Decades ago, I walked into the restaurant at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park with my parents and didn’t have time to get comfortable before they were saying, “Kids, put the menus down. We’re leaving.”
It was just too pricey for a family of four living on a civil servant’s salary.
But that slight humiliation as a young teen-ager stuck with me into adulthood, where my definition of success became “can order a meal at The Ahwahnee without incurring credit card debt or a second mortgage on the house.” This month, I crossed that item off my bucket list when I sat down in that grand old restaurant, and ordered the most delicious (and pricey) Monte Cristo of my life.
My husband was seduced by a $10 bowl of award-winning Sierra cheddar soup and the most upscale hoagie sandwich I’ve ever seen on a plate. It more resembled something you’d eat with a fork and knife than your fingers. But, as with many restaurant menus these days, once I read Monte Cristo with homemade boysenberry coulis nonetheless, my order was set in stone. (Of course, I didn’t completely lose my sanity. I asked Dave, our waiter, if he could put fries on my plate instead of purple cabbage slaw. Not even The Ahwahnee could make that side dish palatable for me.)
It was a good call all the way. Those fries could have made my top 5 list easily. And that Monte Cristo is simply indescribable. I was chewing slowly and rolling my eyes back into my head in ecstasy when Dave stopped by to see how everything was going. Turns out, that sandwich is also his favorite, and he, too, had a childhood story to tell. Seems he first ordered a Monte Cristo at the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland when he was 11, and he’s had a soft spot for them ever since.
He served in the military, his son holds a PhD., and Dave hasn’t considered any other job except waiting tables at The Ahwahnee in the past 25 years. Monte Cristo lunches aren’t the only thing that grew on him, it seems.
Now if this isn’t your idea of the high life, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Now that I’ve finally dined in this venerable restaurant landmark, and ordered something I loved, I can die a happy, and successful, person.
DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite
Photography: Julie Sturgeon