Yosemite may be the big tourist draw, but tiny Mariposa -- the Gold Rush town on the western edge of the national park -- offers an abundance of amusements, from gold panning to wine tasting and boutique browsing.
It's certainly fun to explore Mariposa's gold mining past -- and the appealing Mariposa Museum and History Center (www.mariposamuseum.com) is the perfect place to do that. But the town itself holds plenty of modern appeal, too. Here are four must-try bistros, bars and boutiques to get you started.
1 Savoury's Restaurant
Mariposa may be surrounded by rugged wilderness, but Mirriam Platto's restaurant is an oasis of civilized dining. Savoury's bridges the casual/fine-dining divide effortlessly with sleek mossy green walls, black banquettes and an atmosphere that welcomes diners whether they're dressed up or in just-back-from-a-hike jeans. The bar bustles, the dining room buzzes and reservations are highly recommended. And the menu of grilled New York steak ($21), eggplant parmesan ($16.50) and salmon with lemon basil pesto ($23) will please both foodies and picky eaters.
Don't miss: The grilled Diablo Shrimp Skewers ($8 as an appetizer, $17.50 as an entree), served with an apricot dipping sauce, are spicy, sweet and irresistible. The appetizer portion, two skewers with four prawns each, is generous enough to share (but you will not want to).
Tip: Can't get a table here? Hanna and Jake Wackerman (he's Platto's son) run the 1850 restaurant -- great fried chicken and riffs on the burger theme -- just up the street.
Details: 5034 Highway 140, Mariposa; www.savouryrestaurant.com
2 Chocolate Soup
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more adorable shop -- or shops -- than Robbie and Michael Crowley's Chocolate Soup, the red, two-story house that peeks out from the redwoods, its twinkle-lights emitting a cheery glow.
A century ago, this cozy building was the home of the Gann and Matlock families. Today, the upstairs belongs to the Mariposa County Arts Council and its aptly named Treetop Gallery. The rooms downstairs are devoted to Chocolate Soup's gift items, home decor, vintage wares and products made by local artisans. It's an irresistible display that ranges from craft furniture to jewelry, luminaries and seasonal scone and hot cocoa mixes.
Don't miss: The garden holds wind chimes, birdhouses, outdoor art and three tiny buildings -- The Cabin, The Cottage and the Potting Shed -- with gift items inspired by those themes. We don't even have a cabin, but we were suddenly seized with a longing for lanterns and coat hook bars with little trees on top.
Details: 5009 Highway 140, www.chocsoup.net
3 Hideout Saloon
You won't find swinging saloon shutters at the Hideout. In fact, you might be hard pressed to find the door at all. The Hideout, as befits its name, is hidden around the corner and under the building that bears its address. And the interior is about as Wild West as it gets. The Hideout is a long, narrow bar with original stacked-stone walls, ancient wooden floorboards and barstools upholstered in old Levis -- and pinned-up dollar bills cover the ceiling. It's a thing.
On the particular night we went, a bluegrass band was playing. The beer is ice cold -- thanks to the Hideout's penchant for storing glasses in the freezer. And the barkeep is a now-retired female wrestler from Hulk Hogan's heyday. Really.
Don't miss: Order up an icy Mammoth Brewing Epic IPA, take a turn at the pool table and don't forget to leave a dollar bill on the ceiling. It's a tradition.
Tip: Prefer your drinking in less saloon-y surroundings? Try The Alley, a wine and craft beer lounge around the corner.
Details: 5031 Highway 140, Mariposa
4 Sugar Pine Cafe
With its checkerboard floors and red leatherette booths, this decades-old diner is a slice of sheer Americana; you expect to see Richie Cunningham and the Fonz walk in at any moment. Originally built as the 1940s era Dairy Dell Diner, the popular Sugar Pine serves classic breakfast fare and all-American favorites, such as burgers, milkshakes, steaks and chops. This is no quinoa-and-kale place, but the baked goods are made from scratch, the ingredients are fresh and local -- including farm eggs -- and the coffee is Peet's.
Don't miss: Skip breakfast at your hotel and come here instead for a couple of over-easies, crisp hash browns and a fresh-from-the-oven biscuit ($5.75). When we were there, the very serious short-order cook was solemnly adorning buttermilk pancakes ($4.95) with fresh-fruit smiley faces for children at a nearby table.
Details: 5038 Highway 140, Mariposa; www.sugarpinecafe.com