Roberto’s claims that it’s been “Mammoth’s favorite Mexican restaurant since 1985,” and, though that sounds like just a phrase you’d slap on a t-shirt, it’s honestly true.
Roberto’s, which started out as basically a taco shack in 1985, is beloved by tourists and locals alike.
When it’s been a long day and I need some comfort food, it’s always, always their chile relleno (shrimp stuffed if I feel like splurging).
When my chichi friends come to town, it’s the duck tacos. Or the lobster fajitas.
When I feel like getting my drink on for cheap, it’s Margarita Wednesdays. Half price all margaritas, even the $15—it’s the best drink deal in town, albeit hard to hear your tablemates over the cacophony of other frugal margarita lovers (mental note: not valid on holidays, or on pitchers).
They’re open early (11 a.m. for lunch) and late (“to close,” states their website, which is Mammoth-speak for “if it’s slow, we’re out of here, if it’s hopping, we’ll stay open till 11 p.m.). Plus they’re open daily. Always. No shutting down for shoulder season (the May and October doldrums when many restaurants in Mammoth let their staff travel and collect unemployment). No random Tuesday closures. It’s reliable. I know that chile relleno will always be there for me. And that’s huge in a town like Mammoth, where inconsistency is a way of life.
Their servers are consummate professionals. You don’t get a job at what’s arguably the busiest restaurant in town without knowing your stuff. Nothing phases them. The kitchen staff is equally good. They’ve got your enchilada platter up in the window before you can order that second Esquelito (Espolon Silver, agave nectar, fresh lime an soda).
In winter, you can sit upstairs and watch the snow fall. In the summer, their lower deck, surrounded by gorgeous flowers, is the place to be (it’s now known as the Tracy Hauter garden, after the woman who carefully cultivated the native plants that grow there—Hauter passed away in 2015, but Dan and Joanie Schaller, who have owned Roberto’s since ’85, have kept it alive in her memory).
My advice, as a relatively light eater: Split the burritos. They’re about as big as a newborn baby. But if you think you’ve got what it takes to pound a chimichanga and still hit the town afterward, be my guest. Another locals’ secret: Order the flour chips. They’ll do them if you ask. I like half flour, half corn, for the contrast in texture.
Roberto’s has achieved the almost-impossible in a transient ski town: a dedicated following of residents and visitors. The Schallers raised a family on good Mexican food and a dream, and that’s something to celebrate any day of the week.
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.