Healthy Beginnings

From Tahoe City to Truckee: Three Eateries that Make Your Mouth Water

Restaurant Review

It’s Saturday morning. Your stomach rumbles because you’re (hungry) and excited for some Sierra Nevada therapy, in whatever form that may be. Perhaps you are a Tahoe native, already proud of the variety of local dining options. Or, you live in the Bay and plan to visit friends in the area. You know you’ll be eating out at some point, but you want to make it count, saving for something that comes from a food source that doesn’t plague your conscience or dietary needs. Check out the following three gems–and be sure to stop by at least one next time you’re nearby.

CoffeeBar – 10120 Jibboom St., Truckee, CA 96161, 530-587-2000, 6am-8pm Mon-Sun

Opened in 2010, CoffeeBar exemplifies a local-vore’s favorite eatery in that all food and drink offerings are made with heartfelt care, artistry, and authenticity that are inherent in Italian cuisine. Owner, Greg Bucheister, describes CoffeeBar’s offerings as unmatched in terms of passion for coffee and specialty food items. Walking the walk of sustainability in the community, CoffeeBar sources all of their produce locally, instead of from faceless giants with “organic” on their labels. The modern, yet unpretentious café offers indoor and outdoor seating, weather-permitting.

You won’t find better tasting or higher quality coffee anywhere in the region. Roasted exclusively for CoffeeBar by Carl Staub, their brew is the highest classification of organic available: C1 Grade, meaning there are no more than three secondary defects per 300g. All house coffee is from a French-press, not an auto-drip machine, and each shot is made to be consistently smooth and bold in the likeness of Italian espresso. You’ll find drinks such as a Lemon Chiffon Latte or cold-extracted Iced Toddy coffee. Their latte art further testifies to each barista’s will and skill to create outstanding beverages.

If the drinks aren’t enough to entice you, allow yourself time to pour over the menu, which offers made-to-order paninis, crêpes, salads, homemade gelato, and several other specialties. Gluten-free pastries and seasonal quiches from the local Whole Treats grace the bakery case. Vegetarian options abound, including the hearty Campagna Panini (Spinach, zucchini, eggplant caponata, tomato, red onion and smoked Mozzarella with roasted garlic aioli on herb Focaccia). Meats and cheeses are also artisanally made, meaning they are at times imported, or if possible, obtained from a local source. If you are vegan, or don’t eat gluten or dairy, ask the friendly and knowledgeable staff to suggest something.

Community activism is apparent in more than just the food. CoffeeBar partners with local non-profit, High-Fives Foundation, showcases several local artists at any given time, and soon, will host the new “Change” events, which will promote action and funding for sustainable initiatives in the area. CoffeeBar is also a special venue for other events such as art openings and CoffeeBar After Dark music events. The bottom line: you are missing out if you pass through Truckee without even a shot of espresso from this dynamic and impactful place.

The Uncommon Kitchen – Inside New Moon Natural Foods in Tahoe City: 505 W. Lake Blvd., Sunnyside-Tahoe City, CA 96146, 530-583-3663, 11am-4pm weekdays (hot food) & sandwiches/sushi til 7pm, Sat/Sun grab and go sushi

Perhaps you are picking up some local produce from New Moon right outside of Tahoe City and you freeze in the entrance due to an alluring smell–unmistakably a diverse spread of wholesome, homemade fare. That would be the Uncommon Kitchen, owned and operated by Dawn and Doug Baehr, formerly owner/chefs of Stoneyridge Café. They strive to use organic whenever possible, and their meats are free range and lack preservatives or other additives.

Dawn describes the business as an ethnic deli. You’ll find a vast spread of sandwiches on freshly baked bread, sushi of the pescatarian, vegetarian, and even raw varietals. Other offerings include sprouted nut salad–part of the famous raw taco, and constantly rotating hot food options. Doug’s passion for authenticity is evident in the scrumptious offerings that please a rainbow of diets. Try his signature Pan Bagna sandwich, a New Orleans tradition, or, a noodle bowl made with seasonal vegetables and free-range chicken. For dessert, you can always find traditional chocolate mousse. Their novel desserts also include vegan tiramisu, chocolate-covered macadamia-stuffed dates, or the innovative chia seed kheer, a raw and vegan twist on a comforting Indian pudding that will blow you away. Life is good.

The Uncommon Kitchen has been open for five years and thrives from a loyal lunch crowd. Weekend options are a bit limited, though you can still get sushi to go on Saturdays and Sundays. They are conscious of the waste they produce and use biodegradable packaging materials.

The Kitchen also offers a catering service for weddings, office gatherings, or other special events. This is a highly customized process, so if you’re interested, give them a call. You can also find their sushi, salads, and a few other items at Squaw Valley & the New Moon Store in Truckee. In the summertime, they set up a booth at the Commons Beach concert series in Tahoe City and even help to nourish yogis at the acclaimed Wanderlust festival.

Firesign Café – 1785 W. Lake Blvd., Sunnyside-Tahoe City, CA, 96146, 530-583-0871, 7am-3pm Mon-Sun

Open for 34 years and counting, Firesign Café is a Tahoe staple for outstanding, freshly made, reasonably priced breakfast and lunch. Gumaro, chef for 18 years, continues to craft inventive, sumptuous dishes for all ages and palates.

Nothing in Firesign comes from a can, even the beans that comprise the black bean burger. All sauces, dressings, salsas, marinades are made in house. The salmon is smoked on site, OJ is fresh-squeezed, and soups are made from a homemade base. This commitment to freshness is evident in everything you try. You must order the eggs benedict; I’ve never tasted hollandaise so light, yet flavorful with the house-made smoked salmon, and a perfectly poached egg. YES! Soups change daily, as do various other specials such as the Dill & Artichoke Omelette, or Cowboy Benedict–I suggest you go in to find out what these entail.

For vegetarians or vegans, you can count on colorful plates such as the tofu burger, black bean burger, and certain salads to be free of animal products. Just ask your server what he/she suggests. The staff knows the menu inside and out, so any queries you have will be whole-heartedly answered, and your expectations surpassed. I was curious about the seemingly typical butternut squash soup. Vicky, long-time manager convinced me with her “When in Rome” approach. I was immediately delighted to sip on it, savoring poached pears and candied walnuts, which brought out the distinctness of the squash even more.

Firesign’s resourcefulness and seasonality are apparent in the menu. You can expect standard American fare that stands out because it’s made with joy and attention to flavor pairings The café is enraptured in Tahoe love, a large central fireplace and rustic décor setting the country-like vibe. Regulars are greeted by first name, visitors welcomed with a warm introduction to the day’s specials and the treasure of a menu. You will leave happy, guaranteed.