There was a time when Tahoe Joe’s, a small regional chain, was worthy enough to rank on our annual best restaurants list. In addition to that, they had a happy hour that packed in people with $3 beer or house wine and $3 hamburgers. It didn’t seem possible to make money at these price points.
They probably didn’t. The chain that was launched in Fresno by Dave Fansler ended up in bankruptcy court last year and the remaining restaurants were purchased by BBQ Holdings, a company that owns Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que. The Tahoe Joe’s in San Luis Obispo closed in September 2021 and three locations — Bakersfield, Fresno and Visalia — remain open according to the website.
I had noticed some changes on my recent visits, with that cheeseburger and fries at happy hour now up to $8. This being an election year, perhaps we should demand Congress provide happy hour hamburger subsidies.
Reader Steve Ramsey, who said he lives across the street from our Marketplace location, emailed me to tell me he’d noticed some changes.
“The mixed drinks were weak and food not as good as before,” he wrote. “The menu was completely re-done — everything is up in price and the menu reduced to one page. All Day happy hour on Sundays was eliminated. We tried to get information from our waiter, but they knew nothing other than ‘changes are taking place.’
“When was the last time I drove by TJ’s and smelled that wonderful smoke as they cooked over an open fire with wood? I have enjoyed the smell and the smoke for many years, but it now seems nonexistent. They are cooking in a different way and it’s not good.”
Come to think of it I, too, loved driving by and smelling the oak wood fire smells, but I suspect that the current regulatory environment may have more to do with scrubbing that out of the air and eliminating its pleasantness.
We did visit and, after hearing Steve’s tales, were expecting the worst. We anticipated dreck, swill, horrible food. However, the food we received is best described as less satisfying rather than horribly bad.
Their famous fresh green beans were an example on my plate. I ordered the twin petite filets ($42) while my companion chose the Knob Creek salmon ($31). These green beans used to be heavily seasoned with bacon and onion bits and were quite an attraction. We tried to make them at home and could never quite get it right. On this visit they were fresh and cooked adequately, firm but not limp, but there was almost no bacon and onion presence.
It extends in a similar way to other menu items. Those sourdough rolls they bring out when …….