Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tally Ho(tel)-ing in Tahoe

Lapping waters and an air quality shaped by pine trees and high elevation was my first mental snapshot of Tahoe. It was summer. There would be a wedding. And I was able to breathe it all in, even if the altitude made that a bit difficult at times (elevation level: 6,224 feet).

Hyatt’s Lows (Incline Village, NV)

Room without a view: This Hyatt definitely topped one of my lists, but not one that anyone’d want to be on. Our room was chokingly overpriced and had no admirable amenities worthy of the cost. Just an ordinary room…with an empty mini-fridge, the in-room menu missing, and one, tiny, windmill-shaped window, which looked out on to the parking lot and allowed us a glimpse of the Lake, if we craned our necks enough.

For the birds: The Lone Eagle Grille was one lame duck - this menu was a real snoozer. My tomato salad looked like a mother bird had regurgitated it onto the plate. Red and yellow tomatoes were mercilessly tossed around with fresh mozzarella, until they were all soggy, splintered, and spent. But even more offensive were the box croutons. Really? At these prices, the croutons should have been sculpted in the shape of the Lake by in-house, bread artisans. Mushroom soup, mediocre paninis…zzzz.

Pool shade: Even our poolside play was overwhelmed by a black cloud. Our waitress’ standoffish sneer was only outdone by her skull and crossbones, neck tattoo - a tangible foreshadowing of the amount of shit in her britches that she was ready to dole out to any Ned or Nancy that looked at her sideways…or ordered a drink from her. Yikes.

What’s up? Dock Bar:  Weathered planks extended over a watery walkway and ended at a gently bobbing raft of wood, equipped with a full bar. Watching the mountains swallow the sun, cocktail in hand, made for one solid afternoon (its one Hyatt point).

Sunnyside’s Ups (Tahoe City, CA)

I have an affinity for charming dumps. Hotels which have held up over time and maintained their original character. Good bones. Comfortable in their skin. A fixture from a former era whose genuine sense of self casually waltzed their way into the present. Sunnyside fit that bill almost better than any I’d ever seen.

Sunnyside was a wilderness lodge on the Lake with only 23 rooms, all named after the surrounding area (we had the Emerald Bay suite). Our room resembled a small apartment with a living space and separate bedroom, along with a private patio that opened out onto the water. Hotel guests also had access to a secluded deck on the second floor (ideal for soaking up some sunny silence).

But if it was a party you were looking for, the restaurant downstairs was hopping all day long. Sunnyside's deck had been a landmark since the 50's and was famous for the way the expansive, wooden structure hung over the water, along with the endless stream of flawless food pumped out of the kitchen with the consistency and quality of a four star restaurant. Fresh fish tacos and crisp salads loaded with hunky salmon fillets, perfectly cooked burgers, chicken wings worthy of awards - casual fare done at its best. Whether you came for lunch or an overnight stay, anywhere on the property would land you on the Sunnyside of the street.

Casino Row (Crystal Bay, NV)

Southwest Airline’s system crashed on the day of our return flight, so we were forced to spend a couple extra days in Tahoe. Not too shabby! Until we realized that every decent hotel was sold out for the weekend. No problem, there was a Biltmore on the Cali/Nevada border.

The Filthmore: An omen of rotting wood, 20 feet high, bearing the name, “Biltmore”, rocked unsteadily like a roach-filled pinanta waiting to fall from the sky. 40 years of nicotine and mildew infiltrated every mote of my nostrils. Musty, dusty, and crusty. Our cottage at the "Filthmore" was the equivalent of indoor camping. Raw, exposed beams of plywood, which looked as if they’d been salvaged from a pile of garbage, framed windows that let in just enough light to see whether anything was about to crawl across my face while I laid in bed.*cue Beastie Boys* “No. Sleep. At Biltmore!" One star, one eye open, and one foot out the door.