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Where to Eat at Every National Park

Eat like a local at these great restaurants in and around America's most-beautiful settings.

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Photo: Ken Canning ©

Palatable Parks

America has some pretty spectacular natural sites. On Aug. 25, 2016, the National Parks Service celebrates its centennial. In honor of its 100 years, we’ve gone from coast to coast, just as Woody Guthrie sang, “From California to the New York island; from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,” to find the best things to eat at the national parks, whether onsite, offsite or as a picnic.

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Photo: Nathan Chor ©

Yellowstone (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

On-site: Celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2016 with a major renovation, the first national park’s premier restaurant, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, is better than ever. The updated Colonial revival dining room features the most-ambitious fare in the park, with locally sourced proteins such as Montana lamb and bison tenderloin from South Dakota.

Off-site: A person can eat only so many burgers and bison dishes. If the craving strikes for something with more spice, Chinatown Restaurant (110 Madison Ave.; 406-646-7088) in West Yellowstone offers an impressive array of Peking, Hunan, Szechuan and Cantonese cuisines for hungry tourists. Originally opened to appeal to Chinese tourists, the space really does feel like stepping into Chinatown. Try the one of the house recommendations — the shredded chicken with five-spice bean curd and the beef with string beans are fantastic.

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Photo: Rick Hyman ©

Yosemite (California)

On-site: Formerly the Ahwahnee, The Majestic Yosemite Dining Room is still the best place to eat in stunning Yosemite Valley, offering classic American fare like rotisserie free-range chicken with cheddar polenta, as well as boysenberry pie, a fixture that’s been on the menu for more than 50 years. The dining room spectacular, with a 34-foot-high ceiling propped up by huge pine trestles and granite pillars. Though you’re within a national park, the restaurant maintains a dress code: no shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, flip-flops or baseball caps.

Picnic: Pick up sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli (9015 Village Dr.; 209-372-8454) before hitting the trail. The space serves an interesting selection of breakfast and lunch sandwiches that are ideal for a day out and about. Try the Winfield, a protein-packed combination of Italian meats, bacon, provolone, mozzarella, greens, avocado, pesto and balsamic vinegar.

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Photo: Ken Canning ©

Grand Tetons (Wyoming)

Off-site: Housed in a historic 1915 cabin, Sweetwater Restaurant is just about as Old West as it gets. The menu offers a smorgasbord of Wyoming-inspired comfort classics like buffalo chili, elk osso buco and cowboy rib eye. Rachael Ray stopped by the time-honored pioneer home for lunch while filming $40 A Day, sampling the Cowboy sandwich with roast beef, bacon, cheddar, mushrooms and horseradish sauce on a hoagie.

Picnic: It’s hard to find better takeaway grub than Jackson Hole’s Persephone Bakery. The cafe offers inventive, made-to-order sandwiches on house-baked bread, made with Old World fermentation techniques. The BLT, for example, is an updated classic, made with bacon, sauteed kale, Gruyere, tomato jam and Dijon aioli on a grilled baguette.

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