Good morning! I’m still in catch-up mode from my Mammoth Lakes vacation but I’m excited to share some reviews of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) local coffee shops.
You might remember from my Southern Road Trip earlier this summer that I have a travel rule: NO chain restaurants on vacation. You can get Olive Garden and Subway at home, so why not try out the locally-owned businesses that are specific to your location while you’re there? The rule applies to coffee too, so we keep the Starbucks to a minimum when we’re away from home.
Like the southern road trip, we intended to try a new coffee shop each day. That was going good and well until we walked into Stellar Brew Coffee House on Main St…..and came back 2, 3, 4, okay 5 times. #oops. The atmosphere, coffees, baked treats, breakfast bowls, staff, and charm made it the perfect morning pick-me-up stop.
But we’ll begin from Coffee Stop #1: Looney Bean
Loved it! The store was pretty crowded and dark inside, but there is a fireplace and outdoor seating. My hot americano was one of the better espresso drinks from a local coffee shop I’ve had. My mom splurged and got the raspberry white mocha which had the best flavors. Cute shop, great coffees, nothing super stand-out about the shop itself. All in all, it was a success.
#2: Side Door
Upon arrival, we were warned that the espresso machine was broken. That’s kind of essential for americanos/lattes….we were left with iced coffees as our only caffeinated option. We asked for a couple pumps of sugar-free vanilla and a splash on non-fat milk added to the iced coffees, but I’m not sure what the heck we got handed in our cup. The milk didn’t mix with the coffee, but rather left some stringy fiber-looking strands of white in the dark drink. We definitely tasted the sweetener but couldn’t taste any coffee. I also ordered 3 drinks, but the barista was finished with our order at 2. Rather than remind him that he still owed us another drink, we just tossed ours in the trash and walked out. :( I don’t think you can blame us for being “Coffee Snobs” with this one….it was just really terrible coffee.
#3: Schat’s Bakkery
(No, I didn’t spell that wrong. It’s European.) Oh, this poor barista was a hot mess. Schat’s Bakkery has amazing fresh bread and an adorable European store-front. My order was simple enough: 2 iced coffees with sugar-free toffee flavor.
While one barista worked on another order in front of the espresso machine, the girl making my iced coffees stood right next to her. So naturally when she poured the pitcher of coffee and the lid fell off, the coffee spill ruined not just my drink but those other two too.
When she cleaned up her mess and re-made our iced coffees, I noticed she “forgot” the flavoring. Instead, she handed me my iced coffee and a separate sugar-free toffee candy…… not exactly the same. When I clarified my order, you would not believe that she actually DUMPED THE WHOLE CUP OVER AGAIN. She spilled on their counter twice in one order! That’s when I’d call it a day (cry-laughing emoji). Poor girl, I hope she isn’t always this frazzled.
#4: Black Velvet Coffee Shop
This coffee shop is highly-rated on Trip Advisor and sits right along Main St. Seems like it’s set-up for success! I can’t accurately write a full review on this coffee shop because we never made it to the ordering part…
The sterile shop had the tiniest little menu board sitting on the counter. The barista didn’t greet us with a hello. The pastry box was almost empty. No customers sat at the tall tables. The vibe wasn’t what we wanted to waste our coffee stop on so we crossed the street to coffee shop #5.
#5: Stellar Brew
Before I start my rave, I’ll start by stating that I’m not incentivized to say this and I don’t know anyone who works here! Just in case you’re skeptical of online reviews ;) I honestly just believe in supporting high-quality local businesses and this one was awesome. Hippy? Yes. Worth coming back? Yes x 5.
The covered patio seating always had a couple dogs with their owners hanging out and enjoying the summer sunshine. The inside has just enough of that “cluttered chaos” look where it’s charming but not overwhelming. Unique jewelry, handmade body washes and oils, and recycled glass bottles sit for sale around the counter. The menu is huge and full of healthy options like fruit & yogurt smoothies, acai bowls, and “Basin Bowls” which we recreated at home Sunday night (recipe below). There were also tons of not-so-healthy bakery items like Almond Chocolate Bread Pudding, Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake and Morning Glory Muffins that were incredibly difficult to pass up. I did cave and get the gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookie though, and I’ve never had anything with that nutty, crumbly texture. Confession: I got a second one the next day ;) #vacationmode
I tend to stick with hot and cold americanos when I order coffee to-go and I’ll add in non-fat milk, but I couldn’t help but steal some sips of my parent’s more fancy drinks. The Stellar Brulee was all of our favorites, hot and iced. It’s a caramel white chocolate mocha latte ( so basically….dessert in a cup.) but another equally amazing concoction was the Trail Mix Mocha. There is definitely a hippy vibe going on and the service wasn’t particularly speedy but it was definitely worth the wait. By far the best coffee shop in Mammoth!
