Yellowstone National Park is rugged—but not too rugged for brie, squash tortellini and the ilk. Find grub ranging from pizza and bison burgers to elk medallions and quinoa salads, both inside and outside the park.
You don’t have to eat before you go into Yellowstone, but if you do, you’ll have to steel yourself past the restaurants, delis, coffee shops, bakeries, grocery stores (and even a taco bus) in the border towns. The park stashes eating options inside the gates too, but there’s a bit more to choose from just outside the gates in Cooke City, West Yellowstone and Gardiner. Wolf down a few pancakes at Running Bear Pancake House in West Yellowstone before you venture into the park, feast on grilled bison meatloaf at the Iron Horse Grill in Gardiner afterwards, or pick from a surprising variety of other tasty options.
In the park, Yellowstone’s “villages” all include several eateries—generally a restaurant, a deli or a grill, a dining room and a few scattered cafeterias, along with a general store for basic groceries. You can count on burgers, steaks, seafood, chicken and other American basics, with a scattering of gourmet and health-conscious options, too.
For something standout, nibble on strawberry rhubarb gazpacho at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room, or tuck into grilled quail and smoked pheasant sausage in the timbered grace of the Old Faithful Dining Room. Reserve about a week ahead for both.
For something totally different (and granted, a little touristy, but hey), ride into an Old West Wagon Cookout at Roosevelt Lodge, where cowboys twang on guitars around a charbroiled steak cookout. These cookouts are a longstanding park tradition, so book six months in advance (or hop on the waitlist and hope for a cancellation).
Those with restrictions, breathe a sigh of relief—more and more Park menus are calling out gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options and substitutions. Serious celiacs, take note—while the food may be gluten-free, park kitchens are not, meaning some traces of gluten could potentially be present. Strict dieters may wish to stick with picnicking on groceries, available in the border towns or in village general stores.
The only thing more satisfying than crawling out of the park for a well-deserved sit-down meal is noshing with a vista in the park. You can pack your own brown bag lunches from the grocery stores, but several border town eateries will fix you up, too—like Tumbleweed Bookstore and Cafe in Gardiner, Woodside Bakery in West Yellowstone, and Buns n’ Beds Deli in Cooke City.
Yellowstone is scattered with picnic spots, so crack open your bag with a view whenever hunger strikes. A few ideas: find any rock along either Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, watch for marmots at the picnic area at Sheepeater Cliffs, and eat to the sounds of the river at 7 Mile Bridge. Exploring Yellowstone works up an appetite—something the park’s many eateries will creatively satisfy.