The CB in the name CB’s Bistro stands for Carnelian Bay, the curved corner of North Lake Tahoe where the beloved family-owned restaurant sits tucked into a small shopping center behind a 7-11 store and a laundromat. If you’re not looking for the place, you might not find it.
In contrast to GarWoods across the street with its lakefront pier and boozy punch that attract visitors and crowds, CB’s is a locals’ place, a family-friendly joint that slings pizza and burgers and has arcade games for the kids. It’s the kind of restaurant in which regulars post up for a beer at 5 p.m. every night and neighborhood families come down for dinner on bikes or golf carts in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. Youth soccer teams and high school basketball teams have gathered here after games, there’s a community barbecue every June, and the restaurant holds fundraisers for the local Boys & Girls Club and the Sierra Community House.
“CB’s is a local staple in our community,” says Lexy Plambeck, who lives up the street with her husband, Karl, and son, Chase. “It’s a place similar to Cheers where you are always greeted with a smile. Our family eats there more than at home.”
Originally named CB’s Pizza, the restaurant was first opened by Patricia Veith back in 1986. Veith had worked at a pizza joint in Tahoe City and dreamed of opening her own place. She bought what was then a defunct Mountain Mike’s Pizza and opened CB’s. Her place was a community gathering spot right from the beginning.
In 2002, Veith was ready to retire and sold the business to Lysa Hill, who’d worked in the restaurant, and her business partner, Phil GilanFarr, a local architect who wanted to keep CB’s alive. “When Patty said she wanted to sell, I thought, I want to buy it. I don’t want to lose this community asset,” Phil says.
Phil’s two daughters, Jen and Callie, started working for Hill in the restaurant as teenagers growing up in Tahoe. Callie began as a busser, then moved her way up to server. By the time Callie was 18, she was managing office work, creating the specials menu, and sweeping the floors.
Hill was the one who taught Callie to cook and later encouraged her to go to culinary school. Callie studied at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco before spending several years cooking at Michelin-star restaurants in Italy.
By 2008, Hill was ready to move on, and Phil bought her shares of the business. Callie had moved back to Tahoe by then and worked in many of the best fine dining establishments around the lake: Wolfdale’s, PlumpJack, the Ritz-Carlton. “I wanted to be a chef with a fine dining restaurant, but I really enjoyed the lifestyle of going to ski or jump in the lake and be outdoors,” Callie says. “I came back home to Tahoe because I could do both here.”
In 2015, Callie left her job as sous chef at Incline’s Jack Rabbit Moon and came back to help her dad run CB’s. She renamed the restaurant CB’s Bistro. Her sister, Jen, who works in graphic design, helped her rebrand. The new name indicated that they served more than just pizza. The menu expanded to include more salads, soups, and sandwiches, including specialties like homemade focaccia bread and a secret enchilada sauce recipe. Callie revamped the interior as well, tearing down a wall that separated the bar from the dining room to open up the space for everyone and installing a community table, where people could gather and meet their neighbors.
Old-timers started calling the place Callie’s Bistro, a different take on CB’s, and they made T-shirts with her name on it. Two years ago, Callie and her husband, Frank Dela Fuente, had a daughter. Initially, Callie hoped she could raise her daughter while running the restaurant, but her daughter was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder that means a person who has it can’t eat gluten (a prime ingredient in pizza crust).
“Just being in the restaurant makes her sick, since there’s flour flying everywhere,” Callie says. “I love this place and it’s been my home, but I can’t fathom keeping it, unless everyone wants to eat cauliflower crust.”
The restaurant is listed for sale for $295,000. “We want the community to know we’re selling it not because we’re done with it, but because it doesn’t work for our family anymore,” says Phil. “We hope whoever takes it over will keep the legacy of CB’s alive.”