Aside from the 12 coffee drinks, two cookies and slice of coffee cake we ordered from the little cafe, we really loved the Basin Bowl (and apparently locals love it too. Someone was always ordering one each time we were in line!) The Basin Bowl is a power bowl of brown rice, kale, carrots, tomatoes, beets, Bragg’s liquid aminos, an over-easy egg, and some tzatziki sauce on the side. It was the perfect blend, with lots of garlic-y flavor and we thought it’d be easy enough to recreate at home. Sunday night, we blended up some raw cauliflower in the food processor to turn into a rice texture and lightly sauteed in a pan over the stove to replace the brown rice. It’s all about presentation ;)
Basin Power Bowl Recipe (adapted from Stellar Brew)
- 1 head cauliflower, rinsed and chopped into large chunks
- 3 cups of baby kale, rinsed
- 1 large carrot, grated into long thin strips
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 cup shoestring beets
- Bragg’s liquid aminos
- 1 Tbs. garlic
- 1 Tbs. black pepper
- Optional: rinsed black beans or garbanzo beans; protein source of choice (chicken, tofu, egg, cashews, etc.)
- In a large food processor, pulse the cauliflower until it turns into a rice-like texture.
- Heat a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil or coconut oil and garlic, and sautee the cauli-rice for about 5 minutes. It will become slightly toasty. Add in the baby kale and pepper, then cover with a lid for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In your serving bowl, combine the cauli-rice, kale, carrots, tomatoes, beets, beans and protein. Add liquid aminos (if you do not have/like liquid aminos, I would recommend a vinagrette salad dressing!)
- Take a picture becuase it’s Instagram worthy ;)
So we’ve covered coffee & running in Mammoth….and I’ve got a few cool adventure stories to share with you tomorrow before we get back into normal everyday healthy living stuff.
My favorite part of vacations: finding new running paths. The best way to experience a new place is to get out into it and explore on foot, in my opinion! Whether it’s New York City, North Carolina, Montana, or Mammoth, I always do a little research before a trip to find the best running hotspots. I feel like I get to see a part of the city or countryside that most tourists don’t. And I get to combine my love of travel with my love of running, which truly feels like vacation.
Last week, my parents and their friends rented a penthouse condo at the foot of the ski lifts on Mammoth Mountain and we spent 8 solid days exploring lakes and trails and mountains. I tagged along on their adventure, but began every morning with a run by myself at 9,000 ft. elevation.
You already know I’m more fond of running than the average person, but this trip made me more excited than ever to begin mixing up my workouts and training more seriously for my next marathon. Something about just burning off my energy, pushing my feet off the ground, hurling myself forward as fast as I can, music blasting out the sound of my own breath…I just can’t get enough. I feel so lucky to be able to run as far and as often as I want, injury-free and surrounded by nature. The fact that I’ve been safe and avoided any serious encounters with sketchy people or wild animals has not gone unappreciated either!
Some days I just run for its health benefits and because I feel like I need to maintain the long-distance-runner body type I’m used to. Some days I run because it’s something I know I’m good at and I need a confidence-booster. Some days I’m bummed out or stressed out over something, and I know that I seem to stop thinking/obsessing/worrying/hurting for that hour I’m striding down my path. Every day and every run is different but I almost always finish a run feeling stronger than I started.
And even though I can power through a treadmill session with a pair of headphones, nothing can ever compare to running outside. While I was in Mammoth, I ran up Lake Mary Rd. to Twin Lakes, then from Twin Lakes to Horseshoe Lake and back. I ran without music but spent every second taking in the silence, smells (I ran through a campground at one point where people started morning fires and cooked their bacon breakfasts), horse ranch, wild deer, bridges over creeks and brooks, expansive views of the Eastern Sierras, Lakes Mary, Mamie, and George, and the gorgeous massive pine trees. Hitting a plateau with views of the mountain tops make you feel pretty small :)
Speed has never been my strong suit and the fact that I actually enjoy running uphills makes it obvious that I’m a cross country runner at heart <3 I just thrive off of the feeling of cresting a really steep incline and knowing that I struggled and pushed myself. After I catch my breath, I’m always ready to do it again. I’ve added a few hilly trails and hill repeats to my workouts over the next few weeks as I gear up for my next marathon.
I passed high school cross country teams every day and was honestly jealous of their running camps. I went to Runner’s Workshop camps for 2 years in high school, and my high school coach also organized his own running camp for us a couple summers up in Big Bear, CA. Running teams and elite athletes love altitude training!
From the start of the Lake Basin Path on Lake Mary Rd. (which starts as Main St.), it’s 5.3 miles up to the finishing point of Horseshoe Lake. The bike path runs parallel with the one-lane road but sits a few feet over so that trees and fences usually separate you from cars.
Horseshoe Lake also has a perfect 2-mile loop around the circumference of the lake basin. The trail picks up at the parking lot, narrowing down to a single-track trail with pine trees on both sides. It was the flattest run of my trip because most streets have dramatic inclines and long flat roads are hard to find.
If you are braver than me or have a bigger group to run with, there are so many more bike trails to explore but I was by myself and nervous about bear sightings so I stuck with semi-paved and heavily-trafficked routes this time :) If you’ve ever run in Mammoth or the Eastern Sierra’s, let me know where in the comments below. I’d love to check out more areas!
Every morning after my run, we hit up a local coffee shop. At first, we intended to find a different unique coffee shop each day, but there was a definite favorite that we ended up at 5 days in a row. Full coffee shop review will be up tomorrow because it’s Monday after vacation and this girl has to get to work. See you again soon!