The Whoa Nellie Deli is the sort of place that you might hallucinate on a long road trip. Tired eyes envision oases where there are none. The counter serving upscale, innovative cuisine from a gas station is real though. We weren’t floored by the dishes conceptually, but we were very impressed with their level of execution. Everything is cooked and seasoned with grace, in fact, better than many hyped up restaurants in large cities. To get food this good from a gas station on a remote stretch of highway at the doorstep of Yosemite National Park is incredible.
Tioga taquitos are made with perfectly fried bright red tortillas stuffed with a cheese, crab, and lobster paste. The filling is starchy and a bit puzzling. At first it tastes like bread stuffing, but as you eat, the shellfish comes through. It is something like a crab dip-stuffed taquito. We’re not convinced that this is a better idea than just filling them with shrimp or something, but we enjoy them nonetheless. The plate they come on is full of fresh fruit, a mango salsa and a salad dressed with berry compote — pretty sweet overall. Black beans and spicy tomatillo salsa under the taquitos could be thicker, but are nicely seasoned.
Meatloaf is bready and thin on buffalo flavor, but is nicely grilled, hearty and moist. It isn’t gamey, but is polished, refined, and very tasty. Garlic mashed potatoes are impressively robust, almost sharp with cheesy richness, and very garlicky. They would not be out of place at an upscale bistro. The plate comes with al dente spaghetti squash which, like the meat and potatoes, is a great sponge for the port wine jus — hero of the dish. All of the elements when sampled individually are good enough, but when dragged through the jus, they become delicious.
The menu has many other tempting and exotic dishes we’ll come back for next time we need a tank of gas near Yosemite. Though the food is good, the best part about eating here is unobstructed views of the mountains over Mono Lake. It’s one of the prettiest al fresco dining situations we’ve experienced. Being in a Mobil gas station, Whoa Nellie offers an incredible range of drinks and snacks to complement the view, but nothing quite as tempting as the creative diner chow from the deli.