Far from California’s cosmopolitan coastal cities, the high desert Owens Valley reveals the Golden State’s more rugged side. Poised between the towering Eastern Sierra and White Mountains, Bishop, the valley’s biggest town with around 4,000 people, makes an outstanding base for anyone exploring the nearby high country. Plus the downhill skiing at Mammoth Mountain is less than an hour to the north.

Ann Marie Brown, an outdoor travel writer who has authored 14 California guidebooks, knows Bishop well. In the latest episode of the California Now Podcast, she tells host Soterios Johnson about the surprising food scene that has emerged in Bishop.

A Hidden Haven for Avocado Toast

Rest assured that the Pupfish Café doesn’t serve any entrees featuring its namesake fish—a rare species that lives in select Owens Valley locations. But this eatery tucked inside the Spellbinder Bookstore is the place to go if you’re an avocado toast fan, says Brown. “The Pupfish Café does avocado toast, I don’t know, six different ways,” she says. “My favorite is the one with smoked salmon on it. It’s really special.”

Strikes and Steaks

Clearly, Bishop doesn’t readily disclose its food secrets. Because Brown says, “This sounds a little bit nutty, but the place to go for prime rib is the bowling alley … The Back Alley Bowl and Grill has a restaurant that’s well known for their prime rib and steaks.”

Best Bakery Bets

A destination for travelers on Highway 395 since 1938, Erick Schat’s Bakkery is where you can get a unique taste of California history. Brown says the bakery’s famous sheepherder bread comes from a recipe that Basque shepherds in the Owens Valley used all the way back during the California Gold Rush. She also recommends the Great Basin Bakery just around the corner.

“They make a wonderful sourdough and delicious molasses spice cookies,” Brown says. “I’m salivating thinking about that.”

Quenching Your Thirst

After a long day of hiking or mountain biking, you may just want to raise a toast to all of your efforts. Brown loves the artisan spirits at the Owens Valley Distilling Company, hailing the vodka as “honestly, maybe the best I’ve ever had.”

Over at the Mountain Rambler Brewery, you’ll not only find locally crafted beers but also what Brown describes as “really intriguing food. They make a tempeh Reuben sandwich with homemade sauerkraut—which they serve with just about everything. It’s delicious.”

To hear more of Brown’s insights into the Bishop area, listen to the latest edition of the California Now Podcast.