Lone Pine would normally be considered a small town, except on the desolate highway that is US-395 it is one of the largest towns. A block down from the two lane, 25 mph highway that runs through the center of town and around the corner, is the Alabama Hills Cafe and Bakery. Located on a small side street in Lone Pine, it was close enough to watch the trucks and RV’s driving through town on their way from Los Angeles to Mammoth, Carson City, Reno and on up to the Canadian border. Lone Pine is known for several things, one of which is the part of the Eastern Sierras known as the Alabama Hills, named so by Civil War soldiers who felt that the rolling hills in front of the Sierras reminded them of home. Lone Pine is also famous for many Westerns that were filmed there, such as John Wayne’s 3 Godfathers, James Stewart’s Broken Arrow and Spencer Tracy’s Bad Day at Black Rock, as well as the Humphrey Bogart movie High Sierra. They hold a film festival every year and have a film museum. Finally, Lone Pine is the location of Mt. Whitney, tallest mountain in the lower 48 states whose bulk towers over the area.
The surrounding view of the Alabama Hills is breathtaking. Walking into the small Alabama Hills Cafe, you know this is the right place. Full of what sounded like half the town’s locals, it appears to be out of an old movie itself, with the characters straight out if Central Casting. Just listening to the discussion at the next table indicated that this was the place to be for good food. What they talked about was an interesting sounding burger, the Mountain Man Burger. Their talk made it an easy choice to order.
When the Mountain Man Burger came, it looked as big as Mt. Whitney. They brought a huge steak knife and it was easy to see why; it would be impossible to pick this burger up whole. It had been ordered medium rare, which seems to vary at burger places. Many so called medium rares range anywhere from just north of raw to well done. It was shocking to see that when it was cut in half, there it was: a perfect pink medium rare ½ pound Angus burger! A very impressive grill master indeed. Of course, it also oozed from the grilled onions, grilled mushroom and real cheddar and jack cheeses on it, as well as pickles, lettuce, Thousand Island dressing and two big fresh tomato slices. On the side was half a ton of french fries. The burger was delicious and despite how large an amount of food it looked like, it was easy to eat it all.
Another time, my choice was TJ’s Favorite Dip and special it was. Pammela, the manager, explained that 99% of the food is made fresh on the premises. That includes roasting their own turkey and roasting the beef for my sandwich. She also told me the au jus was made fresh and it was easy to agree—you could still taste the little scrapings from the bottom of the roasting pan, adding that magnificent beefy flavor to the au jus. The beef itself was thinly sliced, with those same little chunks of flavor on the edge of the meat, still a bit crisp, a sure sign of freshly roasted and sliced beef. The provolone worked perfectly, melted on top of the meat, with the whole thing piled high between a garlic butter toasted hoagie roll. A nice bowl of cole slaw gave a crunchy accent to the soft roll and juicy meat.
Other lunch choices include sandwiches, salads and wraps, along with vegetarian options. For breakfast, several egg dishes are on the menu, ranging from two eggs with bacon through an Eggs Benedict plate or corned beef hash. French Toast is made out of cinnamon swirl bread baked on the premises. Skillets are a house specialty and give you plenty of food to keep going throughout a full day of hiking or fishing in the area.
One thing you do want to do however, is save some room for dessert. A real peach cobbler was the recommended item one day and it was delicious. The peaches were just firm enough and the topping crunchy and delicious. Pies are baked fresh daily, while the chocolate cake is a luscious example of the baking skills of the staff. Open for breakfast and lunch, the Alabama Hills Cafe is definitely an excellent place to stop at for breakfast or lunch on a trip up US 395, before catching a classic Western film or before a hike up to the top of Mount Whitney.