Meet Your Merchant: Captain Jon’s – an homage to Tahoe’s past, present, future
TAHOE VISTA, Calif. – The sun is setting to the west of the Lake Tahoe Basin and the legendary alpenglow begins to illuminate the eastern mountain range. Tuck Wilson’s soothing, tenor voice sings in harmony with his acoustic guitar. Candles flicker against the white table clothes. A savory smell lingers from the kitchen. Customers quietly indulge in each course, engaging in laughter and conversation while Wilson serenade’s them with Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”It’s Thursday night at Captain Jon’s, and as it goes with this unique and elegant restaurant, it’s nothing short of magical. Located lakeside on Highway 28 in Tahoe Vista and built in 1907, Captain Jon’s is steeped in history, quality and reputation. It’s one of the oldest commercial buildings on Lake Tahoe and boasts the best views of the south shore.”I love the vibe of this place … there’s a really classic-Tahoe feel to Captain Jon’s, and that’s what makes it so special,” said Chris Werner, one of three owners of the waterfront restaurant.In 2008, Gordon Flett took over operations at Captain Jon’s with a vision to enhance special events and implement year-round operations at the one-of-a-kind restaurant.”Many people associate Captain Jon’s with summer operations, only when we are now in our third winter and in the process of nurturing that seasonal end of the business,” said Flett.Tired of icy slopes, gray skies and a diminishing wind in his sails, Flett relocated to North Lake Tahoe in search of reliable ski conditions and superior sailing – his two favorite passions.With a history of service industry experience, Flett had been cultivating his restaurant ownership skills for several decades before acquiring Captain Jon’s just four years ago.”My wife and I own the Wild Alaskan Fish Company in the Raley’s shopping center in Incline, so we thought the opportunity to embrace a lakefront operation would present a whole new set of opportunities for us as restaurant owners,” Flett said.That same year that Flett took ownership, Werner joined the Captain Jon’s crew as a food runner and busser. It wasn’t long before the hard worker climbed the service ladder to become part-owner in December 2010, along with fellow server, Jason Dillavou.”I learned everything from ground up, and in that time, I’ve seen Captain Jon’s slowly grow and evolve, so it felt natural for me to invest the chunk of change I had earned over the years back into the restaurant as owner,” Werner said.Together, the trio is focusing efforts on wedding parties, special events, happy hour deals, innovative marketing techniques and live music opportunities, all while maintaining the character and nostalgia of this unparalleled venue.”The facility is unique in that it is a multi-dimensional operation offering several different venues within the entire property,” Flett said. One major highlight of the property is the on-the-water-experience. Many restaurants around the lake boast a waterfront dining, but nothing compares to sitting on a dock surrounded by the crystal-blue Sierra lake at Captain Jon’s.”In the summertime, our Boathouse is lined with tables that are right on the water – there’s no other experience like it on the lake,” Werner said. “If we were to apply for that permit today, we would not get it, but because we’ve been a restaurant since the ’70s, we’re able to offer that unique experience.”Behind the scenes, but at the forefront of success at Captain Jon’s, is Head Chef Tony Velasquez and his creative partner, wife Eva. The husband and wife duo have played a central role in designing the menu, selecting quality ingredients and composing plate presentation.”He is the heart of our kitchen operation and a leader among all of our staff,” Flett said.The menu features a variety of gourmet steak, seafood and pasta cuisine, an extensive wine and cocktail list, and a three-course prix fixe menu any night of the week.The famous waterfront Boathouse at Captain Jon’s was recently winterized, providing happy hour patrons an exceptional view of the sunset and wedding guests with a distinct setting.”The food is quality and the location is simply amazing, and I think that’s why we have so many people who come in and want to celebrate their weddings or anniversaries with us,” Werner said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love what I’m doing and believe in what I’m a part of.”
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