone of Mariposa, the main street, but turn off the main drag, begin to climb the hills, and there’s a little jewel-box of a restaurant. Castillo’s doesn’t have a lot of room, and the menu is not extensive, but it has basic Mexican food at reasonable prices. We ordered two combos: enchiladas and chiles rellenos, tasty and quick. The rice was not too clumpy and the refried beans were smooth. The walls have typical Mexican-restaurant décor. Stick around for a dessert. The flan was flavorful, oozing with caramel, and the fried cheesecake was close-your-eyes good without getting too sweet.
China Station Restaurant (5004 CA-140, Mariposa, Daily 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.)
This was always one of our go-to eating places in the past. Our last Mariposa vacation was four years ago, and there we discovered some interesting surprises when we walked in. Where it used to have cheery general lighting, we found dramatic pools of light focused on each table. The menu was all ‘a la carte,’ rather than specials, combos, or platters, so we went a bit more experimental than usual. I admit that Hot and Sour Soup isn’t experimental, but it’s good for days when you’re slightly worn and you need to use your voice for a story slam that evening (I came in third). This was a serious soup with a slight vinegar-ness that wakes up the throat. The House Specialty Chow Mein had a variety of meats rubbing shoulders with the noodles, including some brawny shrimp that weren’t shrimpy at all. There were only two of us, and we weren’t famished, so we only added Chicken Fried Rice to our order. It was flavorful, and we still had leftovers.
Happy Burger Diner (5120 CA-140, Mariposa, Daily 5:30 a.m.- 9 p.m.)
When you walk in, stop, look at the walls and the ceiling, and stare in amazement at the hundreds of record album covers. Next, stare in amazement at the pages of menu, billed as the “Biggest Menu in the Area.” Breakfast, lunch, dinner, this place has it all, even a Doggie Dining area outside, with a cover for protection from rain. For some reason, we were in a baked potato mood and bought a Loaded Potato and a Bacon and Cheese Potato. Big spuds, big toppings, big taste. With the album covers, you can play a round or two of “I Spy” (I Spy Barry Manilow) before your order arrives.
Miner’s Roadhouse (5159 CA-140, Mariposa, M-Th 8 a.m.–2 p.m.; 4–8 p.m.; F-Sa 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Su 9 a.m.-8 p.m.)
Connected to the Miner’s Inn, the dining room booths sit beneath a miniature diorama of the Mariposa/Yosemite region, with trees, a train station, and buildings. It sounded interesting, so I went for the Meatloaf Sandwich. I paid no attention to what my wife ordered, because I focused on the juicy-but-not-sloppy happiness I was stuffing into my face. Something to enjoy.
Pizza Factory (5005 5th St, Mariposa, Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m.)
Mariposa was where I first encountered this chain, and it became a tradition for us. On the last night of the Storytelling Festival, we would sit down for some serious carbs while all the other attendees hit the road out of town. By the time we finished eating, the rush was over, and we drove safely home. Usually, we just have a pizza, but on an extra trip to town to enter the annual miniature art contest, we tried their Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. Yummy! Not too much sauce, not too gummy, and we were happy, happy, happy. After the festival, we had a Chicken Alfredo Pizza that said garlic the way I always wished my mother would.
Post Mortem—Somehow, we got through the weekend of gorging and lost weight! Castillo’s may be my favorite, although, if the Mariposa High School Grizzly Band Boosters are having another Panini Sale, get one!