Possible silver linings of virus crisis for Lake Tahoe restaurants

Kayla Anderson
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Restaurants around the Tahoe Basin are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and have had to quickly adapt on a daily basis to comply with new health code standards, as well as meet the new demand and generate some kind of revenue to stay afloat.

Here are some of the struggles, fears, new processes and potential silver linings of the pandemic in regard to local businesses:

Mountain High Sandwich Co., Incline Village

Over on the northeastern shore of Lake Tahoe, the Mountain High Sandwich Co. on Country Club Drive has shifted its business to meet the new demand of COVID-19 era customers.

“We’re doing okay, we’re hanging in there,” says Mountain High Owner Ashley Brimm who co-owns the business with her husband John. “It’s been a little tough, but we’re thankful that we can still stay open.”

Mountain High is a seasonal business that utilizes a lean staff of four to six people, and they’re slowly trying to bring back employees.

“We’ve gone through different stages,” Ashley said. “We went from a staff of four to two people, but we’re trying to build it back up and bring another person on. We’re thankful to be set up for takeout and we keep adjusting the business as new recommendations from the health department come out.”

Mountain High has also continued to serve its full menu and the majority of its grab-and-go items yet has temporarily adjusted their operating hours to be open from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. daily.

“We’re also doing a lot of bulk items … soups are a big seller and we’re focusing on producing more immunity shots and cold-pressed juices,” she said, as Mountain High meets the demand of people trying to boost their immune systems now.

Some of the most popular items include the 12-oz. cold-pressed kale-based green Juice that goes heavy on the ginger and the Sunshine Juice containing carrot, turmeric, and orange. The Blue Magic is also a popular one, made with coconut, pineapple juice, and blue spirulina. Wellness shots which include turmeric, orange, ginger, and lemon.

Along with its healthy drinks, John Brimm is making vegan macaroni and cheese bakes that feed 2-4 people and they are also selling buttermilk biscuits, chocolate chip walnut cookies, vegan/gluten free banana nut muffins, and house made bluebird bagels by the dozen.

“As far as being able to be flexible and adjust, knowing that we can operate in a crisis like this has been a silver lining because I can feel confident that we can stay open during something like this,” Ashley said. “And the kindness of people, customers, and staff … they have been so supportive and that’s been a huge thing for me, seeing it come out during something like this. We’ll figure it out a little better as soon as we understand what the new normal will be and will definitely be putting new procedures in place.

“In thinking about how crazy it can get in here in the summer,” she added, “we’re looking at implementing a separate cash register away from our main area for phone and to-go orders so that it will not be so chaotic and we can serve people better.”

Samurai Restaurant, South Lake Tahoe

At 5:15pm on a Wednesday evening, the phone is ringing off the hook for people placing to-go orders for Samurai sushi. When COVID-19 pandemic orders started materializing, Samurai Sushi closed for three weeks but couldn’t afford to keep its doors shut.

“We were on the verge of bankruptcy. We applied for every possible (government aid) that we could but it takes time to process so we had to reopen in order to not go out of business,” said Samurai Owner Tuya Altangerel.

Samurai reopened the restaurant on Easter Sunday for take out only.

“We’re offering our full menu and people can order from our website, or call us,” Altangerel says. “We’re hoping that we can reopen as soon as possible, and that people will come back stronger than ever.”

Samurai has also given away around $500 in donated food to Barton Hospital’s emergency room and Stateline facility along with supporting essential workers such as the local CHP, fire department, and others with sushi.

“I know that May and June are going to be slow but hopefully people who are out of work will still go out again,” she adds. Samurai Sushi is now open daily from noon-7:30pm for takeout; for more information visit their website.

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