West Shore Café at Lake Tahoe: A room with a view

“THE WEST SHORE IS THE BEST SHORE,” the locals say. They point to all the outdoor recreational activities, from skiing and snow-shoeing to hiking and biking, on the most secluded part of the lake.

The quiet West Shore will gain international fame in May, when pro cyclists race past Homewood (pop. 840) during the AMGEN Tour of California’s first-ever visit to Lake Tahoe.

“Homewood—all the name implies” is how the town promoted itself in the ’20s, when wooden boats plied the lake’s pristine waters, writes E.B. Scott in The Saga of Lake Tahoe.

Not much has changed, at least compared to the rest of Tahoe. The Homewood ski resort is about as down home as it gets; “woodies” are stored in town; and the descendants of “Jake” Obexer, a Tahoe boating pioneer, still run the marina and general store.

Despite its slow pace, Homewood has some big news that will turn it into more of a “destination” resort—to dinner and lodging guests, as well as skiers and snowboarders from the foothills, Reno, Sacramento and down to San Francisco. This past summer, the owner of Homewood Mountain Resort bought the West Shore Café and Inn across the street, one of the finest and most picturesque dining and lodging spots providing year-round lakefront hospitality.

The restaurant had closed under its previous owners, but JMA Ventures brought it back to life. “The reopening fits JMA’s commitment to the West Shore. We are bringing back good food at an affordable price to those looking for lakeview dining and some fun at the same time,” says JMA Chairman Art Chapman.

The purchase, San Francisco-based JMA’s fourth at North Tahoe, also will incorporate lodging and skiing at Homewood for the first time. JMA plans to build out the resort further, with more lodging, a mid-mountain lodge, village center with ice rink and condos.

Its projects and holdings are well regarded: Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, the Hotel Avery, a full service hotel planned for Truckee, as well as Ghirardelli Square; Fairmont Heritage Place; and Epic Roast House and Waterbar restaurants along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

For now, however, JMA is working to integrate Homewood Mountain Resort with the West Shore Café and Inn, making it a top-notch après-ski, dining and lodging destination.

No detail is forgotten: Ski racks are beside the front door and slippers are inside, so skiers and snowboarders can remove their boots for dinner or drinks.

The restaurant is well appointed with classic mountain architecture. There is a warm, luxurious interior with Persian rugs over slate floors, knotty alder moldings throughout, oversized leather couches and chairs, rustic bronze chandeliers and fixtures.

The Café has hired a vibrant, experienced chef, Jessika (pronounced “Yess-ika) Bryce. She has been a vital part of the Reno-Tahoe dining scene, at restaurants such as Baxter’s Bistro at Northstar-at-Tahoe, Bistro 7 in Reno and Frederick’s Fusion Bistro at Incline Village.

“I like to alter a dish in such a way that a novice, a gourmet or someone who doesn’t care at all will be able to enjoy it,” Jessika says. “It’s really important to hit every area of the pallet with both taste and texture.”

Take her Irish Lamb Chops, for example. Though the black currant demi-glace lamb chop would typically include mashed potatoes and veggies on the side, Jessika takes those and creates a “vegetable box o’fun.”

The chef’s starters include Hamachi poke, West Shore Salad (organic mixed greens and balsamic raspberry vinaigrette), mushroom bruschetta and French onion soup.

Entrees include pork loin chop with apple- bacon chutney and sweet and spicy yams; seared sea scallops—pan-seared with white truffle mashed potatoes; roasted free-range chicken with roasted vegetables and polenta cake; and a rib-eye steak with roasted red potatoes.

Desserts include chocolate torte, Dutch apple-pear streusel and crème brulée. Under its previous owners, some diners had complained about the restaurant’s high prices.

Homewood has lowered the prices. Entrees are in the low $20 range, or less. Most lunch items are $11. A children’s menu is also offered.

The West Shore’s lodging is upstairs from the dining room. It offers six mountain-inspired guest rooms and suites that provide guests with luxurious comforts and conveniences such as a daily house-baked Continental breakfast and on- demand door-to-door shuttle service to nearby destinations. The guest rooms have stunning views of the lake. “The inn is very well appointed,” says one recent guest. “It is easily the nicest place to stay at the lake.”

West Shore Café and Inn
5160 West Lake Blvd., Homewood
530-525-5200, WestShoreCafe.com

(photo credit: Greyson Howard)

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