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Still Life Cafe and Nellie's Deli/Tioga Gas Mart reviews (updates)- 395 between Reno/Tahoe and Los Angeles

Jerome | Jul 7, 200312:23 AM

Well, just drove up and down the 395 from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe. I know these places have been written about before, but I thought I’d give more recent reviews.

First, the Still Life Café, formerly of Olancha, has re-opened in downtown Independence, (about halfway between Reno and LA). The wonder of the place is how well they do eclectic. On the menu are plenty of things that will please those travelling with children who HAVE TO HAVE a burger and fries. And there’s still plenty of high-tone food for the rest of us. Bear in mind, the kitchen appears to be a one-woman affair.

There were three of us. We were eating lightly so we had the French Onion soup, a pâté de campagne sandwich with salad instead of fries, and a plate of the braised endive (done Cordon bleu, basically, wrapped in ham and Emmenthaler, covered in a wonderful béchamel and baked) and a very nice caramel (sauce) covered mousse cake. The bread was from Shark’s bakery in Bishop and was excellent.

Notably, the service, although not the speediest, was friendly and competent. The waiter was a nephew of the couple who own the place, M & Mme Patron (no joke). The owners are from France and love the desert, and in the meantime provide a wonderful fun stop on the drive. Specials today included Roasted lamb shank, a seafood pasta, flat iron steak, and a roast chicken. And the proprietress said that with advance notice (pretty advance, I’d wager) she would make Maghrebi/North African specialties like couscous. Also, merguez is always on the menu.

Lovely stop.

On the way up, we stopped at the famous “gas station” in Lee Vining. The official name is the Tioga Gas Mart. The locally known name is Nellie’s Deli. But in any case, if you stay on the 395 you’ll miss it. You have to turn off US-395 onto Cal Hwy 120 westbound toward Tioga Pass. Once you head up the hill, ¼ mile, you can’t miss the place. Food is ordered take out style. Again, there are plenty of things for the unadventurous and a wonderfully stocked grocery store with a good wine selection. But we were a bit more adventurous – again, though, the most highly recommended item was the soup. It was a mushroom sherry puree with a cranberry crème fraiche. Ineffably good. Main dishes – baby back ribs with a strange huckleberry bbq sauce worked exceptionally well, (meat was quite good) and bbq chicken serviceable. The buffalo meatloaf was fine. But the soup really stood out. Suggestion – stick to the specials . But all in all, it was quite good and fun. You can take your food outside to the patio where there are views of Mono Lake.

Nellie’s Deli/Tioga Gas Mart has a link at:

The Still Life Café has a website which I’ve posted below. The menu link doesn't work but the reservations link has address and phone info.


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