Meet Your Merchant: Tahoe Biltmore’s restaurant reaches out to locals
Special to the Bonanza
What: Bilty’s Brew & Q
Location: Tahoe Biltmore Lodge and Casino, Highway 28
Bilty’s Brew & Q in the Tahoe Biltmore continues to offer barbecued favorites — but a recently expanded menu offers a greater variety.
Chef Bryan Peterson added salads, burgers and tacos as well as options for kids. The expansion is a reflection of the restaurant and the property’s goal to better serve a local crowd.
“Our goal is to get this back to locals,” Peterson said. “The tried and true will be our local people. That’s why we decided to open it up a little more.”
Before October 2012, the restaurant was Conrad’s Steak and Chop House, but after Biltmore Director of Operations Tyler Gaffaney took a trip to Kansas City, Conrad’s was on its way out.
“I had decided there were too many steak houses in this corridor,” Gaffaney said. “It didn’t make sense anymore … and I had barbecue on the brain.”
Gaffaney’s concept for Bilty’s Brew & Q was born — he wanted a new eatery that served the warm and smoky summer food everyone loves.
FINE DINING MEETS COMFORT FOOD
The brick interior from Conrad’s stayed, as did the great rock fireplace. Much of the interior was redone, however, and with the industrial style lamps now hanging over copper tables, Bilty’s Brew & Q seems to have found the happy marriage between upscale steakhouse and casual smokehouse.
Gaffaney also decided to move the photos that once hung in the hallway leading to the banquet hall to Bilty’s.
Guests continue to be intrigued by the images of old mining and logging days, one of a Model T crossing the raging Truckee River, and photos of ski resorts before the big names of Squaw Valley and Northstar.
“The thing that I try to do is be honest with everyone that comes in,” Gaffaney said. “I’m not trying to sell a brand new building here; we’re trying to go off the history of it.”
The restaurant’s décor and the casino’s written history on the front of each menu create a nostalgic feel that is fitting for an establishment that boasts 67 years on the lake.
Every sauce and marinade at Bilty’s is homemade by the chef.
“I don’t believe in the freezer,” Peterson said.
Each chicken breast is marinated for a full 24 hours before being breaded, cooked and served as a chicken tender.
The sandwich with the biggest bragging rites, however, is Bilty’s “Ring of Fire”: two eight-ounce patties, one stuffed with jalapeños and the other with pepper jack cheese, sit under four slices of bacon. The big spicy burger is served with a steak knife in the middle, Peterson said, “just to hold it up.”
The most popular item on the menu and a favorite for locals is the Taste of the Lake — Bilty’s dinner for two at the comfortable price of $32.99.
“It’s fresh, made here, and tastes good,” Gaffaney said of the plate that includes pulled pork, brisket, baby back ribs, chicken and four different sides.
Craft beer, on the rise everywhere, is available for easy prices. Bilty’s offers 33 craft beers, such as Speakeasy and Prohibition Ale and Dogfish IPA, many for less $8.
‘NOWHERE BUT UP’
With a focus on “big,” the restaurant’s other big focus is on locals.
The local favorite of Tuesday night’s prime rib special has been permanently added to the menu.
As for more changes, this summer Bilty’s will have a traditional smoker and add the option for large to-go orders.
“I’m going to flood North Lake with some good smells,” Gaffaney said with a laugh. “We want to get back to being known for our restaurants having good food and great prices.”
Gaffaney said he sees Bilty’s and the Biltmore itself “going nowhere but up,” in part because Bryan is now part of the team.
“Bryan is one of the best changes,” Gaffaney said of the chef.
Peterson retired from the Elephant Bar restaurants to come to the lake.
It wasn’t long into his retirement that the chef got back to work doing what he loved best.
“I accepted the challenge,” Peterson said of his position at Bilty’s. “It’s a lot more fun having the freedom. It’s all I look for.”
Bilty’s Brew & Q is open daily at 4 p.m. Gaffaney and Peterson have plans to revamp the café in the Biltmore during the spring with hopes to reopen by summer.
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.