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The hungry hiker's roadside attractions

October 14, 2003|Bill Sheehan

To conquer the drive from L.A. to Mt. Whitney, all you need to know is where to stop for grub. Veterans of the road recommend these restaurants that are off the beaten path.


The Roadhouse Cafe & Bakery: The Roadhouse, which serves breakfast 24 hours a day, has been going strong for 30 years. It uses the U.S. Borax 20-mule team as its logo, and displays promote the nearby Borax Visitor Center and Boron Twenty Mule Team Museum. Kramer Junction, U.S. 395 and California 58; (760) 762-6639; open 24 hours. Dinners, $7.99 to $14.99; major credit cards accepted.

Astro Burger: Astro Burger, open since 1972, became the unchallenged king of fast food at Kramer Junction after its main competition, the Shuttle, closed. Among Astro's most popular fare are its breakfast burrito and milkshakes. (760) 762-8977; Thursday through Monday, 7 a.m. to at least 9 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, till 4 p.m. Meals range from $1.50 to $4.85; cash only.

Graziano's: With its pizza and pasta selections, Graziano's provides hikers an opportunity to do some serious carbo-loading. Pitchers of beer available. 16870 California 14, Mojave; (661) 824-4041; Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, till 10 p.m. Dinners range from $5.30 to $10.30; major credit cards accepted.

Ranch House Cafe: Vintage photos of Western movies filmed in the Owens Valley and mounted animal heads adorn the walls of the Ranch House Cafe, known for its sheepherder's potatoes. In a modern twist for this Old West outpost, an espresso bar opened in December. West side of U.S. 395, Olancha; (760) 764-2363; daily, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dinners range from $7 to $20; major credit cards accepted.

Gus's Fresh Jerky: Gus Niepagen, a native of Argentina, opened his store in 1996. He sells a wide variety of products -- including jerky for diabetics and people with dentures -- as well as olives, peppers and honey. 580 U.S. 395, Olancha; (760) 764-2822;; daily, 8 a.m. to dusk. Jerky is $28 per pound; major credit cards accepted.

Margie's Merry-Go-Round: The restaurant -- with a menu that features steaks, ribs and pasta -- has been drawing repeat customers since it opened in 1958. John Wayne was a frequent diner while filming commercials for Great Western Savings outside town. The new owners, who bought it in January, offer the same old-time charm. 212 S. Main St., Lone Pine; (760) 876-4115; summer, 5 to 9:30 p.m.; winter, till 9 p.m. Dinners range from $12.95 to $22.95; major credit cards accepted.

Pizza Factory: The family-owned and -operated Pizza Factory opened in 1987. Photos of Western film stars hang on the walls, and an outside patio opened earlier this year. "I've seen pictures of hikers hauling our pizza to the top of Mt. Whitney," said restaurant owner Stan Dye. 301 S. Main St., Lone Pine; (760) 876-4707; summer: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday, till 11 p.m.; winter: Sunday through Thursday, till 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, till 11 p.m. Pizza meals range from $4.25 to $19.75; major credit cards accepted.

-- Bill Sheehan

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