And what about Mt. Shasta city, anyway?

27 11 2007

What gives with dining opportunities in Mt. Shasta? Not only can I not find stellar recommendations for restaurants there, I can’t even endorse the few “cheers” I’ve found. It’s so sad…such a beautiful place, with so much traffic, but no really enchanting dining resources. I checked California Chowhounds, but they had tales of sadness from folks saying this place had closed, as well as that place. We wondered if perhaps the Chowhounds sharing their experiences had just been there on a bad day, or…well…some reason. Mt. Shasta city was our destination, we’d find “Good Eats” somewhere, surely

Our first trip found us in the area in early August. We stayed in Dunsmuir (about 6-10 miles south of Mt. Shasta) at the Best Choice Hotel. Let me assure you, this is a) not a hotel; b) not a good choice; and c) certainly NOT the best choice by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn’t cheap either. “Nuff said.” We only slept there, and we weren’t there to sleep!

Our first dining experience in this area turned out to be Penny’s Diner. When we’d inquired about an ice machine at our “hotel” the night before, the clerk had referred us to Penny’s Diner. We didn’t really understand it at the time, and just chalked it up to the “character” of our chosen lodging. When we rounded a bend and saw the highly reflective siding typical of diners, we were instantly enchanted. Hot diner coffee! Yummm! Penny’s Diner is a small diner built specifically to support the hotel used by railway workers. What a bonus for Dunsmuir! The diner is laid out so all the service area runs the length of the building and customers are immediately next to the action. You get caught up in the familiarity almost instantly. The food was good, and the servings well portioned. Although not exactly haute cuisine, it’s good, unpretentious food.

Our dinner experience wasn’t nearly as much fun. We began the evening by dropping in at Lily’s. Of all the dining establishments in Mt. Shasta (and there aren’t a lot), this had the most comments, mostly favorable. It took a few passes to figure out how to park here, and apparently the garden area breathed-out about that time as well. We were immediately seated with water, but the next 15 minutes were spent wondering where the disembodied argument was coming from. I left a small gratuity for the effort of seating us with water, and we were away.

Summer dining in Mt. Shasta can be a tricky business. Mt. Shasta city is the base of a recreation nirvana – Her Majesty, Mt. Shasta herself. There is nowhere one doesn’t see or feel the Queen, reigning over all. Yet, there are too few restaurants, and almost none to excite the palate.

Typical choices in Mt. Shasta are the fast-food chains…Subway, KFC, Taco Bell, Burger King, and it’s the home of The Black Bear Diner chain (which may very well be the best of the chain as well). You can also find a Round Table Pizza tucked in a shopping center, a Casa Ramos and a Strings on the main drag. The remaining places are, well, locally owned.

Our experiences haven’t been wholly bad, just not overly good. We dined at Strings the first evening and had a good, if pre-packaged, meal. A decent tasting meal at a reasonable price, so it was a fair deal. One camping trip found us dining at the Railroad Car Restaurant off I-5. They serve Th-Sat. only, and it’s worth the trip. The calamari picatta was as tender as warm butter, and whatever I had was good too! *Ü* We gave Lai-Lai’s a try the last time we were in town…I wouldn’t do that again. Our mutual impression of the food was that someone was trying to run a restaurant with the practice of buying mark-down food items on the principle of “go to the freezer, get the box.” The sauces were packaged at best. There was neither sweet nor sour in that acid-red gluey sauce. Everything had an underlying identical flavor…frozen. I don’t know why we were reluctant to go to The Black Bear…oh that’s right…we had a lousy experience in Redding. Either way, the food is good and mostly consistent.

There are a few other places to try in Mt. Shasta… The restaurant at the Best Western looks interesting. Vivify sounds interesting. There are also a few Mexican restaurants, and I think at least one more Chinese restaurant. There was another restaurant along the main road…Pomodoro, I believe. There’s an Italian sounding place just as you come into town at the southernmost off-ramp. I don’t recall the name right now. Another time we’ll talk about Dunsmuir…which is a whole “nuther” story!

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