OAKHURST — What do you get when you mix a fresh and delicious menu of new delights and time-tested classics, with a family-friendly, affordable atmosphere? Add in a top-notch salad bar, and a first-class whiskey bar and put it all right in the heart of town. That’s Yosemite Gateway Inn.
“Our goal was to come up with taste bud tantalizing menu items that everyone in the family can enjoy, and I believe we nailed it,” says manager Jesse Lockwood.
“Over the past few months we’ve been studying what people have enjoyed at our establishment and also what they’ve enjoyed from our specials every evening. We have taken into consideration all of the comments from our guests and the trends we have seen with what people love to eat at the restaurant, and come up with this menu containing new and improved items.”
Don’t worry, the classics are still there, as well. Jesse says they strive to make the menu fair-priced and family friendly. Items on the menu include grilled swordfish, apple pork, and bacon wrapped sirloin, along with country fried steak and fish ‘n chips.
Yosemite Gateway has already recently released a new small plate menu including Korean pork wings, California bruschetta, and jambalaya that Jesse says are sure to please. All of these small plate items are under $10 and you can mix and match them to suit your tastes.
If your tastes include a well-appointed lounge with a full bar stocked with all the usual libations and — bonus — a serious collection of whiskey, you’re in luck.
Whiskey Bar Specializing In Bourbons And Rye
“Our bar manager Dene has made this the place to come for whiskey and bourbon. Want to talk liquor? Dene knows all about the process of making the spirits and the bourbons themselves.”
The restaurant’s bar offers a nice atmosphere, sometimes with live entertainment, that’s cool in the summer, and has a fireplace to keep you warm in the winter. Still, it’s what’s behind the bar that’s remarkable every day. As the manager of this domain explains, it’s a whiskey bar specializing in bourbons and rye.
Dene says there’s a fast-growing segment of the population that’s now discovering barrel aged spirits like whiskey. For those not previously schooled in the ways of whiskey, the term includes and is not limited to whiskey that’s known as rye, Irish, Canadian, and bourbon. All bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbon.
“People are enjoying the spirits themselves and the cocktails that use those spirits, such as Manhattan, Sazerack, and Old Fashioned. A new, younger generation is starting to appreciate these old school whiskey cocktails, and realize their grandparents who drank them were cool.”
Talking about generations is to the point, because Dene has the heart of a historian. As it turns out, drinking bourbon is practically a patriotic act.
“Whiskey is part of American history — it’s intrinsic to the country. The European colonists from England and Ireland discovered that rye was the only grain they could grow with success in the rocky soil of Pennsylvania.”
Rye, says Dene, is a very hearty grain that’s a natural for distilling.
“So, the first whiskeys were rye but, later as the settlers pushed westward, they discovered corn from the natives and started using that since it was so plentiful. That’s bourbon.”
While strongly associated with the American south, in order to be called bourbon, the product must be made in the U.S., says Dene.
“So it’s a distinctly, uniquely American drink. By law, what’s called the ‘mash bill’ — or, makeup — of bourbon must be at least 51% corn; it can be more but not less. Bourbon can have rye, barley malt, or wheat, and must be aged a minimum of two years in charred new oak barrels.”
In other words, it’s perfect for celebrating American independence.
“We can all be toasting whiskey or bourbon, to our forefathers!”
Dene stocks more than 40 whiskeys and it’s no coincidence that half of those are bourbons.
“We like whiskeys that get good reviews, that you can enjoy drinking, and that are price-friendly and approachable.”
The assemblage of choices behind the bar is growing all the time.
“People are discovering now how versatile bourbon can be. It’s the flavor — it comes right from the barrel, and has to do with the aging process, the percentages, where it is, and how long. All those things and more play a part it its flavor profile. ”
When Dene came to work at Yosemite Gateway two years ago, he says, “they already had a nice selection of whiskey, and it was Jesse Lockwood’s vision to focus and expand on that. Jesse said, ‘learn this, do it, do whatever you can when it comes to whiskey.’ And I’m still doing it. It’s an ongoing education and one I hope to continue for some time.”
“My favorite way to relax after work is to be out on the patio and listening to the crickets — I sit with little glass and enjoy it, sip it, savor and think about where it came from what goes into it. The whole process is the story of America.”
Besides the allure of whiskey and bourbon bar, super fresh salad bar, big plates, and small plates, restaurant manager Jesse Lockwood wants to remind residents and visitors alike that Yosemite Gateway Restaurant has a banquet room that is for rent at any time.
“We can set up any request that is needed up to 65 people. Need it catered? We can do that also. Any type of food you would like just let us know and we will do our best to get it done for you. Or you can choose from our banquet menu that is also fairly priced. We do buffets or if you would like a little more personalization we can do plated dinners as well.”
Give them a call or come in to Yosemite Gateway Restaurant, located at 40530 Hwy 41 in Oakhurst at the local Best Western Plus. Look for the carved statue of liberty out front. Reservations and general questions call (559) 641-2477.
How To Make An Old Fashioned according to Dene Seal
“Take a rocks glass, orange, Maraschino cherry, and a sugar cube or simple syrup, and a dash of bitters. You muddle that and add ice, then two ounces of whiskey, and top off with soda water. It’s a delightful old traditional drink your parents or grandparents might have enjoyed.”