The Unvegan

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Down in the Valley at the Ahwahnee

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This is an old lodge.

Opened in 1927 at the center of the Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, the Ahwahnee Hotel is a national park staple. The room prices are outrageous, but whether you are staying there or not, the place is certainly worth a visit for historical perspective of the park. Plus, for anyone in need of a good meal, the Ahwahnee has a bit of dining room. The lunch prices are a bit much, but nothing compared to the prices for dinner, so before setting out on an afternoon trek from the valley floor, we sat down to a meal at the Ahwahnee.

And once again, I found myself compelled towards a burger. This is not to say there weren’t other perfectly good-looking unvegan options like the Herb Focaccia Club, but when I asked the waitress what she recommended, The Ahwahnee Burger was the first thing that popped into her head. The burger was described on the menu as “½ pound Hand-Shaped Brandt Farms All Natural Beef, French Roll, Fries, Ahwahnee Amber Ale Ketchup.” It also could be upgraded to include cheese. Never one to go cheeseless on my burger, I ordered point Reyes Blue Cheese and got my burger cooked medium. It would have ordinarily come with lettuce, onions and tomatoes on the side, but I told the waitress not to waste them on me.

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Why, pickles? Why?!

What came out gave me quite a fright at first. Sitting precariously close to the burger was a stack of grimy, bloodthirsty pickles. They and their juices were out to spoil my bun, but fortunately gravity and weak centrifugal forces prevented them from attacking my meal before I could scrape them from my sight.

With the crisis averted, I took a look at my real food and liked what I saw. The blue cheese was chunky and melty, while the burger seemed to fit perfectly into its bun, asking me to eat it.

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Your ketchup is beery good.

And eat I did. The burger never stood a chance as I devoured it. The burger was not in need of ketchup, but the house-made Ahwahnee Ale ketchup they brought out for me was far more than a flavor coverer. This ketchup added a bit of a kick and good flavor to an already good burger, plus made for a great fry-dipping sauce. Not as thick as normal ketchup, this stuff had some local ale in it that made it very unique and would have been a nice addition to the letdown sauces of the night before.

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The ketchup almost makes the burger look rare.

The biggest letdown of the burger was that it was brown all the way through. Hardly the medium I had ordered, it fortunately remained juicy and tasty enough for me to remain happy. Plus, the blue cheese and ketchup were going to be the best part even if the burger had been cooked correctly.

For a tasty meal in the middle of the Yosemite Valley, the Ahwahnee is a great stop. They make a pretty good burger and some damn good ketchup. Just make sure they hold the pickles.