Meet Your Merchant: Longtime Tahoe restaurant gears for Cinco de Mayo
May 7, 2014
What: Hacienda de la Sierra
Location: 931 Tahoe Blvd.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Scott Comstock compares Cinco de Mayo celebrations at Lake Tahoe to that of St. Patrick's Day.
"Not everyone is Irish — but they still celebrate," he said with a laugh.
The favorite annual Mexican celebration will take place Monday at Comstock's restaurant, the Hacienda de la Sierra.
Cinco de Mayo 2014 T-shirts are available to buy at the restaurant, and throughout the month of May, the Hacienda is offering a free margarita to each guest sporting a shirt from the restaurant's past parties.
“Some will be in for a drink and a taco and head home in an hour, and others will be here when the doors open until the restaurant closes.”
Comstock looks forward to digging through his 27-year collection of themed garb.
"I have T-shirts from almost every year," he said. "If someone has the chance to break out an old shirt and get a free margarita, I think it'd be fun."
For Monday's party, the Hacienda plans to have live music, food and drink specials and anticipates the good time for which the restaurant is known.
"(Cinco de Mayo) brings the whole town out to have fun," Comstock said. "Some will be in for a drink and a taco and head home in an hour, and others will be here when the doors open until the restaurant closes."
The Hacienda, or "The Hac" (pronounced "Hoss"), isn't known for its tame celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
People enjoy margaritas, shots of tequila and authentic Mexican food, and quite often guests leave some things behind.
"People are always coming back for lost and found," Comstock said.
The restaurant owner recalls one Cinco de Mayo party when a patron returned the next day in search of his teeth.
"The scary part is, we actually found them!" Comstock said with a laugh.
'ALL WALKS OF LIFE'
With its Yucatan Peninsula-themed paintings and large booth seating, the Hacienda de la Sierra has always had an open and inviting atmosphere.
Although Incline doesn't have a downtown, Comstock said the Hacienda seems to be the hub.
"The nice thing about the Hacienda is that people from all walks of life are comfortable here," he said. "You may get a blue collar crowd and a white collar crowd all having a margarita together and enjoying themselves."
Incline local Lynee Briscoe loves the Hacienda and its staff for the restaurant's flexibility with large parties.
When her coworker at the Hyatt retired after 28 years, the women were able to have a spontaneous going-away party at the Hacienda.
"They're always accommodating," Briscoe said. "We called last minute and threw a party here. It was so fun."
CONSISTENT QUALITY, STAFF
Kitchen manager Martín Torres and his assistant Lina Estrada Soto have been turning out plates of carnitas and quesadillas for 17 years.
Nearly all the restaurant's recipes come from Sofía Diaz, one of the original cooks. Sofía trained Martín so he could continue making the favorite enchiladas, chile rellenos, tamales and other signature dishes of the Hacienda.
Throughout the years, Martín has also learned how to handle the dinner rushes, which are especially busy during the summer and winter holidays.
"I just come here, close my eyes and work through the craziness," he said, laughing.
The tourist seasons aren't too hard, though, he said, because of the consistent staff Martín has had for many years.
With a relatively unchanging menu, staff and atmosphere, there is one thing that hasn't remained the same at the Hacienda.
What used to be ordered in pitchers — "a simple, cheap drink for massive consumption," Comstock said — has become a bit more fancy.
"Now people are moving toward fresh squeezed lime juice and organic agave nectar," he said of the Hacienda's margaritas.
With the increase in freshness and in the bartenders' attention to the ingredients, Comstock said himself has become more interested in tequila itself.
"It has come a long ways since the days of 'tequila's going to hurt me,'" he said.
Scott considers himself an aficionado and holds tastings and pairings each year to learn more about the varieties and processes of tequila.
Hacienda bartenders serve over 40 tequilas and have perfected their signature drinks.
Fresh Tracks, a special served at happy hour of Herradura Silver tequila and fresh squeezed lime juice, is the bar's biggest seller and Comstock's recommendation to all margarita fans.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at email@example.com.