TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Ice is poured into salt-rimmed glasses and Jed Kravitz’s pace quickens between servers, patrons and the taps of Dos Equis, Pacifico and Modelo beer.
Waiters hustle by hauling trays of shrimp tacos, tortilla warmers and homemade guacamole. Many families make themselves comfortable on the couches near the hostess’ station, seemingly unbothered by the wait for a table.
WORTH THE WAIT
At Hacienda del Lago customers have a number of things for which to wait — an exceptional view of the lake, live entertainment, signature margaritas, or authentic Mexican cuisine born from recipes three generations old.
“The food is very authentic,” said co-owner Eli Covey. “Truly the food is a couple notches above.”
Eli said his years spent living in San Diego and vacationing in Baja exposed him to true, authentic Mexican cuisine. And although a few items like the chimichanga have been added to the menu in recent years, 90 percent of the recipes are from long ago.
Hacienda del Lago still uses recipes from owner Joe Lanza’s previous partner’s wife’s great-grandmother. The secret sauces and ingredients create traditional tastes from the southern state of Oaxaca.
Eleven signature margaritas like the Escalada and the Sneaky Bandito have been on the menu for years. Newer additions, like the Eli’s Marg, is a lighter version of the classic drink, creating for Eli’s love for the taste of tequila.
Hacienda del Lago is in now the middle of its winter music series — 12 weeks of live entertainment. Eli said the restaurant bar brings in “quasi famous bands to local bands, and everything in between” for the Saturday nights of giveaways, drink specials and music.
To bring people to the shows Eli said he uses Facebook as well as “guerilla style” marketing such as posting flyers in key locations around the lake.
“It works for the local and the tourist market,” he said. Eli’s previous experience working in marketing gave me insight in how to help Hacienda del Lago grow even more.
“Facebook has a lot of marketing tools, believe it or not,” Eli said. “I try to use all of them.” One successful promotion has been Hacienda’s free nachos in exchange for patrons “Like”-ing their page.
Offline, Hacienda del Lago promotes a good time and helps local charities with its Unofficial Thursdays. The event is the Hacienda’s busiest week night, where raffles and giveaways send customers home with more than a full belly. Snow gear, gift certificates and lift tickets are some of the anticipated prizes. Each Thursday the Hacienda chooses a local nonprofit and donates the night’s proceeds.
“It’s really one of the methods we use to give back,” Eli said. Last October Hacienda del Lago raised $8,000 dollars for Olympic hopefuls Bryce Bennett and Nick Daniels.
A VIBE FOR ALL
Ski patrollers Samantha Rawlings and Kimberly Mann, Tahoe City residents, call themselves regulars at Hacienda del Lago and go for the enchiladas and drink specials after work.
“It’s a pretty chill vibe,” Kimberly said. “It’s a good atmosphere. They’re really good at balancing it all—catering to those who want to have fun but also to families.”
Hacienda del Lago is open seven days per week with dinner starting at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day starting from 10 a.m. on Sundays. The restaurant bar’s Facebook page has the current information for live music.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s a good atmosphere. They’re really good at balancing it all — catering to those who want to have fun but also to families.”
A regular at Hacienda del Lago