You can’t miss Bridgeport’s Jolly Kone, with its festive white-and-red checkered facade and big red sign, on the north side of Highway 395. The place is rich in history—Amasa Bryant, one of the founding families of Bridgeport, opened a store on Court Street at the same location the burger stand is now located in 1863. That building burned down 100 years later, in 1963, but a year later the Jolly Kone that locals and travelers know and love was erected. Lynda Pemberton, sometimes known as the unofficial mayor of Bridgeport, took over the place from her mother, Erma Bryant (Amasa’s granddaughter), in 1964, and ran the place like a well-oiled machine until she retired last summer.
Stop by the Jolly Kone around lunchtime and you’re likely to run into former employees of Pemberton’s that are all grown up with kids of their own—that’s the kind of town Bridgeport is, and that’s the kind of institution the Jolly Kone remains. Young couple Rebecca and Will Clayton have now taken over the joint, and have no plans to change anything whatsoever, saying, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Jolly Kone will always be famous for its creamy, chocolate-dipped, soft-serve ice cream cones—nothing short of heaven in the heat of summer. Kids will love the brightly-colored snow cones, and everything from burgers to burritos (watch out, they’re about a foot long) is available on their extensive menu. Warning: “We put onions on everything, so if your kids don’t like onions, let us know.” They’re even got a banana split, which are tough to find these days.
Jolly Kone is the kind of place makes your mouth water to think of when descending from a hike in the nearby mountains, or when logging miles on the highway.
The people-watching from the bright red picnic tables in their courtyard is great, especially during the July Fourth weekend, when Bridgeport explodes with old-timey festivities. They also offer free WiFi to guests, which is a bonus for a roadside burger joint.
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.