Maggie’s restaurant and bar features a modern American menu and casual vibe, photo by Brad Scott, courtesy Desolation Hotel

Maggie’s Restaurant and Bar: A Taste for Adventure

The new restaurant in the recently launched Desolation Hotel features modern American fare in a chic wooded setting


For Tahoe’s outdoor aficionados, the moniker Maggies brings to mind a pair of peaks in Desolation Wilderness, a popular, challenging hike near Emerald Bay whose 8,500-foot summits pay off with spectacular mountain and water views. It’s also the inspiration and name for a fresh new restaurant at the adventure-focused upscale Desolation Hotel recently launched in South Lake Tahoe.

Located on Desolation Hotel’s third floor, the restaurant’s deck was built around a stately pine tree, photo by Brad Scott, courtesy Desolation Hotel

Tucked among pines on Poplar Street on the former Tahoe Villa Motel site, the sleek wood, concrete and steel mountain-modern property designed by South Shore’s Monarch Architecture and constructed by Sierra Sustainable Builders boasts 21 suites and townhomes furnished with soaking tubs, fireplaces and kitchen facilities, including Bertazzoni gas stoves, Chemex coffee makers and local Bare Roots coffee. The dog-friendly spot also features a saltwater pool, large outdoor spa, cedar sauna, Peloton-equipped fitness room and 31 EV charging stations.

Owner Chet Pipkin, a Stateline resident, philanthropist and founder of Belkin consumer electronics company, wanted Maggie’s restaurant and bar to serve as a destination for the resort’s guests and Tahoe tourists, as well as stand in as a living room of sorts for locals; he and his four-legged friend are frequent visitors.

Located on the third floor of the hotel, the indoor-outdoor eatery features slide-away window walls, a vaulted ceiling, granite-topped bar and backlit wine wall and can accommodate 22 guests inside. It has a bit of a treehouse feel, with its L-shaped deck facing the property’s courtyard and pool built around a pine tree growing up through the planking; a two-sided fireplace, outdoor heaters and umbrellas keep up to 30 diners warm or cool. An additional back deck area enclosed with sliding glass window walls can seat another 24 patrons and, timed right, provides a peek of the sunset.

Maggie’s executive chef is Skyler Chauss, an East Bay native who learned to cook at a young age by watching and helping his dad in the kitchen. 

Pistachio-crusted lamb chops are served with pureed purple potatoes, squash hash and blueberry mint gastric, photo by Brad Scott, courtesy Desolation Hotel

“One of my older brothers became an executive chef and he brought me into the restaurant business at 13 dishwashing,” says Chauss, who most recently worked at the Bistro Edgewood in Stateline. “I learned a lot of what I know from my brother and get a lot of inspiration from my whole family, including authentic Italian cuisine from my grandmother.”

The seasonally changing modern American menu features “whatever’s fresh, in season, and readily available and gives me inspiration for my specials and menu items with a little twist of my Italian background,” says Chauss, who works with high-end area purveyors such as Habeger’s Produce Plus based in Kings Beach and Allen Brothers seafood out of San Francisco.

Crystal Zeinert, the hotel’s food and beverage and dining room manager, also an Edgewood alum, manages the animal-sketch-illustrated cocktail list, whose drinks are named after Desolation Hotel staff’s pets: Clara’s Got Kick is a margarita mixed with honeydew and jalapeño shrub, and Karma Comes Around is made with Amador County chardonnay barrel-aged bourbon, brown sugar vanilla simple syrup and bitters. Mocktails include Rah Kitty’s Fojito—a cool sip of blueberries, mint, simple syrup, lime and soda water. A long list of whiskies runs from Angel’s Envy to Yamazaki 12-year single malt; the compact California-focused wine list includes many pours by the glass.

In line with fueling up before or after an outdoor adventure, brunch is a big deal here. The hearty midday menu includes starters such as steamed clams with fennel, bacon and white wine, as well as smoked lake trout lox with creamed goat cheese and pickled onion. Olives here get stuffed with roasted garlic, wrapped in Italian sausage then breaded and fried, and mushroom arancini come out crispy with a lemon garlic aioli for dipping. The blood orange and burrata salad is tossed with charred frisée and a balsamic reduction.

Sashimi-grade seared tuna crudo is finished with a lemon caper vinaigrette and jalapeño caper-like “pearls,” photo by Brad Scott, courtesy Desolation Hotel

Main plates might feature raspberry lemonade French toast along with bananas Foster coconut pancakes. A short rib eggs Benedict is served on a polenta cake with Mornay sauce, while an Italian-Mexican mashup pairs osso bucco chilaquiles with a verde sauce. Other brunch go-tos: chicken-fried pork belly on a house-made biscuit with sausage gravy, a crispy fried-chicken sandwich with kimchi slaw and a grilled ham, brie, sliced apple and apricot jam sandwich.

Dinner brings menu additions for any appetite. A light sashimi-grade seared tuna crudo is finished with a lemon caper vinaigrette and jalapeño caper-like “pearls.” The grilled octopus gets a quick pickled cucumber arugula salad and lemon cilantro oil. 

Evening entree offerings could include a Dijon mustard-crusted salmon with a honey mustard beurre blanc, as well as a house-made chili garlic tagliatelle pasta with little neck clams, crispy skin snapper, sherry wine, shallots, parsley, tomatoes and pea tendrils. The vegetarian dish of house-made spinach conchiglie (pasta shells) is tossed with blistered tomatoes, fire-roasted peppers, sauteed spinach and red pepper pesto.

Meat lovers can look for the likes of pistachio-crusted lamb chops with pureed purple potatoes, squash hash and blueberry mint gastric, as well as grilled filet mignon, veal chop and New York steak finished with bordelaise, marsala and bearnaise sauces, respectively. Feeling like a burger? A Piedmontese beef (from the Italian Alps) patty is topped with sharp cheddar and Maggie’s special sauce.

For a sweet finish, save room for the Reese’s-like peanut butter chocolate cheesecake with chocolate ganache and honey-roasted peanuts, or the blueberry buckle cake (a dense fruit-filled coffee cake topped with a streusel) with blueberry compote and creme anglaise. Or choose a comforting carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Service here is casual and friendly and when it comes time to settle the bill, you’ll be happy to know that Desolation Hotel and Maggie’s help support a variety of local organizations, including the Sugar Pine Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe, the Wildland Firefighters Foundation, the Tamarack and Caldor Victims Fund and the League to
Save Lake Tahoe.

Maggie’s is open for brunch and dinner daily; reservations recommended. 933 Poplar St., South Lake Tahoe, CA, (530) 725-0101, Also, the former Sorensen’s Resort is now the renewed and refreshed Desolation Hotel Hope Valley, with updated dining opportunities coming soon.

Susan D. Rock is Tahoe Quarterly’s longtime Food & Wine editor.

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