The beauty of San Bernardino National Forest and Mt. San Jacinto State Park is reward enough in itself, but for a very special extra treat take Rt. 243 off of Rt. 74 and stop at Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild for breakfast, lunch or dinner. From outside it's as inviting as any rustic lodge you've ever seen, but the real point of stopping is the food. Local, imaginative and artistically presented, the two menus ("DAY" for breakfast and lunch until 4:00 pm, and "NIGHT" for dinner from noon to 8:00 pm) are extensive and varied. And the prices are modest considering that everything had to be hauled more than 6,000 feet straight up from the valley. How about a full-fledged Pesto Benedict for $10? Or a Bagel Works for $6? Or 26 choices for lunch from a $5 garlic bisque to a $16 Rigatoni Funghi or Ravioli Olio? We've been there twice with friends and family and have tried six of the lunch items, with multiple hits on the Salmon Salad Renate and the Kappy's Salmon BLT. There's nothing on the menu that I wouldn't order with enthusiastic anticipation. Add a nice wine list and a stellar (and slightly exotic) local and international beer selection at $4-$9 a bottle and you'll be wishing you drove Rt. 243 a lot more often. I know I do. And don't think the prices are the main attraction - IT'S THE FOOD! Why else would I come out to find my car bracketed by a brand-new Bentley Continental GT and an Aston-Martin Vantage?
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