For years I have been following Casey and the Modern Hiker crew and can even credit them for getting me back into hiking over 6 years ago. Through my own blog I have traveled, hiked and eaten all over California and have found that nothing goes with a nice long hike quite like a great feast to reward yourself with afterwards.
Here are my recommendations for the best post-hike meal, based on the area of Southern California you are hiking. The criteria are as follows:
- It must be somewhat fast
- It has to have unique food (not typical chain restaurants)
- Must serve breakfast and lunch
- Can’t have a dress code … ’cause you don’t always look your best after half a day sweating on the trail
Obviously places like In & Out and Chipotle are always fantastic options, but for this post I wanted to tried to find places that people may not have been to yet. Let me know what I left off in the comments!
North San Diego
Lucha Libre Taco Shop
This eclectic California Mexican food place takes the Lucha Libre wrestling vibe to the next level with masks adorning the walls and a gold champions table you can reserve in advance. The best thing here is the Surfin’ California burrito which has steak, shrimp, french fries, avocado and salsa. Great food and a fun vibe.
South San Diego
If you are hiking near the beach or downtown SD this spot is a great hole-in-the-wall burger joint that you will love. It perfectly captures the California surfer vibe and I love getting my food to go and walking down to the beach to eat it (Ocean Beach location). I recommend the Guido Burger served with Pastrami, grilled onions and spicy mustard.
The Lookout Roadhouse
If you are hiking up off Ortega Highway then you have to go to the Lookout Roadhouse. Open for breakfast and lunch, this restaurant with a view serves home cooked meals your mother would dream of. The exterior tables showcase a beautiful view of the lake below you and it is easy to see why this spot is always busy. I recommend the country breakfast which has eggs, spuds and onions, with your choice of meat. Sometimes they even allow the meat to be ribs, which perfectly adds to the breakfast dish.
Joshua Tree / Palm Springs
Pappy and Harriets
Located a little off the beaten path, Pappy and Harriet’s is still an easy-to-get-to location on the way home from Joshua Tree National Park in Yucca Valley. The BBQ here is mind blowing good and it is located inside of Frontier Town which is a old west town that was made specifically for the movies. There are always a lot of people on the weekends as they often have concerts and other events. The tri tip served with mac and cheese is worth the wait though, I guarantee it.
Honey Bunns & Joe Bakery
Home to what I would consider the best sticky bun I have had in my life, Honey Bunns & Joe is a fantastic option for a pre or post hike meal. If sweats are not your thing they usually also have bagel sandwiches you can make and lot of other pastry options.
South Orange County
This might not make everyones top list of things to eat after a long hike but I am a fan of unique food. Surfin Donuts makes a maple donut sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like, a maple donut cut in half with eggs, cheese and bacon between it. All I can say is don’t knock it till you try it.
North Orange County
While there are tons of choices I could make for this area, I always love stopping at Bruxie for a chicken and waffle sandwich. The sandwich comes with a little vial of maple syrup and the taste is like a flavor explosion. The one in Orange is a fun location that is easy to park at and has a walk up window for orders. They also have dessert waffle sandwiches as well such as S’more which will put you in the camping mood.
Mountain Top Cafe
The Mountain Top Cafe is my go to when I hike along Highway 2 or Wrightwood as it is a fast sit-down place with amazing food. They have free National Geographic magazines you can read while you wait and the blackberry pie will blow your mind. Don’t judge it by its outside looks as it is a bit run down but it’s a great lunch spot.
Front Range, San Gabriels
This small sandwich place located inside of a gas station sounds like it would be a fail, but check the Yelp reviews and you will see I am not making it up. The sandwiches are so killer here that I am almost afraid to share it so that others don’t overtake what I consider my secret spot. The potato salad that they make with mint is also something that I order every time and they never judge me when I roll in with dirt covering my clothes.
As a healthier option on the list and one that can be found all over LA, Lemonade is my go-to for the Pasadena area. I love the quality of the food you get at this upscale cafeteria type joint. They always have a ton of unique vegetable dishes and you pay by the serving size, so you always get a lot of food without breaking the bank. As the name implies they also have great lemonade.
West Los Angeles
The Apple Pan
It’s pretty much impossible to pick just one place in LA but whenever I am in the West Side I always find myself at the Apple Pan. This ten seat, old-school restaurant has been making killer burgers for over 50 years and it is easy to see why after you bite into the burger. Follow it up with some banana cream pie and you will be ready for a nap before you even finish your shower.
I am sure the Modern Hiker Crew can probably fill this recommendation in better then myself but I have never been let down by a post hike meal at Tender Greens. With both vegetarian and meat options available they have something for everyone. I always order the tri-tip sandwich but any of the fresh vegetable dishes you order will not lead you astray either. (Since we live in Hollywood we usually just eat at home, but we heartily recommend Griffith Park‘s Trails Cafe. They have excellent, light breakfast and lunch options, great coffee and tea, and LOTS of stuff for vegetarians, too – Casey).
This fish stop right on Highway 1 is a hangout for beach goers and bikers alike. The food is ridiculously good and I haven’t had any of the seafood options that I haven’t enjoyed. I would recommend the fish tacos though and come thirsty as they have an entire wall of beers and drinks. It’s also right across the highway from the beach so it comes with an amazing view. (This is our favorite place to stop after hiking the Mishe Mokwa Trail! – Casey).
The first time I stumbled in here I was a little weary, but as soon as I started eating I realized why there is always a line. The standout at Spencer Makenzies are the fish tacos, ceviche, or the ahi pockets. The ahi pockets are tofu pockets stuffed with rice and sauce then blackened ahi on top, and they’re fantastic. If they are closed then go to Johnny Tacos as they have great Mexican food.
So there you have it, my list of food places for a great after hiking meal. I could talk about food all day, but I would love to hear what you think I left off in the comments.