Gunbarrel Tavern
South Tahoe’s newest eatery serves up high-caliber cuisine.

BY ERIC CACHINERO

Nestled neatly amongst the boutiques and cafes of Heavenly Village on Lake Tahoe’s south shore is a dining experience sure to ignite your powder keg.

Complementing perfectly the already stellar reputation of the area, the Gunbarrel Tavern & Eatery, the village’s newest addition, offers a comfortable, rustic atmosphere that caters to anyone seeking an exceptional dining experience. In a recent visit to Gunbarrel, my girlfriend, Jill, and I were fortunate enough to see what all the hype was about.

Behind the fully stocked wooden bar complete with rusted metal accents, Gunbarrel’s bartenders began concocting the evening’s libations. Serving up an assortment of innovative “COCKED-Tails,” Gunbarrel blends bold ingredients while still offering a series of traditional favorites. Having ordered from the Fired-Up Favorites section of the drink menu, Jill’s eyes light up as her Firing Squad is brought to the table, and I am lucky enough to sneak a quick sip.

The recipe accentuates each element of the peppery beverage. The blend consists of Herradura Blanco tequila and melon liquor, supplemented by the Gunbarrel’s house-made roasted jalapeno and cilantro honey simple syrup, topped off with fresh mint, a splash of pineapple juice, and a squeeze of lemon served on the rocks. As a man of simpler tastes, I side with one of the five beers offered on tap, noticing the impressive selection of wines and bottled beers.

Next come the appetizers. First on the list is the fire-roasted cauliflower, which places a unique twist on this age-old vegetable dish. The well-balanced crunch provided by the scrumptious tidbits pairs nicely with the Achiote oil and toasted lemon zest.

As we nosh, more plates filled with droves of different culinary creations accompany the appetizer. Jalapeno-and-bacon mac n’ cheese, lamb lollipops, and my favorite appetizer of the night— the sweet potato fries. The scrumptious salty sweet potatoes are fried to an ideal crispiness and accompanied by the choice of three dipping sauces—truffle-chive cream, jalapeno ketchup, and Dijon aioli. Before we know it, it’s time to order our entrées.

“I highly recommend the PBR beer can chicken,” owner Alex Cox says. Cox, Lake Tahoe basin resident and owner of another one of the area’s signature eateries, 22 Bistro, has been working tirelessly to provide innovative and creative dishes, while also sticking to the dishes that have proven successful. “We’ve incorporated some of the favorites from Bistro 22,” Cox adds.

After much deliberation I decide to go with the artichoke ravioli, while Jill orders the Brie grilled cheese, both of us confident that our choices will be as tasty as the appetizers.

Maestro of the evening’s banquet is executive chef Billy McCullough. As a connoisseur of exceptional food and drink, McCullough shares his love for fresh, seasonal ingredients with Gunbarrel patrons. Once our entrées arrive, we waste no time digging in.

Though not taking Cox’s advice to try the PBR beer can chicken, I am still thrilled with my choice: an artichoke heart center delicately swathed in soft pasta, tossed with a white wine cream sauce, and accompanied by baby spinach and sliced cherry tomatoes. The golden morsels are finally sprinkled with a mixture of basil, feta, and toasted pine nuts.

After practically inhaling the first half of my raviolis, I look to Jill’s sandwich and am immediately overcome with plate envy as she takes her first bite of the Brie grilled cheese. Two delectable slices of sourdough bread cushion the sandwich’s contents. Arugula, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a balsamic glaze accompany the melted Brie, with a portion of house- seasoned chips on the side.

As the evening winds down, we chat with friends in the Gunbarrel’s comfortable dining room. With satisfied stomachs Jill and I depart for the night, unable to stop talking about which dishes we can’t wait to try the next time we visit the Gun- barrel Tavern.

 

PBR Beer Can Chicken

 

Water                                                          1 gallon

Kosher salt                                               2 1/2 cups

Sugar                                                          2 cups

Bay leaves                                                 4

Thyme                                                         2 tablespoons

Roughly chopped garlic                    8 tablespoons

Juice and rind of lemons                   2

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Whole black peppercorns               1/4 cup Ice         5 gallons

Pabst Blue Ribbon beer                    1 can (12 oz.)

Whole chicken                                       1 (4 oz.)

 

PREPARATION AND COOKING

Mix water, salt, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, sugar, lemons rinds, and lemon juice. Bring mixture to a boil. Strain boiled mixture through a chinois sieve into ice to cool. Remove brine from ice by sifting into large pot or container. Submerge chicken in cooled brine. Brine overnight.

Preheat oven or grill to 350 degrees. Empty out one quarter of the beer and place on cookie sheet. Seat chicken rear end down (giblets removed) onto beer can and roast to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve over mac n’ cheese and drizzle with brown gravy.

Gunbarrel Tavern & Eatery

1001 Heavenly Village Way

South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

gunbarreltavern.com , 530-542-1460

 

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