Restaurants come and go…well actually, they really go. (WARNING: In the interest of maintaining your mental health, if you are considering opening a restaurant you may want to refrain from viewing this list). Restaurants go out of business for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of economic conditions or the changing tastes of the diners. Sometimes it is poor management or a product line-up that doesn’t meet the needs of the consumer. But perhaps most often, after years of long hours and financial challenges the restaurant owners throw up their hands and scream, ‘Enough already!’
I have lived in Tahoe City for over 40 years and have watched a steady stream of restaurants pop up and depart, but when I actually took the time to put together a list of all of the defunct establishments, it was startlingly long. Check out the list below and see what memories surface for you. Oh dearly departed restaurants of Tahoe City, though you may be off the streets and no longer in our bellies, you’re still in our hearts.
Note that my list is certainly not exhaustive; send the names of your favorite spots that disappeared to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will provide an update in the next issue.
The Dearly Departed List
Restaurants that occupied the same location are listed together. If I can remember where the dearly departed restaurant was located, the current business that occupies the same location is in parenthesis.
• The Hearthstone: Located in Rosie’s current location (although in a different building; the original burned down in the mid 1980s), The Hearthstone was perhaps the most popular bar in town throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, although for some reason its patrons kept crashing their vehicles into The Big Tree (If you are now saying to yourself, ‘What Big Tree?’, you must have moved to Tahoe in the last 15 years).
• Tom Foolery, Honkers (Wolfdales)
• Café O’Lake (Syd’s)
• The Harvest Moon (McClintock Accountancy)
• Hacienda Del Lago (Sol y Lago)
• A&W Root Beer, Cookie’s Cobblestone Inn, Café Cobblestone, Echo Café, Rock’s Rotisserie (Evergreen just opened)
• Donaldson’s Coffee Shop, Starz Bakery (Squaw Valley Sport Shop)
• Conger’s, Family Tree Restaurant (Cabin Fever): Conger’s Coffee Shop for a number of years was the most popular coffee shop in town, back in the days when a coffee shop was really a reasonably priced sit-down restaurant and if you said ‘Latte’ no one would have any idea what you were talking about, the kind of place you went to for a Reuben sandwich and a killer milkshake in one of those big metal containers.
• Pierce Street Annex (Lakeside)
• Tahoe Inn and Pop’s Corner, Victoria Station, Emma Murphys, Mi Casa Too (Blue Agave): Tahoe Inn was the restaurant and Pop’s Corner was the bar, and together they were a popular spot for locals. The interior hasn’t changed much, with the huge rock fireplace and classic long bar still serving as the centerpieces.
• Truffula (Above Syd’s)
• Lakehouse Pizza, Eggschange, The Omelette Factory, Mandarin Villa (This building burned down several years ago and was rebuilt. It is currently awaiting a tenant).
• The Charthouse, Grazies, Sierra Vista (Tahoe Yacht Club)
• Water Wheel (River Grill): The Water Wheel was the place for awesome Chinese food and a fixture in Tahoe City for decades.
• Fanny Bridge Inn or just the FBI (State Park overlook on the Truckee River)
• Izzy’s Burger (Across the Truckee River from the FBI)
• Captain Munchies (I can’t remember where it was, but with a name like that, it had to be open during the ‘70s.)
• Sambo’s, Humpty’s (Sawtooth Ridge)…now if I can just remember the names of all the other restaurants that were there between Sambo’s and Humpty’s.
• Swenson’s Ice Cream Parlor, Naughty Dawg (Henrickson Building):
I remember as a teenager hitting Swenson’s with a powerful hunger one afternoon. The Firehouse Birthday Sundae sounded like it would do the trick, but since it wasn’t my birthday, I was a little shocked when it came out with sparklers flaring and the entire staff singing, ‘Happy Birthday.’
• Village Pizzeria (Roundhouse Mall)
• The Gourmet Chalet, Big Red’s, Coyote’s (Fiamma): In the 1970s and ‘80s, The Gourmet Chalet had the biggest and best sandwiches in town. It was also where I worked as a dishwasher for $1.75 an hour during the summer of 1974. If you are a parent looking to motivate your high school student to seek higher education, have them spend the summer cleaning meat slicers and greasy platters for low wages: college will quickly appear to be a really good idea. Big Red’s was an inexpensive chicken and spaghetti take-out. I still remember happily spending two bucks to get a big paper container full of Big Red’s spaghetti and meatballs. They had this huge sign of a Red Chicken, which looked like Foghorn Leghorn of Bugs Bunny fame.
• Big Bear Burgers
• Fast Eddies – Texas BBQ (The Backcountry)
• Blue Water Brewery (Asante Fitness)
• The Rusty Scupper (Tahoe House)
• The Double Dot: This was a fast food/pinball/hamburger joint located at the current location of the main driveway into The Cobblestone.
• La Questa (Bridgetender)
• The Forest Inn, Clementines (Black Bear Tavern)
• Baskin-Robbins (Stop and Go Ice Cream)
• Yama Sushi (Various places, including The Blue Agave)
• Tahoe City Bakery (Sassafras, next to the Post Office)
Did I miss your favorite spot? Let me know at email@example.com.
~ Tim Hauserman lives in Tahoe City. He wrote the guidebook to The Tahoe Rim Trail and ‘Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children.’