In mid August, San Francisco–based real estate investment firm JMA Ventures, LLC, announced the purchase of the West Shore Café Inn and Restaurant. Formerly owned by West Shore resident Nate Topol, the Homewood property opened in 2006 only to close three years later amidst rumors of bankruptcy.

A few days after JMA’s announcement came the news that the iconic lakefront restaurant would open for a special celebration of Labor Day weekend. From Saturday, Sept. 4 to Monday, Sept. 6 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., guests were invited to ‘dine, dance, and raise a glass.’

Even with the news of a new owner and opening, at press time JMA, which also runs Alpine Meadows and Homewood Mountain Resort, was unable to confirm regular hours, a firm opening date, or full menus. However, Moonshine Ink was there on that beautiful Saturday afternoon to check things out.

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Upon arrival, the restaurant was abuzz with activity, the harried hostess announced an hour and a half wait, shouts for drinks at the three-deep bar almost drowned out the sounds of Ben Jammin’, and more than one server looked ready to burst into tears.

After rushing to grab a few seats at the bar, we waited for drinks along with confirmation that food was available there. The staff maintained a brave face as duplicate drink orders piled up, news of food running out was relayed, and the impatient moneyed residents of the West Shore jockeyed for space and face time.

Throughout the chaos, it was clear that the staff was unprepared for the volume of folks excited about the re-opening of the troubled West Shore Café. Head chef announcements haven’t been made, only the promise of a more moderately priced menu and fun for all during the upcoming winter season. The menu that weekend included a watery chicken tortilla soup; cooked, yet inexplicably cold, ahi tuna wonton nachos; naked chicken satay; and my group’s saving grace, the croque West Shore, a black forest ham sandwich with Gruyere, asparagus, Dijon mustard, and served with baby greens. Sure, asparagus hasn’t been in season locally for months, but the sandwich was hands-down the best item we ordered.

It’s always difficult to open a restaurant, especially one with an already established reputation. Here’s to hoping that by the time the snow flies, JMA and the West Shore Café have all the kinks worked out.

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