Nicely’s is the kind of old-school diner that those who love nostalgia will enjoy. It’s located right on the main drag in Lee Vining, and you can’t miss the towering neon sign advertising some of its meal options: “Pancakes” “Sandwiches” “Salads” “Steaks.”
Breakfast is probably the best time to eat a meal in the restaurant, and, according to many reviewers, the ambience is probably better than the food. Servers bustle about compulsively refilling coffees and slinging biscuits and gravy, and the place has a cosy atmosphere that is hard to find nowadays, with squeaky faux leather booths and a formica bar near the cash register. It’s also nice to find a breakfast option for under $9, something that is getting tougher to do, especially in a tourist town. The “classic fried chicken” perennially advertised on Nicely’s outside billboard is certifiably delicious, served with fluffy mashed potatoes, steamed veggies and corn on the cob, just like a genuine southern-inspired dish should. National Park Service employees from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite usually make pilgrimages to Nicely’s when they travel the 12 miles down the vertigo-inducing Tioga Pass Road—so the joint certainly has its fans.
The attached bar & lounge also simply oozes with old-time charm, and is a great watering hole for travelers on their way up or down Highway 395. The place gets absolutely packed in the summertime with European tourists, especially during big sporting events like the FIFA World Cup—this writer spent a delightful afternoon in 2014 packed into Nicely’s bar with soccer fans who had poured into Lee Vining from Yosemite and points beyond, trying to find a television on which to watch the games.
The place is cash only, in keeping with its “simpler time” theme, and sells souvenirs and goodies for those who want to take home a memory of their experience. Don’t miss the homemade cheesecake. Check their hours before going out of your way to visit—Nicely’s is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the slow season.
Nicely’s is open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. They can be reached at 760.647.6477.
Sarah Rea is a freelance dirtbag-turned-journalist who has been living in the Sierra on and off for twenty years, with eight spent in Yosemite National Park and five in Mammoth Lakes. She likes dogs, rocks, good food and jumping into cold water.