Incline Village’s favorite BBQ joint – Gus’ Tahoe BBQ – is back and open for business Thursday-Monday from 4:30pm to close.
Gus, located at 930 Tahoe Boulevard in Incline Village, welcomed approximately 50 to 70 people on its reopening day, Saturday, October 14, 2023, to enjoy a quick, tasty meal and watch their favorite sports on one of nine big-screen TVs.
“Opening day was great, it was like we never left,” said John Cheney, Owner of Gus, who also owns Big Water Grille. Cheney originally opened Gus in 2014 and ran the business until 2021, when he sold it. The new restaurateurs changed the menu from open pit barbecue to lounge eats. The change wasn’t very successful, business stalled and they stopped paying rent. (The former Nevada Jane’s owners posted on social media that they were closing because of rising rents, delays in approving games and a lack of kitchen staff.) The property was returned to Cheney, who decided to bring back the popular Santa Maria. – barbecue in style.
“It was successful, it’s going great. We went through COVID and a fire shut us down in the summer of 2021. Although the work went well, we experimented. [real estate] market to see if the work would sell and it did. We gave them a successful business with a GM and staff, they changed the menu and it failed. When the landlord contacted me because I was in arrears, they stopped paying rent and were about to be evicted,” Cheney says.
Even though Gus was doing well, the real estate market was lucrative during the pandemic, and Cheney saw an opportunity. He’s owned Big Water Grille for 19 years (he helped open it with the original owners 25 years ago) and split much of his time between Tahoe and Los Angeles with his partner during COVID.
It’s called Gus because he was working at Fess Parker’s at the Red Lion Inn while he was going to college in Santa Barbara, and an engineer who had access to his locker put a new sign on his uniform that said “Gus.” Everyone started calling him that, and the nickname stuck.
“My favorite restaurants are all places with one name: Sam’s, Brophy’s, O’Malley’s,” Cheney says. The GM who worked with Cheney when Gus opened in 2014 is back, as well as two other employees who have been at the barbecue joint since the beginning (a key employee from the recently closed Fredrick’s Fusion Bistro also joined the team).
It’s also clear that Cheney is passionate about Santa Maria-style barbecue, which makes him the perfect person to own and operate Gus. Chaney grew up in Lompoc, California, where he grew up grilling meat on an open pit barbecue with red oak, using a wheel to raise and lower the spit to control the heat. Growing up, Chaney and his brothers would attend fundraisers in the parking lot of a local grocery store, over an open pit, and prepare triple meals of meat, chicken, salad, beans and bread to sell for a worthy cause.
“I have three brothers and we all think we do it the best way. My dad taught us how to grill; I recently saw my dad’s original barbecue with an old oil drum – it’s pretty cool,” he said.
At Gus’ Tahoe BBQ, tri-tip plates are a staple, with two sides (beans, lettuce, coleslaw, mac and cheese, French fries, onion rings and grilled veggies) along with garlic bread. The tri-tip is also on one of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches, sandwiched between slices of thick garlic bread and pico de gallo. Cheney’s personal favorite is chicken breast, chipotle mayo, Ortega chili, lettuce, tomato and melted extra sharp cheddar cheese sandwiched between garlic bread.
However, most people will be happy to hear that LATS is back. Cheney coined the word in 2014 to mean Legs and Thighs. When Gus first opened back then, McDonald’s was experimenting with driving chicken wings, which raised the price. So Cheney created a boneless version and called it LATS, which came in all different flavors like Asian, spicy and buffalo.
It should also be noted that Cheney is 14 feet tall. retractable grill that can be used for catering events. Gus’s double-axle truck was one of the first vendors at the 2013 Bottlerock Festival before the restaurant was even around. He was one of the caterers at the PGA golf tournament in Montreux, brought outdoor pit barbecue to Red, White and Tahoe Blue and hosted several events at IVGID beaches.
The barbecue items (and sides) can be quickly prepared and served, but Cheney has seen people hang out at Gus’s for hours. “You can come in and eat and disappear for half an hour, but now people like to be entertained by the big screen,” he says of the 140-inch video wall upstairs in the bar area (there are eight other video. TVs around the restaurant). Gus will also begin offering mobile ordering and curbside delivery.
“We’ve never had anything like this before, and a lot of businesses around here don’t have anything like this. “When this happened to me, I didn’t think I would be able to get staff, so I was just going to take food,” he says. But luckily, he was able to steal away some people from the Big Water Grille, who might want to switch from the fine dining scene to wearing jeans and a T-shirt to work.
“I’m really proud of it [Gus’]. My daughters grew up here, and even guests say we’ve never left,” Cheney adds.
Gus’ Tahoe BBQ at 930 Tahoe Boulevard closes Thursday-Monday at 4:30 p.m. and is open Sunday at noon. For more information, visit the official website at http://www.gusbbqtahoe.net/..