Sometimes being the best in town isn’t good enough.
That was the case with Moody’s Bistro Bar and Beats. Perfectly situated near Squaw Valley, Northstar and Alpine Meadows, it spent its first decade as the fine dining experience in historic Truckee on the north side of Lake Tahoe.
This meant white linen tablecloths, catering to loyal second homeowners and other tourists, and three digit checks for a table of two.
“It was the perception that we were more toward the high end,” said JJ Morgan, who has run Moody’s since its inception. “We thrived being that high end spot, but the economy is decidedly different now.”
There's no shortage of good restaurants and aprés spots in Truckee, Calif. But Moody's offers upscale dining and a lively aprés scene under one roof. Photo Courtesy of Moody's Bistro.
Morgan tinkered with the concept in the last few years to try and keep up with a struggling economy, but Moody’s stigma as expensive held it back from pulling in locals and a more causal crowd with any regularity.
So with new investors in tow, Morgan closed down the restaurant at the start of winter (he must’ve known that Tahoe was going to have one of the driest early seasons on record) and reinvented Moody’s, which reopened in mid January.
Gone were the tablecloths, replaced by gorgeous wood tables. The bar area was opened up to create a more festive atmosphere, wines were put on tap and a kitchen upgrade included a pizza oven.
The result was a transformation from an upscale bistro to something decidedly more casual. The bar area is now a major focus, with tasty pizzas, pastas and other approachable and shareable snacks drawing in a huge après ski crowd. It’s now not uncommon to see folks still styled out in their ski pants at the bar, a sight rarely seen in the restaurant’s previous incarnation.
“We’ve made our bar way more bustling,” Morgan said. “Now we are way busier at lunch and après—not just dinner.”
Live jazz has always been a staple of the Moody's experience, but now the live music offerings have expanded to bluegrass, Americana and more. Photo Courtesy of Moody's Bistro.
Music and entertainment is still a driving force at Moody’s, with live acts playing in the lounge (which is set off completely from the main dining room) starting around 8:30 p.m. every Thursday through Saturday. Music ranges from jazz (like the old version of the restaurant) to bluegrass, Americana and more. Morgan ran a jazz-inspired supper club in San Francisco before moving to the Tahoe area in 1999, so that element of Moody’s was bound to stay.
Moody’s is also incorporating a first Tuesday art theme, giving local photographers and artists a chance to showcase their work once a month on big-screen TVs.
That’s not to say the old restaurant concept was lost completely. Ingredients are still sourced from local and organic purveyors when possible, and the dinner menu boasts fresh fish entrees daily, tender pork chops and steaks, and juicy chickens from the rotisserie.
“We still use all those ingredients and flavors that got us here,” Morgan said.
It’s more accurate to say Moody’s transformed than totally changed. It’s just become a more versatile restaurant that can serve skiers after a long day at Squaw, locals looking for a mid-week pizza and wine date night and out-of-towners who want a slice of decadence at dinner on a Friday night.
“Now [that] we’ve crafted this new format, you can come to Moody’s at different times during the week,” Morgan said. “I think that was a big part of it; we weren’t set up for multiple visits during the week.”
So now Moody’s is a locals’ hangout—and the best option for fine dining in Truckee.
Moody’s Bistro, 10007 Bridge Street, Truckee, Ca., 530-587-8688.
Jacob Harkins is a former ski bum who is editor of Local Winos Magazine.