The national parks have their visitors good and trapped when it comes to dining options. Guests who want a wide range of options should bring in their own food. One option is to bring a cooler and stop at a supermarket before you enter the park.
One of the Sequoia restaurants sits at the Grant Grove complex, servicing both the John Muir Lodge and the surrounding tent cabins. Grant Grove Restaurant (Hwy. 180 at Generals Hwy., 559/335-5500, Sun.–Thurs. 8 a.m.–2 p.m., 5–7 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 8 a.m.–2 p.m., 5–8 p.m.) serves three meals each day, and is closed in between. This basic dining room offers standard American fare at pretty high resort prices. Though the food is nothing special at lunch or dinner, you can get a palatable meal and a glass of wine.
Breakfast, on the other hand, is a monument to the value of cereal bars, apples, and OJ. Morning service at the Grant Grove Restaurant is weak to disastrous (expect to wait 20–30 minutes for a table in a half-empty dining room), the coffee has both mediocre taste and strength, and the food is simply appalling. If you have any other breakfast option, go with it.
The closest thing to an upscale restaurant in Sequoia and Kings Canyon is the Wuksachi Lodge Restaurant (off Generals Hwy. west of Lodgepole, open daily year-round for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $9–24). The elegant dining room has white cloths on the tables and sweeping forest views outside the picture windows. The Wuksachi Restaurant offers three meals per day to service the lodge’s overnight guests. But dinner stars as the meal of the day, boasting fancier preparations and California-style ingredients. Make a reservation if you plan to dine at the Wuksachi on a summer weekend.
On the other end of the dining spectrum, but no less fun, you’ll find the Kings Canyon Lodge Restaurant (Hwy. 180 approx 20 miles east of Grant Grove Village). Warning: If taxidermy puts you off your food, do not eat here! Stuffed heads of deer, elk, and other animals decorate the walls, and every other inch of space in the long narrow dining room/lobby is covered with Western-themed knickknacks, geegaws, and tchotchkes. Some of these might even be antiques.
Ancient refrigerators and freezers hold cold soft drinks, beer, and ice cream, and the classic diner food is made to order in the least pretentious open kitchen anywhere in the state of California. The restaurant remains open through the long, hot afternoon, making the Kings Canyon Lodge a welcome rest stop for kids needing ice cream and to run around, and adults who prefer to eat late (or have no other choice).
You’ll find minimally stocked mini-marts at both the Grant Grove Village (Hwy. 180 at Generals Hwy., Sun.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–8 p.m.) and the Lodgepole Market (Generals Hwy. at Lodgepole, daily late May–fall 8 a.m.–8 p.m., fall–spring 9 a.m.–6 p.m.). These sell a few staples, soda, beer, s’mores makings, and some packaged food suitable for reheating over a campfire.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition