With a population of just 2,200, Mariposa may be small, but it”s brimming with bistros, cafes and coffee spots, from the cowboy-themed Charles Street Dinner House to the Happy Burger Diner and the adorable Sugar Pine Cafe, a classic diner that serves Peet”s coffee. Here”s just a sampling, from a new farm-to-fork eatery to a cafe where they roast their own coffee beans out on the deck.
The vibe: Jake and Hannah Wackerman”s year-old bistro gives a nod to California”s entrance into the Union — in 1850 — with a menu that salutes the Golden State”s glorious, edible resources. This is actually Mariposa”s second Wackerman restaurant; Jake”s mother, Mirriam, owns the very popular Savoury”s just down the street. Jake”s place is more casual, with a bar up front, a beer garden for nice weather and an airy dining room where you can cozy up in a booth or at a four-top near the map of California, constructed entirely out of wine corks.
The dish: The restaurant is known for its fried chicken ($16) — brined for 24 hours, then double dipped before its sojourn in the hot oil. The result is perfectly tender flesh on the inside and a thick, flavorful and completely irresistible crust on the outside. It”s drizzled with a ginger-soy syrup and served with mashed potatoes, sauteed vegetables and a wasabi-buttermilk dipping sauce. Be sure to try one of the dozen or so “twisted burgers” ($13-$17), which range from a classic 1850 burger to a Sloppy Jake”s, a double-patty Cowboss and a completely over-the-top 50-50 bacon-beef burger.
The vibe: This small, bright yellow coffee house doesn”t just have a great name. Owner Bill Eaton roasts his own coffee beans in a converted barbecue on the front deck. Step up to the counter to order pastries, espresso drinks and coffee by the pound. Then grab a seat around the corner, where a cozy couch and mismatched vintage tables and chairs offer a comfortable perch.
The dish: Get the carrot cake. We tried to prise the recipe out of the baker”s hands, but no dice. You”ll just have to enjoy it there, with a latte or a cup of Tunnel View dark roast.
Bett”s Gold Coin Tavern
The vibe: This restaurant and bar is nestled in the old Fremont Adobe, built in the 1850s to house John C. Fremont”s agents and offices, and then rebuilt, remodeled and renovated over the next 165 years as ownership passed from family to family and business to business, including a stint as a gambling hall, the Gold Coin Club. Today the “adobe” is mostly brick — a better construction choice after a catastrophic fire in 1866 destroyed 63 buildings in this then-bustling mining town — and stucco. And the appearance of the tavern is the result of a massive restoration project undertaken by owner Helen Kwalwasser.
Linda Halverson opened the Gold Coin Sports Tavern in 2011, and the results straddle the centuries in charming fashion. Nineteenth century murals line the walls, the work of one Cornelius J. Vejer, who painted extravagantly colorful naval battles on the walls in exchange for meals. Lounge on a vintage sofa in the parlor up front, or sidle up to the long bar, where TVs are tuned to the game of the night. Or grab a seat — and a burger or steak — in the dining room. Or do what we did, and stop by for a drink and live music by Cottonwood Creek. Scott Patrick Little and Maggie Watkins play country, folk and roots music there on Friday nights through February.
The details: 5021 Highway 140, Mariposa; bettsgoldcoin.com.
— J. Burrell, Staff